Discernment Tools

How Will I Know?

Most of us who have ever wondered if the vocation to religious life was for us must have asked the question, "how will I know?" It comes in many forms. "What is God's will in my life?" "How do I find happiness and fulfillment in my life?" "What is the ultimate purpose of my existence?" "How will I know that God is calling me to live the religious life as a priest, brother, or sister?"

"How will I know that God is calling me to live the religious life as a priest, brother, or sister?"

An inherent part of life is the responsibility to make difficult, challenging, and sometimes even painful decisions. To make important decisions often requires time, prayer, and discernment. Perhaps today more than ever, we face a greater multiplicity and complexity of decisions in ordinary day-to-day living. In the discernment process, we consider the options, balance the advantages with disadvantages, and carefully examine the consequences. "How will I know . . . what is good, right, or best? How will I know what God is calling me to?"

Before the rainbow shown in the sky, perhaps Noah wondered, "How will I know?" Before John the Baptist sent his disciples from his prison cell to find Jesus he must have asked, "How will I know?" When Thomas heard from the disciples that Jesus rose from the dead, he must have struggled with the question, "How will I know?" As Mary Magdalene gazed into the empty tomb that first Easter morning, she must have pondered, "How will I know?"

Today, as in Jesus own time, God continues to give signs to help us to decide, to discern and to know what the Lord is asking us. In particular there are four general signs which are often seen.

Availability and Openness

  • Am I open-hearted to whatever God is calling me?
  • Am I disposed and free to respond to that call?


  • Do I sense a degree of potential satisfaction, hope, or joy when I consider religious life?
  • If it is God's will, do I trust that it can be fulfilled?

Proper Motivation

  • Is my primary motivation of a spiritual nature, such as serving and loving God and God's people?
  • Would I experience adequate happiness and fulfillment?

General Disposition

  • Do I have reasonably good health, emotional stability, social ease, and spiritual-centeredness?
  • In a more specific way, there is a rather practical spiritual discernment process which can be a tool or guide to help us determine what God is calling us to. This discernment process combines reflection, prayer, dialogue, and Scripture.

How Does One Begin Discernment?

One way to prepare for discernment is to make a time line of your life story, from your birth to the present day. Reflect upon the following:

Significant Persons in My Life

  • Who have been the people in my life?
  • What has my relationship been to them?
  • How have they influenced me positively and negatively?
  • Who has had the most impact on me?
  • Reflect on your experience of family
    • What have I learned?
    • What do I value?
    • What do I want to let go of?

Educational Experience

  • What schools?
  • Did I like, dislike, favorite memories, activities, friends, significant events, people?
  • What did I learn of life that I want to keep? What gets in the way?

Social and Sexual Development

  • What do I enjoy doing with others?
  • What do I do just because it's in?
  • What do I find relaxing and renewing?
  • Who have I dated, what circumstances?
  • What has been my relationship to men?
  • What has been my relationship to women?
  • Review your sexual history.
    • From whom did you first learn about sex?
    • What have been your experiences as a child, teen, young adult, now?
    • What impact have various relationships had on you?

Work History

  • Jobs held, how long, where, colleges, preparation for positions, responsibility, initiative.
  • What did you learn and what skills did you acquire in each job or preparation process?

Faith Experience

  • What's your earliest recollection of God?
  • Who taught you about God?
  • Who has had the greatest influence in faith development?
  • How was church, faith, God in your family?
  • What practices do you do to care for your faith life?
  • Where did you learn about these practices?
  • Who is God in your life?
  • Name your experiences of the Divine in your life.
  • How did that feel, what impact did these have?
  • How do you see God in the everyday circumstances of your life?
  • How do you nurture this relationship?

Life Choice

  • When did you first think of religious life?
  • What has been the pattern in this?
  • Why religious life? What about marriage? or single life?


Copyright, The Priests of the Sacred Heart