Discernment is a pain in the butt. Let’s get that out of the way first.


I remember first learning that the word “discern” comes from the Latin “to set apart,” or even “to wrestle” with a decision, and boy would I agree. It’s still one of my least favorite words. Of course, I write regarding discerning one’s vocation, not whether or not I should put bacon on my sandwich (always put bacon on your sandwich).  To discern is to be considering two potential good options, and that’s not an easy, cut-and-dry decision.


The awful thing about discernment is how much energy is seems to take up. Emotional, spiritual, mental, even physical energy. I have many grey hairs already that I fondly refer to as my “discernment hairs.”


What does God want from me?”

“What is my vocation?”

“Why doesn’t He just TELL me what to do?”


Ah, been there. Said that. Over and over again.


Often it’s from the young, the driven individuals who genuinely want to do the will of God in their lives…but the question is what is God’s will for my life? There’s often a tug-of-war within the heart of the individual, and this is sad, because it clouds the fact that we’re called first to love our God, our neighbor, and ourselves—and the struggle over one’s vocation can often take the place of this first principle and rob us of our peace and whatever it is God desires to bring us in this present moment.


Our vocation—our universal call—is firstly to be with God. That’s it. That’s the end, that’s our destination: to know, love, and be in eternal union with God.


How we go about that changes from person to person. Many are called to marriage, some are called to a generous vowed life as a religious sister, brother, or priest; some will feel the call to be missionaries, others will be dedicated teachers, coaches, businessmen, or artists. We all have a note to play in this grand symphony, but it’s up to the Composer to tell us when and how to play. We’re on God’s timetable, not our own.


It’s a great mystery why God allows his beloved children, especially those willing to serve him wholeheartedly, to stay in darkness. Perhaps we’re not ready to know the outcome, perhaps we’re still spiritually immature, or we don’t desire him enough. Maybe we’re missing or being oblivious to the signs God is actively putting in front of us, or perhaps our own sin is blinding us to them.


For me, it took about 8 years from the first stirrings of discerning a potential call to the priesthood before finally standing on the altar next to my wife. There were lots of ups and downs along the way, many moments of agonizing over God’s will, and I hope to write more on this and other aspects of discernment soon. But I can look back now and see how the patient Artist was at work, chipping away the pride, vanities, and insecurities, knowing that the journey was, in some sense, always part of the destination.


Maybe God’s calling you to simply be a first-year college student or a single person or even a seminarian right now. Let that be enough. Take life one year, one month, one day at a time. Trust that God has you in this very moment for a reason and there is good to be done in and through you.


I’ve never had clarity and certitude.  I only have trust.  I’ll pray you have trust.


The journalist John Kavanaugh once asked Mother Teresa to pray for him to have clarity and certainty in his life. She responded, “I’ve never had clarity and certitude. I only have trust. I’ll pray you have trust.”


May our trust increase.  In the meantime remember that God is faithful, always faithful.



  One thought on “Discernment

  1. Mary
    March 31, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Thank you for this…I have a daughter who is currently a junior @ an International Baccalaureate high school, and she is struggling to decide on a major for college and which college(s) to apply to. I recognize the stress she is experiencing, and I urge her to trust that God has a plan for her, and she will eventually figure out just what that is. I plan to have her read this discernment article as soon as she returns home from school today!

  2. March 31, 2015 at 7:27 am

    This is honestly exactly what I needed to hear today. So many people, including myself struggle with waiting and being patient with the Lord about their vocation. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. March 31, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you for writing this blog piece! I was just talking with a friend tonight about the struggles of discernment. I was saying and going through everything you just said. I do believe God has put me on this Earth, at this time and at the place I am right now because of His plan for me! Thanks again, I can’t wait to read more of your blog posts about discernment!

  4. Sr. Anna Imelda, O.P.
    March 31, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks Bobby for this post! Many people do not know or realize that discerning one’s vocation is not easy and simple. BUT, part of this journey is reflecting on how God struck certain “chords” in our life to reach the finale. May I add on to you orchestra analogy. Our vocations are like solo performance accompanied by others and their solos. The encore performance is living your found vocation in peace, joy and happiness even amongst challenges. So, “ENCORE! ENCORE!” To everyone.

  5. Abbie
    March 31, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you so much. This is exactly what I need right now, and to know that I am not the only one who feels/has felt this way is reassuring. I always thought growing up that if God called me to a religious vocation, it would be clear, and I would immediately respond yes, and that once I did, everything would be easy from there. But now I’m 17, and for the past two years I’ve been discerning becoming a religious sister, and I can guarantee that it is not that easy! This is the most confused/frustrated I have been. And the path of discernment is not a straight path up, but it goes up and down. Thanks again, and God bless.

  6. jem1294
    March 31, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks Bobby- Can’t wait to read more of your thoughts on discernment! God bless!

  7. April 1, 2015 at 1:56 am

    I literally just spent two hours in Adoration with my Bible and my journal, scribbling away and pondering over this very topic of whether I am supposed to be married or not, and what type of career I am supposed to have. If that wasn’t enough time, I went to whataburger afterwards to write in my journal some more about it all. It still feels like I haven’t made any progress, but Mother Theresa is right, and you’re right in quoting her, that having trust is what will see us through. Thank you for the article Mr. Angel, and I pray that I may have the patience and fortitude thaj you did to make it through all of these years to finally find your wife. God Bless.

  8. Evelyn P.
    April 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Thank you!! I myself have been in discernment for a few years and it is also one of my most least favorite words. What has helped is finding a spiritual director who has knowledge of discerning the spirits as well as the basics in consolation/desolation. This is extremely helpful. Thanks again!

  9. Corinne
    April 15, 2015 at 5:37 am

    This is PERFECT and just what I needed.

  10. April 28, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    As a high school student who is terrified that she is reading the signs wrong, THIS IS PERFECT!!!!!!! Thank you so much! I have been so overwhelmed an lost lately with not knowing what God is asking me to do. I NEEDED THIS!!!! Thank you for showing me that I am not alone!

  11. April 28, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Millie Worship and commented:
    This is pure perfection. Just saying……

  12. May 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Reblogged this on The Girl In The Veil.

  13. James
    June 16, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Hi Jackie and Bobby, I am currently discerning and would like to get your input. Do you think it would be better to enter an undergtraduate seminary (like Old College @ Notre Dame) or to go through “regular” college life before entering seminary? My parents would prefer I do the later, but I don’t buy their arguments for doing so. I think it would be better to enter Seminary first because, God willing, I wil be formed into a better man of God and be more able to seek God and bring God to others in whatever endeavor I am called to. What do you think? Please pray for me through this process.

    • June 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Hey dude. I think there’s pros and cons to both routes, and you have to figure out where you’re at on your individual vocational journey and if it’s prudent to wait or go for it. Always honor your parents and try to see the situation from their angle. I received my Bachelor’s degree before entering seminary and that gave my parents some peace that I’d have something to fall back on if I didn’t get ordained. There’s some benefit in experiencing “regular” college life…some.

      That being said, YES, you will be a better man for whatever stretch of the vocational journey you give to the Lord in seminary formation. If you’ve been mulling over the priesthood for a few years now (and have been in contact with your vocation director), then maybe you need to go for it and see truly if God is calling you. Giving your youth to the Lord will always reap benefits, and you will be much better formed into a man through the seminary than the current college environment (which seems to promote more de-formation and reckless activity). You can always take a year off of formation if you need more time. You could also agree to take one year at college and see how it goes, keeping in mind that if you are still restless and unsatisfied, you’ll apply to the seminary. Will definitely keep you in prayer.

      • James
        July 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm

        Thank-you for your prayers! It is with great joy that I let you know I have decided to apply. Please continue your prayers and apostolate!

  14. October 31, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Reblogged this on Life is good..

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