Discerning your vocation within the gaze of Christ

3 mins read
Sister M. Ignatia Henneberry
Sister M. Ignatia Henneberry

The Ratio Formationis of our Congregation states, “Perpetual adoration is my way of life.” Looking back on the gift of my vocation, I can see how the Lord prepared me to become a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration from a young age. Discerning a vocation requires noticing God’s loving plan and preparation in our life and then having the desire to surrender to it. For me, adoration encompasses these two aspects: preparation and surrender.

Looking back on the Lord’s loving plan and preparation, I can see how central adoration has been in my life. Jesus’ acts of preparation form rather than force. Our hearts start desiring those things that are best for us — that were meant for us all along. A lot of these little acts of preparation for me came through adoration.

My parents met at a Catholic young adult group, and adoration was central to their discernment of marriage together. My dad proposed to my mom in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and I believe Jesus, in a certain sense, gave our family a “little charism” of adoration. Many years later, my parents asked our pastor to have adoration available at our small parish, so they took on the task of promoting and organizing it.

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My parents would go to adoration regularly, and my brother and I would often come along. My mom tells me that I couldn’t sit still, so I would make little “processions” around the church during adoration. I would walk up and down the aisles and stop at every statue and picture. Even though I was not totally aware of Jesus’ presence at the time, Jesus was aware of my presence. Still, the fact that my parents brought me before his presence and his gaze left a mark on my life and became its guiding principle.

These graces of preparation continued as I went off to college, although at the time I was still unaware of my specific calling to be a religious sister. At college, the Lord prepared a community for me. I met other young people who were following Jesus and who were invested in this mysterious process called “discernment,” which I had never heard of before. He also prepared a Eucharistic community for me, as he was present in the Blessed Sacrament in all the dorms and perpetually in the adoration chapel on campus.

As I began to venture into the world of discernment like my friends, I began asking Jesus, “Are you calling me to be a sister?” With this question on my heart, I started spending more time with him in adoration. There he kept forming me. Finally, the Lord prepared an encounter with my future sisters. When I met them, I noticed their joy, which I found was rooted in belonging to Jesus and adoring him in the Blessed Sacrament. Each congregation has a specific charism, which is a gift given for the benefit of the whole Church. It is also a gift given to each sister of that congregation. The charism of perpetual adoration was given to me. During those years of discernment, this charism that had been planted in my heart started to be awakened, and I found a reflection of this spark in the hearts of these sisters. Over time I became more and more convicted that if Jesus was calling me to be totally his, adoration would be the mode of that gift of self. After my sophomore year at college, I sensed Jesus inviting me to enter the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.

My hours of adoration as a kid and later at college began a formation in adoration that continues to this day. I believe this kind of formation is essential for everyone, but especially for those discerning their own vocation. We go to adoration perhaps at first because we want to know what Jesus wants us to do, but eventually this motivation transforms into wanting to know and be like Jesus. Jesus’ posture while exposed in the Blessed Sacrament is full surrender to us. Our desire is to give our full surrender back to him.

The Adoration of Holys
The Adoration of Holys in front of Eucharist by Enrico Reffo. Adobe Stock

Adoration forms us for this surrender in two ways: obedience and presence. In very realistic terms, it’s sometimes difficult to be obedient to a scheduled hour of adoration. We have to say no to other things in order to say, “Yes Jesus, I want to spend time with you.” Do we let Jesus inform our decisions about how we use our time? Are we obedient to our commitments? Can we surrender our time to him? We have all had this experience: I feel so busy, and I don’t think that I can take the time right now to pray. But once I am there, once I am in that adoration chapel, I know I don’t want to be anywhere else. The presence of Jesus is captivating — it’s everything.

While at college I spent a semester abroad. By this time, I was seriously discerning religious life and spent a lot of time praying in beautiful chapels across Europe. Although beauty and adventure surrounded me, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament attracted me even more. In obedience, we make external acts of surrender manifesting our interior desire. In giving our simple presence to Jesus, who is fully present to us, we make an interior act of surrender — giving our hearts to him. A vocation is a beautiful gift. Jesus has been preparing it for you and he has been preparing you to make that loving act of surrender and say yes to that vocation with all your heart.

Sister M. Ignatia Henneberry is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. She writes from Indiana.