And then there were those who insisted on signs and wonders, rose petals being the most popular, to confirm their vocational biases. Perhaps I am not the right person to analyze this phenomenon; I'm no romantic. In any case, the lack of a sign was rarely taken as clear evidence of divine disapproval, but as an indicator that the petitioner needed more discernment, as if the good Lord had not provided his children with such apparatus as senses, reasoning faculties, family, friends, and good old gut instinct to help them make momentous life decisions.
Brandon rejects the current infatuation with "discernment" as a state of life, rather than as an means to an end. He provides a handy checklist for those focused on the point of discernment: "to come to a clear decision on the basis of the kind of information that's needed for a good decision. For some people this will take some time, yes, but for others it won't. What people don't need are stupid exercises and long drawn out excuses; they need good, clear information in the form in which they can best understand it. That's it."
Here's a checklist on how to decide if your vocation is marriage:
1. There's no fundamental impediment to getting married.2. You've met someone really great.3. You think you'd like to be married to them.4. They think you're really great.5. They think they'd like to be married to you.6. You could meet your responsibilities as a married person and they could meet theirs.7. It wouldn't be an act of stupidity in general or a harm for yourself or the other person for you to marry them.
Here's another checklist on how to decide if your vocation is priesthood:
1. There's no fundamental impediment to ordination.2. You are interested in being a priest.3. You could fulfill the responsibilities of a priest without scandal.4. You are willing to commit to putting other people's good above your own, and especially God above yourself.5. It wouldn't be an act of stupidity in general or a harm for yourself and others for you to become a priest.
Of course, these aren't even universal; there have been arranged marriages and there have been times and places where congregations forced promising young men to be priests. But, again, it's really not that difficult to make decisions.This is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the point holds that any one of these points being negative is a pretty clear sign that this vocation is not for you. And discernment has to involve taking the practical steps to determine whether one is able to live out a vocation.
Back at Orthodox U., those who were serious about pursuing a religious vocation generally tested that call by trying to live as authentic a Catholic life as possible in their current state. Their discernment process was one of deep prayer, of course, but was also a matter of intense practicality: do I have what it takes to live as a priest or a nun? Can I meet the obligations of this life? Do I want this enough to spend the years it will take before I can make the final commitment? Those who had a desire to be married first had to navigate through the perils and pitfalls of a relationship with an actual other, and take the practical steps to determine whether that particular other was someone with whom they could live, for better and for worse. Each step of the journey involved prayer, but also the information gathering that allowed people to confront a decision, and then make a decision. That's what discernment is about.