Thankfully today many young people are open to a vocation to religious life or some form of consecrated life. For those of us who entered 25 years or so ago it is very encouraging to see how many young women know other young women who are considering a vocation to religious life. But what we have also noticed is that today there seems to be some confusion on what a religious vocation is, how to discern if one is called religious life and if one is what to do about. It's not unusual to hear, "I'm discerning a vocation," and find out that it hasn't gone much further than that. "Discerning"–a very modern word of the last 30-40 years or so when talking about a religious vocation is sometimes mistaken for embracing the state of religious life.
So we're going to look at some of the questions. What is a religious vocation? What is a state of life? How do I know if have a vocation to religious life or consecrated life? What do I do next? If I do have a vocation, how do I know where to go?
First, let's do a bit of defining, always a big thing for us Dominicans. So, we'll ask the question first, "What is a religious vocation?"
There are so many answers. Many are compatible with each other but although they might be correct they might not be answers that get to the heart of the question. And because we're Dominicans we're going to look at what St. Thomas says. We'll try to tease him out a bit and make his responses a little less, well, scary!
Here is a definition which we'll look at in more detail the next time we meet. It's from the great Fr. Walter Farrell, OP in his book, "The Theology of a Religious Vocation" which is not light reading! It's a definition that bears some thought because it captures important truths about a vocation to religious life, many which have been buried in the past 40 years or so.
A religious vocation is an intense act of devotion in which an individual intends to dedicate himself to a wholehearted pursuit of perfection by fulfilling the evangelical counsels of perfection.
Have you thought of a religious vocation as a virtue? We'll look at WHY next time!