Silence and Discernment

Mount Angel Seminary after our recent silent retreat

The new year is upon us, classes are starting, and resolutions are being made. For many seminarians, including those in Sacramento, this time of year has a different meaning as well: retreat season. Across the country, many seminaries, including Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon and Saint Patrick’s in Menlo Park, the two seminaries utilized by the Diocese of Sacramento, hold an annual retreat, often in silence, in order to provide some time for prayer, reflection, and finding God’s will in one’s life. Even those who are on their pastoral internship, a year long period of learning and living in a parish, return to their seminaries, as I returned to Mount Angel this past week. While a week-long retreat, especially in silence, is not always easy, if one allows it to be, it is fruitful and brings many blessings.

Silence and time for prayer is just as important for seminarians and priests as it is for anyone else, especially for those who are discerning a call to religious life. To hear God’s call, we should take some time to step back and simply “be” with God. This might mean attending a formal discernment retreat, which can be found by contacting your local Diocese (such as Sacramento’s Office of Vocations), going on a personal retreat at a local monastery or retreat house (such as the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Northern California), or if neither of those options are available to you now, then simply spending some time away from the constant bombardment of modern life, whether it be a hiking or camping trip, or some other experience in which you can spend some good quality time reflecting and praying, listening for the Lord. As one priest recently told me: look for quality over quantity. In other words, you don’t have to spend 14 days in total silence to hear God’s will, but you do have to make an honest effort, with the guidance of a good spiritual director, and then make a decision and move forward based on what you discern.

If you are discerning the priesthood or religious life, take that next step and spend some time away with God. Find a good spiritual director who can help you on the journey, and when the time comes, with good discernment, move forward towards the next phase.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the ConsiderPriesthood team! Fr. Jovito, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Sacramento, and some seminarians will be visiting St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo and Crito Rey High School in Sacramento over the coming weeks.

Please continue to pray for all your Sacramento seminarians, and know that you remain in ours as well!