“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” St. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, in a reading that we hear on Ash Wednesday. Lent is indeed an acceptable time for drawing closer to God and for growing in our spiritual life. Lent is also an “acceptable time” for taking your vocational discernment a little bit deeper. Whether you are actively discerning, or whether you are just starting to feel pulled toward discernment, here are seven ways to discern during Lent.
1) Pray, pray, pray! Prayer is essential to discernment, and daily prayer is even more essential. Commit to taking some time every day with the Lord, even if it’s just a few minutes—just him and you.
2) Choose a prayer and pray it daily for the intention of your discernment. Use this prayer to ask the Lord daily for his help, guidance, and light. This reminds you that you are not in control, but he is. My favorite prayer for this is the Memorare, but it can be any prayer that you like.
3) Mass and confession: if possible, go to daily Mass a few times a week, and go to confession at least once or twice during Lent. Do not underestimate the power of the sacraments!
4) Spiritual reading: choose a spiritual book and read it during Lent. (Daily, if possible—there’s a theme here!) Why? Because, to a large extent, our lives are the fruit of what enters our minds. Spiritual reading is one way of allowing Jesus himself to live in our minds. So, while you do your spiritual reading, ask Jesus to take over your mind, your thoughts, and your heart. (If you need some suggestions, look here.)
5) (This is my favorite one!) Examination of conscience: commit to a daily examination of conscience. Use one of these questions to focus your examen. Where and how was God present to me today? Where has my heart been today? What did God invite me to today and how did I respond?
6) Fasting: is there something that is distracting you from your relationship with the Lord? Is there a way that you can fast from that this Lent?
7) Almsgiving: Part of discernment is about emptying ourselves so that Jesus can fill us, letting go of control and realizing that trusting in his plan for us brings greater freedom than control does. That’s why almsgiving is such a good practice—it helps us to empty ourselves and focus on others. You can do this by listening more intentionally to your family, friends, etc. You can also do this by giving of your time in service to others at your parish, at a local charity, etc.
*Bonus! Eucharistic Adoration: There is nothing like spending time with Jesus himself, present in the Eucharist. He is there, waiting to love you, and waiting for you to love him. Fall in love this Lent!