I’ve reflected a lot lately on the idea of discernment—in particular, how it relates to someone who is single and thus not yet committed to a vocation. Sometimes it seems like our mission and purpose in life will come only once we respond to a vocation, but in reality the mission field is ever before us, in each small decision we make each day, in every person we meet and difficulty we endure. Through accepting each day as it comes and understanding that God is calling us to be present right where we are, we will allow Him to gently lead us to find our overarching calling. But we don’t have to wait until then to start serving; our mission has already begun.
Mission flows from vocation, and vocation flows from identity. A nun’s vocation is religious life, and through discernment she determines where her particular mission is, in which order she will serve. A woman whose vocation is marriage will discern whom she will marry, and her mission will be in the life she builds with her husband. I think this general idea applies to other things in our lives as well: someone who is a gifted musician might have a vocation to play music, and through discernment they will find the particular group and setting in which they can use their gifts. In this sense, discernment involves two things: recognizing the gifts that we’ve been given, and looking for practical opportunities to use them in service of God and others.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was unsure of his vocation—he had considered priesthood but ultimately felt called to be a layperson (and a third-order Dominican). He thought perhaps he was called to marriage, but he was living as a single, lay man when he died at the age of twenty-four. And yet he had reached the heights of holiness, in just twenty-four years, through an “ordinary” life. He didn’t wait for a clear understanding of where God would call him in the future to start doing God’s work in the present day. He served the poor and hungry, he cultivated a vibrant community of Catholic friends, he made his voice heard in the political sphere for causes he believed in, he climbed mountains, and he dedicated time for prayer. He is a good model for us all, to live life to the fullest at every moment, wherever we might find ourselves.