Is God calling me to life as a priest or brother in the Society of Jesus?
Discerning a vocation to the Jesuits is an exciting adventure. Sensing where God is calling you to be and what God wants you to do is really about the question of where the Holy Spirit is leading you. In that sense, it is deeply practical – focused on what’s happening at specific moments in your life, and what ought to be done in light of those everyday events.
Vocational discernment is something anyone can do. That’s simply because everyone has a vocation, or calling, in life. Through its schools, parishes, retreat centers, and other ministries, the Society of Jesus has centuries of experience helping men and women decide what their vocation is. Whatever it is.
For those with thoughts of a vocation as a Jesuit priest or brother, the discernment follows a particular course. The first point of contact is with Fr. Boom Martinez, S.J., who is the vocation promoter for the Jesuits on the West Coast. (Click here to send an inquiry form to the vocations office.)
The vocation promoter initiates an informal conversation or helps arrange a meeting with a local Jesuit. After a period of reflection and further conversation, he may invite the man to begin a formal process of discernment and refers him to a vocation director, who guides the candidate through the discernment and application process.
Jesuits often speak of “stages of discernment.” Here are five common stages, beginning even before that first vocational conversation with a Jesuit:
Attraction or Interest
A person feels drawn in some way to the possibility of serving God as a priest or religious. He looks into pursuing this vocation, and identifies the Society of Jesus as a community where he might want to live such a life.
This is where the man reaches out to a Jesuit he knows or to a vocation director. That begins the conversation about Jesuit life and work.
A person might spend months or even years learning about the Society of Jesus. And he will gather this information from a wide breadth of sources, ranging from books and web sites to visits with Jesuits and their ministries. Observing Jesuit community life becomes essential. This means being present for celebrations, prayer, worship, vow ceremonies, ordinations, and other aspects of religious life, including apostolic work.
The man enters into a formal process of prayer and consideration, under the careful guidance of the vocation director. At a certain point, a spiritual director enters the picture and helps the prospective Jesuit with his prayer life. That is the key to effective discernment. It is crucial to both deepening the relationship with Jesus and discovering what that relationship means for this critical decision. Some men will make themselves more available to the Holy Spirit, more deeply engaged in the spiritual life and better practiced in techniques of prayer. As this becomes clear in their interactions with others, the vocation director may invite them to become Jesuit candidates.
With a growing sense that he is called to Jesuit life, the candidate seeks greater certainty about this call. Together with the vocation director, he creates a timeframe for reaching clarity about whether to seek entry into the Society of Jesus.
With the blessing of the vocation director, he is now ready to submit an application to the Society of Jesus. The application is submitted to the Provincial superior, who is responsible for making a decision about whether the candidate will become a Jesuit novice.
"Lord, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give, and not to count the cost;
to fight, and not to heed the wounds;
to toil, and not to seek for rest:
to labor, and not to ask for any reward;
save that of knowing that I am doing your will."
- St. Ignatius of Loyola