Discovering God’s call requires listening to our hearts

One of the major tasks of young adults is to discover God’s call. It is a process we all go through in one way or another.

Each of us has a unique call — one only we can answer. Discovering our call isn’t as easy as picking up the phone or texting a message to God or our pastor. It takes hard work to find out how God wants us to live our lives. We must take time for prayer and reflection that includes serious discernment.

When I was a campus and young adult minister, and also in my ministry as vocation director for the Sisters of the Holy Cross, I was often asked how a person knows God’s will and plan for his or her life.

There are no easy answers. There are some things that can help us discover how God wants us to live our Christian lives.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that God calls everyone. Each of us has a vocation. We received our most important call at baptism. In that primary sacrament of our faith, we became members of Christ’s body, the church, and were called to bring about the reign of God in this world. It is not just a role reserved for religious brothers and sisters or ordained ministers. Through baptism each Christian shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and in his mission to reveal God’s love to the world.

The challenge is to figure out how God wants us to carry out this mission with the gifts we have received and which path will best enable us to do this.

The majority of Christians live God’s call through the sacrament of marriage. Others are called by God to live the single, ordained or consecrated life as a religious brother or sister. Most people discover their call by listening to the deepest desire of their hearts.

For instance, some have a deep longing to share their lives with one special person and to raise a family. Others have a passion to give their entire lives to the Lord through prayer, community and service to the people of God. Then there are those who are conflicted between the two. They feel a pull between marriage and a church vocation.

It is important to be aware of the many ways God reveals his call to us. One essential way is through prayer, taking quality time to actively listen to God and seriously taking into account what others say to us about our lives. Maybe several people have asked you if you have ever thought of considering priesthood or religious life, or observed that you would make a wonderful mother or father. Very often those comments are planting seeds and should give us pause to reflect on what we hear.

When I was in high school one of my teachers, a sister, asked me what my plans were after graduation. She said she thought I should consider religious life. At first it was a shock, but then I began to reflect seriously and pray about that possibility, and here I am. I have wondered how different my life would be if I had ignored her.

Most of the time the discernment of God’s will is not easy because it is usually a choice between two or more good options. It would be much easier if one were good and the other not.

Valuing marriage and loving children doesn’t automatically count one out of religious life or priesthood. The ministers of God’s church must be warm and loving like Jesus. And many lay people have a deep spirituality and do great service in the church and the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are called to religious life or priesthood.

There are some things a person can do to make the right choice. A good way to start is to list the pros and cons of each option, pray about them and listen to which one draws you the most. See what feels right and gives you a clear sense of peace.

I remember one of my professors, during a class in graduate school at Boston College, saying that the deepest desire of our hearts is usually God’s will for our lives. Listen to what your heart tells you.

Finally, recently I was viewing videotape about community life and the presenter offered this advice: the key to discovering one’s vocation in life is to discern which lifestyle will make a person happy, healthy and holy. To be happy means having inner joy and loving my life. A spiritually healthy life is one that enables me to use my gifts and grow into the person God wants me to be. A holy life is one that gives God an important place in my life as I spend time growing in relationship with God.

My prayer for each of us is that we will discover what will best help us to live happy, healthy and holy Christian lives. As disciples of Christ we all have the same mission. The key is to discover the best way for us to carry it out.

Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind., and writes “The Cutting Edge.” Contact her at