Possible Signs of a Vocation
Vocations > Invitation to Discernment
God often speaks to us through the constant whispering in the heart and soul. Have you ever thought, “God certainly couldn’t be calling me to become a priest, or a religious, obviously not a monk!” If the idea comes back, perhaps that is God trying to grasp your attention.
The persistent thought may be the Spirit working in and through you. Several men have entered St. Bernard Abbey these last 139 years because they are looking for something deeper than their own experience. They seek the One who can fill their hearts and is the “source and summit” of their lives. Some come directly from high school, others have higher education and or life experience. The vocation journey is a personal call, yet it has distinct and complex realities. There are many apostolates and hundreds of possibilities. So, how do you begin to “discern” which community is for you?
Every monastery has many of the same elements: prayer, honorarium, structure, etc. Yet, each is distinct in character and has its own unique charism. St. Bernard Abbey’s rich history has a direct influence on our tradition. The names of the deceased members, read on their anniversary dates, are mostly of German heritage. Nevertheless, the monks in our community come from all over the country, from different heritages, ethnic backgrounds, and languages. We are a reflection of our culture, but all come seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ though the 1500 year old Benedictine tradition, to live by the motto “Ora et Labora.”
During your discernment, you will have to find a community or diocese that speaks to you. How do you begin sorting through the dozens of emails, mailings, phone calls, etc. that you receive? Ultimately, it comes to building a relationship with people. Visit us. Speak with us of your aspirations, hopes, concerns, and dreams. We invite you to participate in a private retreat, or attend one of our Retreat Programs (each designed for men in various stages of discernment).
The National Office of Vocations proposed a number of questions that may help to frame your Vocation Discernment:
o Do I feel a sense of peace?
o Am I comfortable with the interactions of the men in this community?
o Do I like being with these men, and do I look forward to visiting them again?
o What happens inside my spirit as I experience prayer with this community?
o Can this community help me grow in my relationship with Jesus?
If you connect with a particular community, that may be a sign that God is working in your life to bring you to a particular place. Of course, it takes both the community and the individual to work together in discernment. You may identify your charism within a particular monastery, but they have restrictions. We invite you to contact us, to come to know us (and us to know you), to begin the process of discernment.
Vocation Director’s Responsibility
As a Vocation Director, it is my goal to assist you in your journey. It is obvious, at times, that a person is called to monastic life at St. Bernard. There are times, however, when their journey is leading them to another community or form of vocation. I work closely with other Vocation Directors, in both Benedictine and other forms of religious life and ministry. Our hope is that as you continue your discernment. God will direct your heart and provide the grace so that your discernment will follow His will. If you are discerning your call to monastic life, we are available to help you in your discernment. The first step is to contact us, either by email, or phone. Discernment is not a job, but our commitment to you.
When I was preparing to enter the monastery, I asked a retired Abbot for a word of wisdom. He said, “Pray.” Discernment is ultimately a prayer. Being attentive to how God is calling you in your heart, mind and soul. Learning to recognize and discern is a gift that should be cultivated with prayer. If you have a trusted spiritual director, they may be helpful in your discernment process. Should you need to ask questions about your discernment, we are available to help you. There may be times when you are anxious or frustrated during your journey; that is to be expected. This is like a courtship – it takes time to fall in love, to commit to a life dedicated to giving your whole being to the God who loves you and calls you to a deeper relationship. We invite you begin your journey with us.
Fr. Jacob Amos, O.S.B.