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Formation – Signs of true Vocation, Fr. E. Busuttil, S.J.

1) Fear of the world and its dangers

It is not about cowardice, meaning, fear of being mistreated or of not being able to lead a bourgeois and quiet life. Rather, it is a true knowledge of the spiritual and moral malice of the world and of the serious difficulty of remaining faithful to the Law of God.

And if we are sincere:

How difficult it is to remain pure in the world with so many incentives, examples, and temptations from all kinds of people, companies, readings, and life circumstances!

How to be good in a world in which it is foolish to be loyal, a reason for aversion to be a Christian, abnormal not to be beastly filthy, easy prey to be conscientious?

It is true that there are also saints in the world, but at what cost? What character of Christians must they have? Not to mention that many times they do, yes, to a certain degree of goodness, but after a thousand falls and disorders and a sudden blow of grace.

And will I feel so strong? Do I think it is possible for me to cross that quagmire without filling myself with mud?

Many young people at the sight of this heinous spectacle of the world are not moved. They do not think or aspire to be good. Others, on the other hand, feel agitated and moved; This means that they carry in their hearts the germ of a high and holy path, that is, their vocation.

2) Attraction to purity

Blessed are the pure in heart because they will see God, and even many times … they will touch him in the divine mysteries. Sometimes one meets young people who are an exception, they go through a world of sin and seem to feel nothing, they live in certain scabrous situations and go blind, they are full of life and strength and completely in control of themselves.

It is seen that for them there is a special Providence. While others on less dangerous occasions fall, they … nothing, and often without great effort. God keeps them intact; the Angel of Purity puts the shield of his wings in front of their eyes and they do not see, hear and do not understand, they know but they do not realize.

For what reason does God keep them intact? Certainly, for some reason. God always works for some purpose. Most likely because he wants them on the path that cannot be walked without purity. And even more so if it is about a young man who knows, who has seen, who understands and who perhaps has felt in himself the most violent passions but who has found in grace and a little in his character the strength and energy not to fall. . Then it is clear that there is the finger of God and that we are in front of a young man called to perfection.

Also very clear when there is what the ascetics call the “instinct” of purity. It is something that cannot be defined or described, but nevertheless makes the soul so delicate that it avoids any shadow of impurity, and even perhaps without even knowing what purity means. As happens to eyelids that instinctively close just barely any inopportune mosquito approaches the eye. It is like an instinct towards virginity, an almost natural aversion to impure sin.

Like Saint Margarita María Alacoque, who at the age of three, without knowing anything about what it meant, takes a vow of virginity. Santa Rosa de Lima does the same at the age of five. Saint Luis Gonzaga at the age of eight, and in this matter he is so delicate that he prevents the same temptation. A special privilege of God!

When such sublime grace is found in a soul, it is too clear that God does not want it to lead a common and almost meaningless life. He certainly wants it to distinguish itself in the life of holiness and to do great things for his glory.

3) Wish to have a vocation

How many times does it happen when you see a religious pass by on the street, say in the depths of your heart “Happy him! If I also had a vocation; the grace of being like him!”.

This desire surely does not come from the devil or even from nature itself, because we all know that the life of the religious is a life full of sacrifices and renunciations.

That is why there is something supernatural in what likes and attracts

When a young man begins to have this secret desire, he may well suspect that he is under the action of God. Although this desire does not currently exist, if it has ever been had in life, it should not be despised, but must be examined and the causes for which it has been abandoned must be seen. Perhaps it is a grace of God that has been lost due to unworthy behavior, perhaps it is only kept asleep and then it may be awakened with prayer.

It is a desire that is felt from time to time and that is revived in prayer or after Holy Communion or on days of calm and Spiritual Exercises. When the soul comes in contact with God, God speaks to it more clearly.

And many times this indefinite desire reaches the certainty of conviction: “Yes, I will become religious; the rest is worth nothing; it is what suits me …”.

Here God calls clearly.

A fifteen-year-old boy introduced himself to me one day:

—Father, I need prayers. Pray for me!

His eyes were full of tears.

—Well! But what do you want to achieve?

—”I have a great desire to become a priest, but I fear that I will not make it.” I fear that I have no vocation. But I want to have it. I don’t know if that’s a sin, but I really want that grace!

I smiled. What clearer sign did this boy want to be sure that God was calling him?

Father Doyle says: Has it ever occurred to you to ask yourself: How can I know if I have a vocation or not? This would be enough to have a certain sign of vocation.[1]

But it could be fickle! Certain. That is precisely why it is necessary to cultivate that desire, ask for it and then wait for time to speak. A wish that lasts for three months cannot be a fleeting thing. And if in a fifteen-year-old it lasts a year; we can well say that it is a very serious thing.

4) Awareness of the vanity of things on earth.

Everything ends, everything is vain! Is it worth spending a lifetime to get these decidious goods that are worthless, that are not capable of giving a minute of serene joy?

And this feeling is introduced in a particular way during or shortly after amusements. How foolish is the way of thinking and acting of men! All artificial, all temporary!

I was present in a conversation between two boys. The one spoke of his career plans, wealth and fame. The other from time to time interspersed the speech with a: “Bah!, and what is all that worth? What is all that good for? What will you do with the applause and the esteem of the whole world?

I was impressed and wanted to ask him alone.

“And what will you be?”

-I dont know; I trust that God will give me the grace to be a priest. I don’t want nonsense like my friend! He is delusional! I do not understand what pleasure he finds in wanting to be rich and powerful …

And then he added:

“That is not greatness!”

The case of Eva Lavalliere is still recent. That afternoon they made her come out to the stage several times to greet her effusively. The applause of the delirious audience showed that they saw in her the diva, the queen of the stage. But shortly after the performance she quickly changed her dresses and headed for the Seine on a lonely road. The lost sight, the uncertain step, the wrinkled forehead, clearly indicated that she was suffering a storm in her heart. Exactly! It was the desperate bitterness that the lying human glory leaves in the heart that is only capable of satiating those who do not have noble feelings. Eva Lavalliere was thinking of throwing herself into the river and ending forever with that life that did not know how to give her what she needed. And the boatman who stopped her shouted out of herself:

-Leave me alone! I am the most unhappy woman in this world! I’m desperate! Later, when she made her religious vows in a monastery after the novitiate, she told reporters that they wanted to interview her to publish the moving details of that extraordinary change:

“Tell everyone that I am the happiest woman in the world!”

Sometimes this contempt for the world borders on hatred; feeling that Jesus himself had, because he cursed the world and did not want to pray for it. Let’s notice that it is not a hatred towards men but rather towards the way of thinking, acting and considering things that those who live according to the maximum of the world have.

5) Attraction to prayer

An unspeakable desire to feel united with God, to converse with Him, to pray. Wanting to be alone, I would almost say hidden; love, think and pray. The young man feels that he wants to pray, he is overcome by the fear that he does not pray enough, and in prayer he finds calm and joy because he prays or because he has prayed.

Have you never entered a church at sunset? Enter and it will not be strange that you see any young man at some angle praying.

Eucharistic life intensifies in an almost natural way. Of the young people I have helped in their vocation, I can affirm that there was not a single one who did not take communion daily. However, it is not necessary for him to take communion every day to be able to say that a young man is drawn to prayer. When one sees that one is going from monthly to weekly Communion or from the almost total lack of prayer to conviction or the need to pray a lot, it can be a sign that God wants to make himself heard.

One day I had a conversation with a fourteen-year-old young man and what most caught my attention was his concern, because he said that he prayed little and that he did not know how to pray. That was his problem. After three months he already had a vocation.

Another told me that he recited six Rosaries a day.

“And how can you do it?” During the class?

-No! Down the street, going home, during the lines, waiting for the teacher, and then I calmly say two at home or in church.

It is useless to say that the ideal of vocation was already high and splendid on the horizon of his soul.

All this is often accompanied by a taste for prayer and spiritual consolation. The boy who feels these joys will not go elsewhere to seek his happiness; without further ado he will understand that religious life must be a life of paradise and true happiness.

6) Desire to suffer

It seems unfair to us to know that Jesus suffered for us while we enjoyed so many little comforts. The thought of so many sins and so much ingratitude towards God on the part of men leaves, it is true, most indifferent, but it hurts others in the most vivid way and makes them feel the duty to suffer and sacrifice to resemble Jesus and to repair what so many sinners do.

Many times they do not think about the whys. Their love for God drives them to do so.

It may be that he is a sincere penitent; Sometimes, instead, it is like a need of the heart that understands not being able to love God without suffering. It is then that these souls are seen to give themselves up to sacrifice, voluntarily renounce so many fancies and even licit amusements, procure instruments of penance to make the body suffer and thus find joy and peace of the soul and feel the sensation that they are beginning in earnest. to love God.

Therefore, the devotion to the Sacred Heart grows, a devotion of love and reparation, they admire the religious because they lead a life of sacrifice and practice compunction of the heart that leads to mortification not only internal but external.

I met two young men who during recess, after having prayed a little, would look for a hidden place and … they would walk on their knees on the stones … to suffer. A thirteen-year-old boy put a board on a mattress pretending and saying that he slept more comfortably; another, like San Luis, tormented his sleep with pebbles stuck between the sheets. I saw others sleeping on the bare ground, and how many others have asked me, not in vain, for instruments of penance!

This is one of the most solid and sure signs of vocation, and from these pages I would like to tell everyone that we must present religious life as it really is, that is, a life of renunciation and sacrifice. There is no use trying to mitigate this uncomfortable side of religious life. It would not be sincere, and, for the rest, we would hide what is most attractive about religious life.

Just a few days ago a young woman, whom I lead spiritually, presented herself to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary to be admitted to their Congregation. By first providence the Sisters began to discourage her by telling her that her rule was very rigid and difficult, that few were able to resist and that most had to turn back. At first she was a bit distressed, but then she wanted to go to the Grottaterta Novitiate to see and taste what reality was like. The Mother Mistress of novices welcomed her with a: “No way! Our rule is very hard; You will not be able to resist! ”.

I praised the way of working of these nuns, who proved to be very serious in their recruitment. However, it had the opposite effect on the young woman, as she told me:

“If I have to suffer, so much the better.” I do not want to become a religious to be well, but to crucify myself with Jesus.

And it is that one who has a true vocation does not fear sacrifice; On the other hand, if a young person asks to embrace religious life and remains perplexed at the thought that he will have to suffer and renounce everything, it is advisable to go slowly and make him wait a little longer and as long as he does not begin to love suffering, let us be little enthusiastic about his vocation. .

Religious life is a paradise, but because it is a continuous crucifixion: it is not joy according to the world, but the opposite of that of the world.

We do not want vocations of rose water, of young people who want to give themselves to God … up to a point. Leave in good time! Religious life needs heroes and only those who want to suffer and follow a King crowned with thorns and covered with spittle may become a true religious, and with this, holy, happy and called of God.

7) Spirit of generosity towards God

Never be satisfied with what you do for God, never say enough, always want to do more. If you begin to experience a certain restlessness, a holy impatience to always do more for God, we are faced with a genuine love for Jesus, faced with the practical understanding of what He has done for us, and the nullity and weakness of our efforts. to love him and to repay his exquisite kindness and condescension.

That wanting to love Jesus to the point of madness, that continually tormented because they do not love God as they would like, that wanting to do who knows what to demonstrate their love, pushes these souls to true heroism of generosity. God’s love is joy and torment to them at the same time; joy because he really has it, torment because it is not as and how much they would like.

Mystical state? Not precisely.

I have seen souls like this and I have spoken to them about vocation. Most had never thought, but my proposal seemed so natural that they did not doubt that God called them to be all his and forever

8) Horror of sin

It is a healthy fear of sin, which is considered the true and only evil of the soul. As they watch friends and acquaintances plunge into corruption and spiritual ruin, they long for a means that will keep them from so many dangers. They seek a way of life in which sin is impossible.

9) Desire to consecrate life for the conversion or salvation of a loved one

Like the daughter of King Louis XV, who became a nun to save her father’s soul, who led an unedifying life.

I had a young man with delicately affectionate feelings who offered his vocation for the eternal salvation of his mother, and after three months his brother decided to become a religious and offered his “choice” for the salvation of his father. Today they are the two religious; the mother flew to heaven and the father leads a truly Christian life.

10) Delicacy of conscience

There are souls very sensitive to the touch of grace and to spiritual life, which are kept from even the slightest faults. The very fear of offending Jesus, whom they love so much, impels them to make any resignation. They are delicate and faithful and the smallest faults are discovered with surprising dexterity. They are souls called to perfection, ready for the highest aspirations.

11) Fear of having a vocation

Sometimes you are afraid of having a vocation, you remove all thoughts about that matter, which return insistently, you pray for not having it. “May God have such an invitation far from me, which would destroy so many castles devised and cherished.” There is constant suspicion that this or the other wants to “fish” me for religious life, the danger of going with religious or with young people who have a vocation is avoided for fear that the conversation will fall on that dangerous matter, the spiritual Exercises are feared, being too good and frequenting the Sacraments and yet they do not want to become bad because the soul is right with God.

All this, says Fr. Doyle[2], is sometimes a sign of a true vocation.

The devil, who is very intelligent, can foresee with some probability that, if they become priests or missionaries, they will do a great deal of good, and for this reason he tries to put those unfounded fears in their hearts to lead them away from the path that would be their salvation and sanctification and the salvation of so many souls.

The examples of vocations started in this field, contrary and deliberately fled, are many.

It is read of Fr. Miguel Agustín Pro, S. J., that he could not see the Jesuits in any way. He was angry with them because, being Spiritual Directors of his sisters, they directed them towards the cloister. A great melancholy seized him and he fled to the distant forest; he didn’t want to see anyone.

His mother sought him out, found him, drove him home and persuaded him to do the spiritual exercises … with the hated Jesuits.

It was … fearing to meet the vocation. It would be a great affront to him. And precisely, God called him, and luckily for him that he followed the voice of the Lord. He was a priest and martyr, glory of Mexico, of the Society of Jesus and of the Church.

12) Zeal of souls

The narration of the distant mission enchants and moves us. The thought of millions of souls who still do not know Jesus makes us cry. While others remain cold, as if it were something that does not touch them, we feel a lively repercussion. It seems to us that we have obligations for these souls, that we must do something to help them, that we cannot stand quietly hand over hand, limiting ourselves to sterile words of compassion.

Sometimes this thought seems as if it follows us and represents us alive in our imagination the sight of a river of souls that are adrift and that extend their hands to us imploring help.

The image of the Crucified Jesus who shouts: “Siege!” our soul breaks and we understand the deep meaning of the Savior’s lament: “What was my blood used for?”[3]

This altruistic sentiment, the flower of Christian charity, is frequently found in young souls and is an evident sign that God calls the ideal of spiritual fatherhood, which is the most genuine expression of charity and consecrated life for the good of others.

13) Escape from selfishness

Feel the universal brotherhood, love for the poor, those who seek to help with alms, defend the weakest and unjustly molested companions by poorly educated boys.

14) Feel a holy envy of the religious

When we see them pass by, a secret wish comes to us: “Happy! If I were like them! How happy they must be! ”

15) Escape from mediocrity.

Combative Christian spirit: Always ready to defend their own faith, taste the honor of being soldiers of Christ. Wanting to offer Jesus great things.

(*) And we could still continue this list, but this is enough for now.

By saying that these are “signs of vocation” I do not mean that, having any of these convictions or desires, one has everything that is required to be able to deduce the presence of a true vocation, but I only mean that some of these “signs” It is already an indication for me, priest or educator, to argue with some certainty that God has set his eyes on the soul of that young man to give him the vocation, which, to be truly genuine and true, must have other gifts, such as we will say later.[4]







[1] F. WILLIAM DOYLE, S.I., Vocations, p. 3


[2] Vocations, p.7.


[3] “Quae utilitas in sanguine meo”.


[4] Para comodidad de los sacerdotes transcribimos lo que sucintamente dice el Padre Iorio, S. J., en su Compendium Theologiae Moralis, vol. II, n. 157:  Quaenam sint signa Vocationis Religiosae?  Resp. Generatim loquendo seu iuxta providentiam ordinariam duo requiruntur et sufficiunt ad vocationem divinam probandam, scilicet debita aptitudo et voluntas.   1. Aptitudo intelligitur idoneitas ad statum religiosum in genere, et in particulari ad observantiam talis Ordinis aut Congregationis propriam. Consistit autem in recto praesertim iudicio, in indole bona, in animo submisso obedientiae iugo, in scientia relative sufficienti, et in carentia defectuum corporis et animi, qui rationi huius vitae repugnant.   2. Voluntas constans, quae proinde non sit frequentibus mutationibus obnoxia, non obstante alioquin quapiam praeterita tergiversatione ex daemonis tentationibus exorta, vel ex quadam naturae repugnantia. Non tamen requiritur ut voluntas ex spontaneitate seu propensione magis quam ex intima animi persuasione procedat. Porro voluntas illa recta esse debet, procedere scilicet ex intentione pura, ex mero desiderio salutem facilius consequendi, maiorem Dei gloriam vel etiam animarum salutem procurandi, etc.  Dixi generatim loquendo seu in providentia ordinaria: quia adsunt evidentiora vocationis signa, nempe 1) divina revelatio, ut vocatus est S. Paulus, S. Aloysius Gonzaga, S. Stanislaus Kostka, etc… 2º) inspiratio singularis, quae consistit in interno motu, quo quis vehementer ad vitam perfectionem impellitur, et quasi attrahitur.