The fact that the word "discernment" is very often used in the same sentence as the words "consecrated life" or "priesthood" can be misleading. It seems to imply that the consecrated life is the only way of life which requires prayerful discernment. This is most emphatically untrue!
"Consecrated life" refers to religious life and priesthood, but in fact, all the ways of life we embrace as Catholics are consecrated to God. In the single life, we are called to remain faithful to God through our relationship with Him and with others. In the married life, we are consecrated to God through our spouse. Spouses are called to be Christ to each other, making the love of God sacramentally present to the other person. This holy calling certainly sets Catholic marriage apart — it consecrates it.
Because this is the Year of Consecrated Life, a time to raise awareness about religious life in its various forms, Abide focuses mostly on the discernment of consecrated life according to its usual definition. However, discernment is important for every Catholic, regardless of your vocation.
Since the moment of our baptism, we are all consecrated to God. We are all set apart for holiness. This call to holiness will manifest itself in our lives through the wholehearted living out of our vocation, whether to the single life, the married life, religious life, or priesthood.
The call to the married life requires prayerful discernment in the same way that the call to consecrated life does. Marriage, like consecrated life, is a lifelong commitment, and should be approached with due reverence and much prayer.
It may be helpful to think about discernment in the following way. Rather than thinking of discernment as something you will only have to do once and which will set the course of your whole future ("discerning your vocation"), think of discernment as something which must be done everyday.
When we daily approach life with prayer, reflection, and the question, "Lord, what is your will for me — today? What is your will for this situation, this relationship, this decision? How can I respond to this circumstance with your love?", discernment takes on a whole new relevance and simplicity.
We discern daily the same way we discern the "big" things: through silence, prayer, Scripture reading, self-reflection, and waiting on God.
Daily discernment and surrender of our lives to God will slowly reveal our vocations. When we daily discern His desires, we are lead gradually, gently, organically, to the answer to The Big Question: what is my vocation?
For this reason, if you have been called to the married life, discernment is still relevant for you. Abide encourages you to explore our discernment resources and to prayerfully discern your daily life.
Sisters and brothers, His desires for you are so good. Be not afraid!