Many people believe that the call to the Franciscan Vocation is a call to the priesthood. But this is not true. Franciscans are committed to the way of St Francis, who himself was never a priest. Although a number of friars have also been called to the priesthood, it is not necessarily the case that all who discern a call to the Franciscan life are called to become priests. The call to the Franciscan Vocation and the call to the priesthood are distinct paths. Some are priests, all are brothers.
All friars in simple vows are trained in the Franciscan spirituality. Friars who feel called to the priesthood attend classes at the seminary for a period of approximately six years, whereas friars who do not seek ordination as priests are engaged in various forms of ministry according to their gifts and talents, the needs of the people and the directives of the leaders of the Order.
In the simplest terms, “vocation” means a “call”. So, in general terms your vocation is what God calls you to do with your life.
Everybody is called by God to know, love and serve him. The difference is how each one does this.
Individual vocations vary between being single, married, consecrated, religious or a priest. However, we usually use “Vocation” to mean a call to the consecrated, religious or priestly life.
In the one life God gave you to live, everyone has one main purpose, to fulfill the will of God, because this is the key to true fulfillment.
God gives each one of us a particular mission in life. As we grow and life progresses, he makes it known to us, usually in indirect ways, more as an invitation than an imposition.
Discovering and ultimately following your vocation gives the greatest glory and praise to our Creator. It is what we were meant to do.
Vocational discernment is a process we try to determine God’s call and direction in our lives. Although vocation discernment most frequently refers to a special vocation such as the priesthood or religious life, one may also speak of discernment when thinking of their vocation to marriage or to life as a single person. Whether one has been called to clerical, religious, married or single life, it is our duty and due responsibility to discern where God is calling us in our life.
Here are four time-tested ways used by the Church to help people discover what God is calling them to:
Discernment begins and continues with deep, sincere personal prayer. Moments of quiet time, meditating on the Word of God, the Sacraments and spiritual reading are ways through which God communicates with an individual.
It is often helpful to have a spiritual companion – a friar, priest or religious whom one can journey with in the discernment process.
In the process of discernment, it is important to be involved with the different ministries of the Church. It is here that one can encounter and reflect upon the experience of serving others in the light of the Gospel. God often speaks through people around us. One who sincerely searches to do the will of God will not be let down. God will show the way.
Take time to read good spiritual books. Get to know the bible. Try out new books by contemporary authors. Immerse yourself in the lives of the saints. As St Francis appeals to you, try to find out more about him. Spiritual reading can help you immensely in your discernment.