Pam’s post about visiting the seminary with her son reminded me that I’ve never mentioned the “Come and See” weekends.
A “Come and See” is a retreat which offers discerners the opportunity to taste religious life. The Dominican website OpCentral.org describes it this way:
Information is always helpful, digitally, in print, or otherwise, but there is no substitute for a real human encounter. That’s why a Come and See Weekend is a must for anyone seriously discerning their vocation. Dominican Come and Sees are a sixty-four hour immersion experience into the very rhythm of religious life. It’s that “gut” experience which offers the visceral clarity that is the goal of discernment and the only true test of whether or not your home is here.
When a man is contemplating a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, most of the discernment is internal work: prayer, reading, prayer, spiritual direction, and prayer. This is a good and necessary process. But it can also feel a bit isolating, as if no one else is wrestling with these issues and questions. And it can also take on a hypothetical and imaginative quality. What will life in the novitiate be like? Is the seminary a strange place where I’ll feel uncomfortable? Will I be out of place, surrounded by people who are so much holier than I am? Can anything good come from Nazareth?
Come and see. That’s the invitation that the Paulist Fathers make three times each year. Come for a visit. See and experience our common life. Pray with us. Dine with us. Come to class. Come to the chapel. Have a soda or a beer, and ask your questions.
Evan participated in a couple of these weekends early in his discernment. He came back enthused about the community and taken with the beauty of the liturgy of the hours. Each visit increased his conviction that he needed to pursue the call.
Now that he’s a member of the community, Evan gets to experience these weekends from the other side. Meeting potential seminarians is a great opportunity for him to share part of his journey and to remember his early days of discernment.
“Come and See” weekends are pretty common. A quick Google search turns up a long list of possibilities. Some of them are associated with particular communities like the Dominicans, Paulist and Mercedarian Sisters — yes, there are “Come and See” retreats for women discerning religious life as well. Some of them are associated with diocesan seminaries. All of them follow the same basic pattern of welcome, prayer and participation.
The point, I guess, is that discernment is something to be lived. That means actively exploring religious life. Don’t just sit in a pew and say “I think God is calling me”. Get up and answer the call. Find a “Come and See” weekend, talk to a vocations director, immerse yourself in experiences that will let you encounter God. You might be surprised at what you learn!
— Dad (Evan)