by Father Scott Wallisch
There is a condition that I find among a lot of young men and women who are in the process of discerning God’s call for their life.
I call it discernment paralysis. These are the young people who, although having a true desire to do God’s will, spend years on the vocational fence.
From their perch on the fence, they constantly waver back and forth over the options that are laid out in front of them. Oftentimes, they are paralyzed because they are so focused on the final step of discernment.
Men ask the question: “Am I supposed to be a priest or married or a Brother or single?”
Women wonder: “Am I supposed to be married or a Sister or single?” These are fundamentally important questions, but if a discerner thinks that he or she needs to know the answer to those questions before doing anything else, it becomes overwhelming and easily paralyzing.
Young people experiencing discernment paralysis would do themselves a huge favor by taking a step on whichever side of the fence they feel is pulling them the most at the time.
It does not take huge steps. Small ones work. Discernment is not one big step, but a series of small steps. That final step, whether it is ordination or final vows or a wedding, is not so intimidating once you have taken the scores of smaller steps along the way. Each of those small steps helps the discerners understand themselves and God’s plan a little bit better.
The small steps, even if they are in the wrong direction, give a clarity and peace that cannot be gained by merely sitting on the fence for a long time.
When a person thinks that God wants them to discern the priesthood or religious life a little deeper, it is time to take some steps. Besides spending time in prayer, asking questions, doing research, talking to a priest, Brother, or Sister, and attending a discernment event, actually visiting the places where priests and religious live and are formed can be a very helpful step.
So, with that in mind, I want to offer young people the following opportunities to take those small steps:
- Monk Run or Nun Run (accompanying chaperones to visit and spend time with a handful of religious orders) — Feb. 11-14 — for high school age and older men and women.
- Kenrick-Glennon Seminary visit — April 3-5 — for high school age men and older.
Conception Seminary “Come and See” retreat — April 16-17 — for men high school age and college underclassmen.
If you or someone you know is interested in taking any of these discernment steps, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.