There is something in us that knows there is a reason for our life, that we are meant to be, that our desire to do something meaningful with our life is rooted in a deeper plan that God has for us. This plan is God’s dream for our life, our vocation. Technically, vocation can be understood as one of the four states in life: priesthood, religious life, married state, single state. Popularly, the word vocation is used to mean a calling to priesthood or religious life.
At all stages of our life, however, we are often asking ourselves the important question, “Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life?” “Am I doing what God wants me to do?”
It is normal to wonder about whether we are fulfilling our purpose in life. As the years pass, we realize that our time is short on this earth and we want to make an impact on the world or in the lives of others.
There are two helpful questions you can ponder as you think about the purpose of your life:
1) What gives you a sense of life? What are you doing when you feel truly satisfied with your life and happy about who you are and what you are doing?
2) What do you desire most deeply? There are desires for a certain style of life, or a larger house, or an exotic vacation. These are all strategies to fulfill a more fundamental desire in our life. That desire might be a longing for acceptance, or belonging, or the ability to provide for a family. These are legitimate desires, but they only truly fulfill when they are ultimately in service of a deeper dream and a greater longing that is rooted in love and giving.
You might find these titles helpful:
Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman. A great read from the author of the famous poem-prayer, "Lead, Kindly Light." Blessed John Newman reflected a great deal on the meaning of life. He believes that God's first call to us was at our Baptism, but that he calls us, and continues to call us all, throughout our lives. It is a short but profound read, that will get you thinking more deeply about your own life.
Discernment: Acquiring the Heart of God. By Mark Ivan Rupnik, SJ. If you want to learn about a more comprehensive and systematic approach to understanding what God desires of you, this is the book for you. I've found it to be the best book on discernment I've read so far, and I’ve read many! One of the key points of this book is that discernment is more than a tool for making decisions. It is a process by which we learn how to remain in Christ. It is from this relationship that our choices in life flow. A tip: the first chapter is a bit heavy. If it seems too much, skip to the second.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian. By Maria Di Lorenzo. Or Teresa of Ávila: God Alone Suffices. By Jean-Jacques Antier. Reading the lives of the saints is a powerful way of igniting our yown desires for something deeper by seeing how God acted in other people’s lives. The saints are also great companions in our own journey of life. These two books in particular show the many decisive choices Pier Giorgio and Teresa of Avila made in order to follow God's will. It isn't any one great decision that makes all the difference.... It is an immense number of small yeses to God that form us in his will.
Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, fsp