Saturday, April 7, 2012

Confirmation is like Graduation

High school graduation is a time of celebration. Twelve tortuous years in the classroom have been successfully completed, and you joyously proclaim your praiseworthy accomplishments, your success, and the death knell of the formidable Institution. No more school, no more
books, no more of teacher's dirty looks! Over and done with, in saecula seaculorum.
Yet it is also a time of nervousness, apprehension, and excitement, for what is the number one question high school seniors are asked? (No, it isn't what parties they will be attending, young man)
The question is: "What college are you going to?"

(So much for the death of the Institution....-.-)
But that simple question, so often asked, reveals the second and truer purpose of high school graduation. It isn't about looking back, and it isn't about the end. It is about looking forward to a new beginning. It's about the future: your future. And the query looms: what are you going to do
with your life? You are an adult now, ready to take on responsibility, decide who and what you are going to be, and make something of yourself. It's not your parents' job to get you out of bed in the morning anymore, it's yours. Scary and exhilarating at the same time, isn't it?
It's almost Easter. I'm staring at my own high school graduation right now, at the same time
many other teenagers are staring at their Confirmation. I had to talk to some of these teenagers the other day, and the juxtaposition of events got me to thinking.

Confirmation is like graduation.

After your Confirmation, you become an adult in the Church. You take on the full responsibility of being Christian, and being a soldier for Christ. And once again, the biggest question mark is: what are you doing to do with your life? What is your place as an adult in the Church? How are you going to fulfill the call to sainthood? What does God want you to do? Just as the year of your high school graduation is the first step in finding your place in the world, the year of your Confirmation should be a large step in finding your place in the Church. Your Confirmation, therefore, is an excellent time to begin taking some serious time out to discern your

Sometimes, that's easier said than done. If finding the right college can be confusing, discernment is even more so! So, here is a quick guide to beginning discernment (as tested by moi):

1. Be Open. I really, really can't stress enough. Discerning your Vocation is asking God, "What do you want me to do?" If you intend to ignore that answer when He gives it, that defeats the entire purpose of discerning.

2. Challenge Your Assumptions. "I already know I'm going to get married." I've heard those words so many times! And while some people know what God is calling them to do from a young age (Padre Pio being an example) most people do not. Imagine if everyone just assumed they were going to be a dentist when they grew up, because their parents were dentists, or because they said they were going to be a dentist when they were three! While there is definitely nothing wrong with being a dentist, when you just assume that you are going to be one, you cut yourself off to a world of possibilities. It's the same with Vocation. How do you know for certain you are called to marriage (or religious life) if you have never even learned and looked into your other options? I used to assume that I was going to get married and be a famous author, but once I stopped clinging to that idea and allowed myself to really learn about religious life, I found that I really liked it. You might, too.

3. Talk to People and Ask Questions. Go to a priest and ask him what drew him to the priesthood. Go to a holy, married couple and ask them what is the best thing about
marriage. Go to a nun or consecrated single and ask them what they do. Hearing about the experiences of others is always helpful. And though I hesitate to challenge the wisdom of the elders, it has been my personal experience that curiosity does NOT kill the cat; it doesn't hurt to ask questions, and it will give you a real feel for what the different Vocations are actually like.
And you are bound to hear lots of funny stories, as a much-appreciated plus.

4. Research. Some excellent resources for Marriage and the discernment of it are:
BadCatholic (You might have to do some sifting, but this guy has several amazing posts on marriage; just don't get distracted by the awesome pictures)
And Nic's Blog, on the sidebar (to get a taste of how marriage and Faith fit together)
Some resources I've found helpful for learning about the religious life are:
And some of the blogs on the sidebar.
There are many more for both Vocations, but that would be a series of blogposts in itself!

5. Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Discernment can't happen unless you establish a dialogue with God; how else are you to ask and He to answer? So, grab your Rosary, your Bible, and your book of Novenas, and head off to Adoration.

6. Find a Spiritual Director. Sometimes, it is difficult to hear the voice of God over the clamoring of our own wills. Sometimes, it is difficult to hear God, period! A Spiritual Director can help you with that. A Spiritual Director is a holy person who can advise you, support you, and pray with you and for you. They help you when discernment gets hard and your thoughts (or feelings) become more tangled than Rapunzel.
One last quick piece of advice: you do not have to be extremely holy to discern. I've met people who say, "Oh, I could never be a nun/priest/what-have-you because I'm not HOLY enough." And that statement completely misses the point of discernment and of Vocation. It seems to have forgotten that we are all called to holiness. We are all called to be saints. HOW we are going to achieve that is what we do not know, and what discernment is for. Discernment is our search for the life that will make us saints. It asks what God wants of us (which is, in a word, sainthood) and how to achieve it (specific vocation). The very fact that you are discerning, then, admits that you are not holy, and you need God's help and plan to become so. So none of that "I'm not holy
enough." You do not need to be holy to discern. Discerning, if you approach with an open and
trusting heart, will make you holy.

So, no excuses. You are going to be an adult in the Church soon!
What are you going to do with your life?

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