Since a vocation is not our will but a calling from God, we must attune ourselves to His voice so that we can hear His call.
Prayer is how we primarily listen to the Lord’s voice. Oftentimes we know we should pray, but don’t know how or where to start. If you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry. The Lord longs to be with you in prayer and will help you. He has already helped us through His Church by showing us the primary ingredients to a life of prayer. The first is liturgical prayer. This is the public prayer of the Church, the greatest expression of which is Holy Mass. All of the Sacraments, like Confession, are liturgical prayer, as well as the Liturgy of the Hours, sometimes called the “Divine Office,” and Eucharistic Adoration. We also need to develop habits of personal prayer, especially meditation and contemplation. Prayer which honors our Blessed Lady is indispensable for finding your vocation. The Church and the saints for centuries have made powerful use of the Rosary, knowing that Mary, the perfect example of following one's vocation, will lead us to find her Son’s will if we only ask.
Attuning ourselves to the voice of the Lord also means becoming aware of the obstacles to hearing His voice. Sin and noise are the two major obstacles which get in the way of hearing His voice.
Sin is perhaps the most obvious obstacle because it is our willful turning away from God. Thus sin can never be seen as just the breaking of rules. Sin harms and can even destroy our relationship with the God who created us, hung on the Cross for us, and who is calling us to follow Him. In discernment, sin is like mud that gets in our spiritual eyes and ears making us blind and deaf to the Lord.
To answer God’s call in life we must be free to say “yes,” which requires freedom from sin. We are not born free nor can we become free on our own. Only Jesus can free us. Through the Cross He conquered sin and death; through His priests He now transmits that saving power in the Sacrament of Confession. We will never know our vocation and be able to respond generously and freely to it without regular Confession. Receiving this great Sacrament at least every two weeks and never less often than once a month will give those who wish to respond to their vocation the freedom to do so. From this
Sacrament comes not only the forgiveness of sins but also a generous outpouring of sanctifying grace into the soul. This sanctifying grace is Jesus’ own divine life, which, if allowed to consume your whole being, will show you His will.
After we have allowed Him to free us from mortal or serious sins we still have the ongoing work of attachment to venial sin. Attachment to sin is that desire to sin even if we don’t follow through on the evil act - wishing we could get away with it. St. Francis de Sales likens attachment to sin as the Israelites in the desert who sometimes longed for the life of Egypt even though it was the place of their slavery. Those attachments, even if they don’t spawn sin, keep us back spiritually by preventing our complete gift of self to Jesus and desire to do his will.
Noise is another obstacle in discernment. We live in a world of noise and are often already immersed in it as we begin the process. Habits of excessively watching television, having idle conversations with others, playing video or computer games and listening to music all the time contribute to the noise around us. Rarely do we have silence, either exterior or interior, throughout the day. In fact when we do come into contact with silence it often leads to discomfort and a desire for more noise. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the spiritual master of discernment wrote, “the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder, but before reaching the heart it is as gentle as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation.” Therefore, if you want to know your vocation, begin to develop habits of silence. Limit time spent watching television, playing video and computer games, using the Internet, and listening to music. The only way to do this is to TURN IT OFF. While none of these things are evil in themselves, used without the virtue of moderation they create spiritual static in our hearts and dull our spiritual sensitivity. In addition to eliminating noise we must foster silence through habits of quiet prayer, reading—especially the works of our spiritual tradition—and just thinking and pondering. Do not fear being alone with your thoughts, for that is where the voice of God can be heard.