Column: It’s not that God is silent, but that we are not

Father Scott Wallisch is the archdiocesan vocations director. You can email him at: frscott@archkck.org
Father Scott Wallisch is the archdiocesan vocations director. You can email him at: frscott@archkck.org

by Father Scott Wallisch

As vocation director, people ask me often about discernment (from the Latin word for “to sift”).

Determining what vocation God is calling one to is not easy, so those of us who are spiritual directors and vocation promoters try to give some helpful principles. I wrote last year about the importance of looking for peace while discerning. I hope to use my next few columns to discuss other important discernment principles.

When I was still in college, I attended the papal visit of Pope John Paul II in St. Louis. In the excitement of the youth rally on the first day, I found myself actually thinking about my vocation, a pastime I usually avoided.

As I sat in the upper deck of the arena, waiting for the pope’s arrival, I remember bargaining with God. “OK, God,” I thought, “if you want me to be a priest, I give you two options. You can either display your message to me on the video board, or you can inspire the pope to mention me by name.” Surprisingly, God used neither of those options.

As much as we would all love to be hit by a huge billboard of discernment clarity, God tends to prefer pelting us with lots of smaller signs. He usually gives
us plenty of indications of his plan, but we are often not paying attention to the smaller stuff.

Years later, I was working in Kansas City and renting a house with two friends. They were great, but we were stuck in the same pattern, filling our evenings after work with the noise of TV, movies, and video games.

For various reasons, I decided to move into an apartment by myself. Suddenly, I was swamped with silence. At first jarring, I eventually came to enjoy it.

As I found myself with more quiet time, the little vocational signs with which God had filled my life increasingly flooded into my silent, prayerful thoughts. I could no longer ignore them while I waited for a bigger sign from God. This silent reflection gave me clarity and eventually moved me to vocational action.

When it comes to receiving signs from God, the problem is not that God is silent, but that we are not. In silence we are better able to pay attention and sift through those countless little signs.

So, young people, do you make time for silence in your life? Parents, do you establish times of silence in the lives of your children? If so, do you use the gift of that silence to see God’s will being slowly revealed around you, or have you lost yourself in the noise, hoping for a video board message that may never come?

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