During the first weeks of Ordinary Time, we hear at Mass the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, and eventually we will hear about the call of the first disciples. These calls are nostalgic to us; they touch us in a way that is familiar and yet it remains distant from us. We wish to hear the call, but nonetheless, we do not always know how and when He calls. Yet we are nevertheless called, no matter where we are in life.
I wish to briefly outline some insights on how to hear the call from God, especially for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The first “rule” as it is called by St. Ignatius, is how God works on people who are in mortal sin. God stings the conscience to move us to repentance. The second is opposite, for God works in a different way on people who are striving for virtues and purifying sins. In these people, God acts by giving courage, strength, and fruits of the Spirit like peace and joy. God loves to lead us with peace and joy when we are living His way, even when things are difficult or not convenient. In short, God stings us when we are bad, and He consoles us when we are doing good.
These do not mean that listening is easy. Rather, these rules mean that we have a guide to discern and understand when and how God might be operative in our lives. Thus, here are some suggestions based on these first rules of St. Ignatius. 1. Get out of mortal sin: it is mortal, you see, to your spiritual life. Mortal sins, of which there are many, literally separate you from God, like intentionally skipping Sunday Mass among other morally grave matters (if you felt a sting when you read this, that might be God using the first rule!). It’s easy, just go to Confession: ask a priest when you see him, make a plan with God, and start anew. 2. Pray through your experiences, thoughts, and desires. Is there peace and joy at all with these? If there is a strong reaction toward or against something, including a vocation, it is worth looking into more.