I don’t know how many times I have heard the word “discern ” or “discernment” in the last 2 years. Even so, this word still has a vaguely mysterious quality. It seems that it requires a certain amount of openness and getting comfortable with some level of uncertainty. As a parent, I don’t like uncertainty. I get it, but I don’t like it. You may be thinking, “When will he know for sure? How long is this going to take?”
How long…. is a relative question. Discerning a vocation is not like deciding between going to one college vs another. That kind of decision weighs pros and cons and evaluates data like student/faculty ratios and graduation rates. Discernment is completely different. It is not a once and done decision. I was surprised to learn that the individual discerns one year at a time in collaboration with his Spiritual Director and Vocation Director. Discernment is taken one step at a time with input from experienced mentors who want your son to make the decision which is right for him.
Michael Bollinger is a college seminarian at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Below is a portion of a blog post on the seminary website on the reality of a “timetable” for discernment..
Easily the most misunderstood thing about seminarians is why we are at the seminary. More times than not, when a Catholic comes up and talks to me, knowing that I’m a seminarian, he or she speaks as if I’m undoubtedly going to be a priest.
However, the reality is that guys go into the seminary precisely because they don’t know if God wants them to be a priest or not. They’re at the seminary to figure that out. I first learned that the hard way when I first entered seminary this past fall.
It was a Friday night, and I went out to dinner with four or five older guys (seniors in the college seminary) and as the conversation got going, I asked each of them if they “knew” that God was calling them to the priesthood (expecting a resounding “yes”). To my surprise and embarrassment, as they went around the table answering the question, the answers were a repeated “no”.
The fact is, I had the perception of most people—I figured guys that had been in the seminary for two, three, or four years had a fairly firm understanding of God calling them to be priests. But that’s just not the case.
Click here to continue reading the full article St Charles Seminary blog: Wait, We’re Discerning?
It is understandable for a parent to want some kind of assurance or timetable on their son’s discernment path. Whatever your age, it seems the older you get, the faster time goes. We may see time passing quickly. Is the time in seminary going to be wasted?
Consider this: your son will probably live well into his 90’s or longer without any serious illness or injury. Taking a few years in seminary to determine if he has a religious vocation is not a long time considering it will provide an opportunity to develop virtue, self-discipline, a deeper knowledge of the faith and a strong prayer life. Which one of these things do you not want for your son? These are all benefits for men who have spent time in seminary and discerned out to discover their true vocation.
Please know that the contributing authors of this blog pray for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.