Discernment and Footwear: 5 Reasons to Test Your Call

"Try before you buy? The same logic you use for shoes works for vocation discernment, too."
by Br Andrew Dalton, LC | Source:

Already dedicated to him through Baptism,

the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else

thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God's service

and to the good of the Church.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church , 931


An old fraternity brother of mine who was an avid runner and die-hard wrestler had the strange habit of purchasing dozens of pairs of running shoes online. Nike, Adidas, New Balance... you name it, he had it. Most of us just looked at him and shook our heads because we all know the basic wisdom behind, "Try before you buy." Well, the same goes for discerning the priesthood or consecrated life.

"Are you trying to say that the priesthood is like stinky footwear?" Well, maybe not the stinky part, but... yeah. I know, the metaphor might not impress the Shakespeares out there, but give me a chance to explain why the comparison fits. Here are five reasons why you should test your call if you've got a vocational itch.

1. Why not?

That may sound simplistic. Rather than defending the logic of this invincible tort, I will just challenge you to take it with you to the forest and chew on it. Or better yet, take it to the tabernacle and pray on it. When I was thinking about entering the seminary, a clownish friend of mine tried to encourage me, saying, "The Church is the only girl you can live with before marriage!" I thought for sure that there had got to be something irreverent about that comment. But in the end, I realized that the truth that it helped me see was valuable, and so I pass it on to you. I thought, " If there is even the slightest chance that God has called me from all eternity to this...whatever it be...why not at least give it a shot?"

2. Books don't cut it.

If you want to know what a dodo bird looks like, just pick up an encyclopedia, but if you're craving knowledge of your call to follow Christ in the priesthood or consecrated life, chances are that reading about it won't completely slake your thirst. By all means, read. Read a lot. But you owe it to yourself to keep the search from ending when the book does.

I was a sophomore in college when I first asked a priest I trusted, "How do you know if you're called to be a priest?" Father Scott was wise not to spook me with an onslaught of questions at the time. He just gave me a book and said that we could talk about it next time. The book was called Peter on the Shore [ http://www.vocation.com/content-n3rg.htm ], the first vocation book by Fr. Anthony Bannon of vocation.com . (He has since followed up with two more, Vocation Questions and Answers [ http://www.circlepressusa.com/interior02.phtml?se=001&ca=001&ar=36 ] and Launch into the Deep [ http://www.circlepressusa.com/interior02.phtml?se=001&ca=001&ar=242 ]). I know now what I didn't know then - that this book is a diamond in the rough - and so I read a few chapters but soon got distracted with another book I found about another kind of discernment, namely Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris. It's funny how fickle we can be. Months later, I felt that itch again about the priesthood and came back to Peter , and this time I read cover to cover. When I told Fr. Scott that all my questions were answered but that I still just wasn't sure, he said, "If you want to buy a pair of shoes, you've got to try them on. Why don't you visit the seminary and test your call?" Without that pearl of wisdom, I wonder where I would be today. Probably not wearing black or writing this article.

3. Undo your doubts: Nature abhors a vacuum.

Or so they say anyway. The reason you've got to get up and go is because there's a little Cartesian chip planted deep in all of our brains that makes us perpetually doubt. "What if I'm wrong? What if it's not like I imagined? What if others find out? What if..." If you've got lingering doubts (and who doesn't at the start?), the best way to clarify them is to step out of the vacuum and into the world where God can speak and you can hear. It's hard to love what you don't know.

Here's a little taste of the kind of frank insight you will find in Fr. Bannon's book: "Discernment is the perception of God's action and his call. Discernment is in itself, I believe, a grace. It is definitely more than a fruit of mere intellectual examination and reflection. Discernment is therefore, more subject to the pattern of grace than to the laws of pure reason."
Okay, Father, so what should we conclude from that? That "discernment must take place in a climate of faith."
In other words, TRY ON THE SHOES!

4. We need contact.

Get ready because this is probably the deepest reason yet. I wish I could take credit for it but I must confess that I am stealing it from Pope Benedict XVI. I was reading his book, On the Way to Jesus Christ , and came upon these words: "I have often said that I am convinced that the true apologetics for the Christian message, the most persuasive proof of its truth, offsetting everything that may appear negative, are the saints, on the one hand, and the beauty that the faith has generated, on the other. For faith to grow today, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to come in contact with the beautiful."
When we think about following Christ more radically by consecrating our whole lives to him, we usually start from an apostolic urge. We want to share the truth of our beloved faith with others, to lead souls to heaven, to spread Christ. But despite our intense yearnings, we soon find that we really can't go about doing this with very much success...by ourselves anyway.

Before we can feed, we must be fed. Before we can draw others to the Light of the World, we must be drawn ourselves. Before we can emanate light, we must absorb it. We need Son exposure.

And the Holy Father points to the two most powerful Light sources, that is, the two ingredients needed to give Christ to today's world (which is the purpose of every vocation): "Nothing can bring us into contact with the beauty of Christ himself more than the world of beauty created by faith and the light that shines upon the faces of the saints, through which his own light becomes visible."
In order to discover our vocation to holiness, then, we need to bump into sanctity, living and breathing sanctity, in our brothers and sisters who have already "put on Christ" ( Gal 3:27). I can assure you that the best proof that the vocation is something beautiful and real comes in seeing it personified... in Br. Stephen, Br. John, Br. Benjamin...
And the next Light source, says the Pope, is an encounter with "redeeming beauty," which is "truth in all its greatness". This is the beauty that really attracts. We need reasons, yes, but we need motives too. We need to satisfy our minds, but much more our hearts. I think the spiritual beauty the Holy Father is referring to is that inner tug you feel when a single slice of light penetrates the chapel window and falls upon the altar. Or maybe it is as simple as the serene expression on a brother's face as he receives Holy Communion or - simpler still - as he holds the door for you. God takes advantage of these "trifles" to speak to us. The trick is being docile enough to the Holy Spirit to perceive and relish them.

In short, TRY ON THE SHOES and bump into both beauty and holiness!

5. Christ is a safe bet.

Try as we might, God will never be outdone in generosity. In other words, you have nothing to lose, and that is certainly an encouraging thought. But it is also something like a dare. Perhaps it sounds imprudent for us to go around daring young men and women to consecrate their lives to Christ. We prefer softer words like "invite" or "suggest". But when I sat in St. Peter's Square listening to the homily of the Holy Father at his inaugural Mass, I perceived a kind of verbal prodding that was refreshingly intrusive: "Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way­? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope [John Paul II ] said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. ... Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything."
Amen, Holy Father, you said it all! And so I'll leave you with the words of the all-time best vocation director, the Nazarene who, when asked by the vocationally itching disciples-to-be where he lived, replied with this simple slogan: "Come and see!" In other words, "Do you want to follow me? Well then," - to keep trotting with our leitmotif - "just do it!"

Brother Andrew Dalton, of the Legionaries of Christ, studies for the priesthood in Rome.



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Published by: Harvey Leon Frydman
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
I am trying to reach Brother Andrew Dalton, LC. He was the first person I merat the Legionsries if Christ to sit with me to read and understand the Bible. I am trying to contact him and also find a Brother Santiago Ruanova. You help will be appreciated. Happy Easter. Sincerely, Harvey Leon Frydman Bloomfield, CT

Published by: Harvey Leon Frydman
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
I am trying to reach Brother Andrew Dalton, LC. He was the first person I merat the Legionsries if Christ to sit with me to read and understand the Bible. I am trying to contact him and also find a Brother Santiago Ruanova. You help will be appreciated. Happy Easter. Sincerely, Harvey Leon Frydman Bloomfield, CT

Published by: Harvey Leon Frydman
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
I am trying to reach Brother Andrew Dalton, LC. He was the first person I merat the Legionsries if Christ to sit with me to read and understand the Bible. I am trying to contact him and also find a Brother Santiago Ruanova. You help will be appreciated. Happy Easter. Sincerely, Harvey Leon Frydman Bloomfield, CT

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