One of the most difficult challenges for Catholic Christians in our times is the discovery of their vocation and the courageous response to it. This is especially true when considering a religious or priestly vocation. How can we really know for sure whether the Lord is calling us to consecrate our life to him when we don’t have the ability to “hear” his voice the way we would like? Although every man’s journey to become an Oblate of St. Joseph is unique, we can share some general guidance and advice if you are wondering whether God might be calling you to be an Oblate of St. Joseph.
Deepen your life of prayer
The absolute prerequisite to being able to discern more carefully the signs God might be giving you is to first enter into a close relationship with him. The more fervent, regular, and humble our prayer life is, the more our hearts will be open to what God wants for us. When our hearts are open then our reservations about the challenges and the sacrifices required for a religious consecration can be seen in the bigger perspective: God loves us, and when he calls us to a religious vocation it is for our own happiness, peace, and growth in holiness.
Prayer also makes us more sensitive to perceiving the small indications God might giving us. When our lives are surrounded by the noise of the world it is extremely difficult to hear the voice of God in our hearts. But when our prayer becomes more important, the silence and peace that come with it help us to discern God’s voice.
Just as a couple could never get married without knowing whether they have the share the same values and principles, so young men and women cannot know if they are called to a particular religious vocation without first investigating and knowing what that particular consecration requires of them. This is true at a general level in discernment (Will I be able to live vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience?), but it is also necessary when considering the specific charism, spirituality, and apostolates of a particular religious order.
For example, as Oblates of St. Joseph, we are dedicated to serving the youth of our times, to promoting devotion to St. Joseph, and to living in community as one family. If a young man has no desire to work with you, has no particular devotion to St. Joseph, and doesn’t feel called to live in community, then it’s likely that he wouldn’t fit well as an Oblate of St. Joseph. On the other hand, if he feels attracted to helping the youth of our times grow closer to Christ and his Church, takes the example of St. Joseph as a model for his own life, and realistically desires to participate in the common life, then he would probably want to continue learning and knowing whether the Oblate vocation is for him.
Change your life
The process of becoming a religious brother and priest is not something that happens overnight. It takes years of growth and discernment before making first vows. But this does not mean that a candidate should wait until he enters a house of formation to begin this transformation. In fact, it must begin before. Candidates must be making progress in leaving behind sin and individualism; they must be embracing the prayer of the Church in the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as making sacrifices that will lead them to more readily live out their vocation.
Often times, the simple process of beginning to live a life that more closely resembles the daily life of an Oblate will begin to indicate whether it will fit with the vocation of the individual. If a candidate finds no joy in the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours, then it might be a sign that he will have trouble entering a house of formation. But if he is able to grow in appreciate for the religious demands and the human virtues required to be an Oblate of St. Joseph, then it is a good indication that he could persevere as an Oblate too.
Get to know the Oblates themselves
It would be impossible to know if you have a vocation to be an Oblate of St. Joseph until you have the opportunity to get to know us and spend some time seeing how we live. For some, this process begins by getting to know the Oblates in their parish community. For others, they get to know the Oblates better by visiting them on a vocation retreat. Whatever the method, it is important to connect with the Oblates to experience their family spirit and their prayer life in order to know if God is calling you to this way of life.