by Tara K. E. Brelinsky
People say you should do what you love. But what if you’re not sure what that is? Or what if what you love isn’t what you’re good at? How do you figure out what to do with your life?
The first step is to discover your God-given talents. Concentrate on identifying your natural abilities, your gifts. Your gifts make you well-suited for the specific vocation (calling or destiny) God has for you.
Then, find good mentors. Surround yourself with people who are successfully living out a variety of vocations and study their examples.
The Advantage of Mentors
Growing up, I lived in an area of the country where Catholics were the majority. I had regular exposure to people living a variety of vocational calls. There was a priest and a religious sister in my
family, as well as long-married couples and a few relatives living as chaste singles.
Of course, exposure alone wasn’t necessarily enough to prepare me to seriously discern my vocation. However, compared to a child who never came into contact with a religious sister or long-married couple, I definitely had an advantage.
Consider how hard it is for a child who has grown-up surrounded by divorced (or never married) parents, grandparents and relatives to understand the meaning of a sacramental marriage. Or what might be a girl’s perspective of religious life if her only frame of reference is Hollywood’s portrayal of nuns?
Learn from a Master
It wasn’t so long ago that young people routinely trained as apprentices. If a boy endeavored to follow a particular career path, he either worked beside his father or sought out a skilled craftsman to teach him a trade. Previous generations understood the value in learning from a master.
Then, somewhere along the line, we decided that classroom education and innovation trumped apprenticeship. Children were told that books and lectures could prepare them for the future. The pursuit of new ideas and technology relegated the old masters to ancient history.
The problem is that textbooks cannot replace mentors. And innovation doesn’t automatically negate the original methods.
No Concrete Understanding
Additionally, today’s youth often have no concrete understanding of what a specific career entails (let alone what a vocation requires). If they even have two parents living in the home, more often than not they only see their parents in the early morning and evening hours. For the majority of the day, they have no idea what dad and mom are doing to sustain their marriage, run a household or make a living.
Even if a parent works from home, the chances are good that he/she works on a computer which still leaves the children wondering what exactly dad or mom does all day.
What’s a Person To Do?
With the absence of familiar role models, what is a young person to do? The cultural answer is to follow the lead of Hollywood stars, popular characters and the in-crowd.
However, if you want to know what it takes to build a lifelong marriage, then you shouldn’t get your advice from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Teen Vogue Magazine won’t tell you how to live as a chaste single. And what’s trending today on Google probably won’t aid you in hearing that Still, Small Voice of God.
Just like my perspective was affected by growing up around so many people faithfully living out different vocations, youth are shaped by the company they keep. We must provide them with mentors who are successfully employing their natural talents and fulfilling their vocations.
Of course, young people aren’t the only ones influenced by others. We all need to surround ourselves with successful (and holy) models. Finding mentors may take a little effort, but the rewards can last a lifetime.
How to Find a Mentor:
- Turn to the saints. Saints often lived their vocations heroically. Read their biographies and writings. Watch historically accurate films about the saints. Pray for their intercession. A few great saints to get to know: Blessed Chiara Corbella Petrillo, St. Padre Pio, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
- Talk to your elders. Make friends with long-married couples and ask them their secret to wedded bliss. Volunteer at a nursing home and ask the seniors about their vocations.
- Visit religious communities. Organize a day trip or a retreat to a monastery, convent or religious community and learn about the daily lives of the members. Contact Madonna House Apostolate to learn about their mission as a family of Christian lay men, women and priests.
- Interview your priest or deacon. Invite him to dinner and ask what his vocation entails. Follow NC Priest online to learn about the opportunities for men in the Raleigh diocese who are discerning a call to the priesthood.
- Attend the Ignited By Truth Catholic Conference. Hear inspiring talks and meet fellow Catholics. Strike up a conversation and make a new friend (and possible mentor)
- BE a mentor. Share your story honestly and your talents joyfully. Teach others. Set a right example.