Awakening the Vision
To say a yes to God means answering a call, rather than initiating it. The process leading to that answer and later affirmation by the Church is called discernment. In some ways, vocation discernment is similar to career planning.Both involve recognizing talents and personality traits suited to work tasks. However, recognizing a vocation is so much more than deciding on a career. We choose our career. Our vocation is God’s choice of us.
Vocation means a call. It is God’s invitation, His call to each person to love and serve Him and His Church in a particular state or way of life. Each person's vocation flows from the grace of Baptism.
Discernment: When talking about discovering your vocation, discernment means the process of that discovery through prayer, reflection and discussion as to how God calls each person to love Him, whether as a priest, a consecrated religious man or woman, a married person or a consecrated single person.
Brother: Brothers live in religious communities. They take vows and promise to use their talents to serve God wherever the community decides they are needed. Brothers are not ordained.
Charism: Each religious community has a charism or unique way of returning God's love to Him and His people which manifests a particular attribute of God's being.
Apostolate: The type of work or mission of the order through which their particular charism is lived out.
Consecrated Life: A permanent state of life recognized by the Church, entered freely in response to the call of Christ to the perfection of love and characterized by the making of public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Laity: People within the Church including religious brothers and sisters as well as all other single and married persons who are not ordained as bishops, priests or deacons are known as the laity or the lay faithful.
Secular Institute: Single lay men and women, and also some priests, belong to secular institutes. They make a commitment to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Members do not necessarily live together as a community. Their goal is to be a transforming presence in society.
Holy Orders: The Sacrament by which the mission entrusted by Christ to His Apostles continues to be excercised in the Church through the laying on of hands. By receiving Holy Orders men become members of the ordained clergy - deacons, priests and bishops. All three confer a permanent, sacramental character on the man who is ordained.
Permanent Deacon: A degree of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, after bishop and priest. The permanent deacon is ordained for ministry, but not to the priesthood. He assists and preaches at Mass, baptizes and presides at weddings and funerals. They have jobs outside the Church to make a living. Men at least 35 years of age, married or single, may be ordained permanent deacons.
Transitional Deacon: Men who are called to the priesthood who are in the final stage of formation before being ordained as priests. They receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and usually serve as deacons for one year before ordination to the priesthood. During their year as a deacon they continue their studies and serve in parish assignments.
Priest: A man is ordained to priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Together each man and the Church discern (discover) whether or not he is called to become a priest. Diocesan priests are called to serve the people of a particular diocese. Men called to be priests in religious orders belong to communities and in addition to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders they also take vows of poverty, chastity and odedience (the three evangelical counsels).
Religious Life: Priests, brothers or sisters living in communities that embrace the spirituality, charism and teachings of the community’s founder call their way of life religious life. Members of these communities follow Jesus through taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They grow in holiness through their gift of themselves to God and His people.
Religious Community: The founder of a religious community brings together a group of men or women who share the same charism and are dedicated to the same mission in the Church. These are religious communities of priests and brothers and communities of sisters. The apostolates of the communities vary according to their mission. Those dedicated primarily to prayer are contemplative communities; those who combine prayer with apostolic ministries are called active communities.
Postulant: The first formal stage of becoming a consecrated religious is called a postulant. The postulancy stage usually takes six months to a year.
Novice: A man or woman in the second formal stage of becoming a consecrated religious is called a novice. This stage of the novitiate usually takes one to two years.
Sister: Sisters belong to religious communities and are brides of Christ who are chosen by Him to love Him and serve His Church like His Mother Mary as virgins and spiritual mothers. They serve the Church in whatever ways their superiors decide is best given their talents and inclinations.
Nun: Nuns are sisters and brides of Christ who are called by Him to pray and serve the needs of the Church in a more hidden way. They live in cloistered communities and do not leave their convents for any outside apostolates.
Vows: Formal commitments made to God to follow Jesus in His poverty, chastity and obedience as members of religious communities. By the vow of poverty the members hold all things in common. The community takes care of each others' needs through the providence of God and their charity. The vow of chastity means that the member gives up the goods of marriage and marital relations for the sake of God’s kingdom. The vow of obedience allows the member of the community to imitate and share in Jesus’ obedience to His Father in order to accomplish His will. (Diocesan priests live the spirit of the counsels by promising to live in celibate chastity, obedience to their bishop and a simple life.)