ASPECTS OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT

ASPECTS OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT

I. Introductory Considerations

         

1. Basic Elements of Christian Vocation: Divine Initiative and Human Response

Christian vocation is conceived in terms of a loving dialogue between God who calls and man who responds personally. Talking about religious and priestly vocation, John Paul II points out the two inseparable elements of every Christian vocation:

The history of every priestly vocation, as indeed of every Christian vocation, is the history of an inexpressible dialogue between God and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him

(John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 36)

 

“This is the meaning of the call to the consecrated life: it is an initiative coming wholly from the Father (cf. Jn 15:16), who asks those whom he has chosen to respond with complete and exclusive devotion. The experience of this gracious love of God is so deep and so powerful that the person called senses the need to respond by unconditionally dedicating his or her life to God, consecrating to him all things present and future, and placing them in his hands”. (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, n.17)

 

2. Why Vocational Discernment?

 

Though God calls personally, it is within the community that man can find and respond adequately to his vocation, because God speaks through mediations:

 

“Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God’s gift. However, it is never bestowed outside of or independently of the Church. Instead it always comes about in the Church and through the Church” (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 35).

 

That is why the Church and the Religious Institute have the great responsibility of approving the vocations after discerning their authenticity. For, as John warns, not every inspiration comes from God: “It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust; test them, to see if they come from God” (1 Jn 4:1).

 

3. The Content of Vocational Discernment

 

The word discerniment is linked to the greek verb KRINEIN and to the Latin verbe CERNERE:

 

“According to the Greek root this term suggests meanings such as evaluate, separate, distinguish, determine, choose, sort and decide. According to the Latin etymology it means all of the above as well as to perceive keenly, to grasp precisely and to define with exactitude. Sementically then, discernment connotes an exercise of analysis (critique), leading to an evaluation prior to a decision”[1].

It is in this context that, before admitting candidates to religious life, the Church (through the Religious Institute) has to discern and evaluate carefully the person who says that God has called him to Religious vocation. In vocational discernment, we evaluate the authenticity of the vocation:

 

(a) to see whether the candidate has really been called by God or whether it is his own invention or illusion;

 

(b) to see whether his proclaimed vocational ideals/motivations correspond to the values preached and lived by Jesus Christ, through which he will respond to God’s call and can be realized within the context of the charism of the institute in which he wants to enter;

 

(c) to see whether he manifests positive signs that God’s grace is at work in this person, and disposes of abilities to start a process of total transformation of his life into the life of Jesus Christ as chaste, obedient and poor.

         

Now, without pretending to be a specialist or trying to be exhaustive in this matter, we would like to see some aspects which can help us to make a good discernment before admitting candidates into religious formation. I have divided these aspects into three categories: (i) the spiritual level, (ii) the personal level, (iii) the interpersonal level. But these levels have to be distinguished but not separated.

 

II. Aspects of the Spiritual Level

 

At this level, we consider the candidate in his relationship with God who calls and with the Christian values through which he will respond to God’s call. As points out Fr Charles J. Jackson SJ,

 

Discernment is rooted in faith’s understanding that God is ever at work in our lives-inviting, directing, guiding, drawing us into the fulness of life”. Its central action is reflection on the ordinary events of our lives. It is to discover God’s presence in these moments and by his grace to follow the direction and guidance he gives us […] Discernment, then, is discovering God’s direction and guidance in the concrete reality of our day-to-day lives[2].

 

1. Authenticity of the Vocational Ideals/Motivations

We analyse the candidate’s motivations to enter priestly or consecrated life. For this, the following questions may be useful: What does he want?[3] Is he able to express clearly his vocational motivations? Why does he want to enter priestly or consecrated life? What are his dreams and ideals? Do his motivations correspond to the Christian values? For example, wanting to become a priest for social promotion or running away from the hardships of married life for economical security does not seem to be motivations for consecrated life. It is also important to see whether the Can his motivations or ideals be realized in the context of our charism.

 

2. Elements of the Candidate’s Religious experience

 

            The candidate’s motivations are linked to his own experience of God or a religious event which can be considered as the starting point which has led him to perceive God’s calling. For this aspect, the following questions should be answered: Is there any particular experience or event which has led him to this to be convinced that God is calling him? What is his experience of God? How does he perceive God’s presence and action in his life? What is his image of God? Are his images of God realistic or distorted? Sometimes there is a specific event or a book read or an encounter with some religious people, etc. In analysing these “starting events/experiences”, we can ask how deeply the person was touched by them.

            For this aspect, we should take into consideration the uniqueness of every vocational context. Here one may recall the variety of vocational contexts: Jesus’ disciples, Saul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, etc. Without expecting “special” vocational experiences”, there should be a minimum of God’s experience in the candidate’s life.

 

3. Elements of the Candidate’s Spiritual Life

 

            If his experience of God is realistic, it will have a positive impact on his spiritual life. At this level, we analyse the impact of the above-mentioned experience, how the candidate collaborates with God’s grace in his concrete life, and the signs of God’s grace in this person. Here one may ask the following questions: Does he pray? How does he pray? Mass attendance? What is his main devotion? As a young student, did he join any group of prayer? Did he benefit from Spiritual Direction? How does he live the sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, etc.)? What about his Christian initiation?[4] Christian initiation has to be completed before entering, because the principal aim of religious formation is not catechumenate.

            Thus, in order to have an idea of this impact, one may ask also the following questions: What is your favourite biblical passage? Who is your favourite saint? Why and how do you apply this to your life? How does this experience transform your life? How could you descrive or what do you think about your relationship with God? What are your strengths and difficulties in spiritual life? So, without expecting from a candidate a very deep spiritual life, it is important to see if the candidate has some positive signs of a minimum concern for spiritual growth in his life.

 

4. Candidate’s Experience of the Cross

 

            Particular attention has to be paid on the candidate’s personal experience of the cross, meaning the experience of suffering, of his limits and of difficult situations he has met in his life history. Sometimes a candidate may consciously or unconsciously run away from family responsibility or the hardships of his social context, because of a distorted perception of the consecrated life, as dolce vita (without suffering). With regard to this issue, one may ask the following questions: how does he perceive and accept human suffering (his own and of others) and hardships of life? Does he want to run away from them? How does he accept his limits and the limits of others?[5]

            With regard to this meaning of experience of the Cross in a candidate’s life, it is interesting how some great vocations were related to the experience of human suffering (Moses, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Vanier, etc.) and how many young men and women are deeply touched when they meet the poor, sick and suffering people. This experience of the cross will help the candidate to make some sacrifices which are inherent to religious life as well as to every human condition. He has to correct his distorted or unrealistic expectations about religious life as a simple way of dolce vita without difficulties.

            There is instinsic link between consecrated life and the mystery of the cross:

 

The consecrated life reflects the splendour of this love because, by its fidelity to the mystery of the Cross, it confesses that it believes and lives by the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In this way it helps the Church to remain aware that the Cross is the superabundance of God’s love poured out upon this world, and that it is the great sign of Christ’s saving presence, especially in the midst of difficulties and trials” (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 24)

 

III. Aspects of the Personal Level

 

After considering the candidate’s ideals and motivations, we have to see if he will be able to carry out the vocational project he has proclaimed. At this level, we consider the person in his relationship to himself: What are his natural predispositions, his inner capacities, and his ego strengths, which will help him to realize the proclaimed ideals?

 

1. Self-Knowledge and Self-Acceptance

            In order to assess the candidate’s capacity to perceive and accept himself, the following questions can be useful: What does he know about himself? Does he know his strengths, his needs, and his weaknesses? Does he accept himself? Does he have an integrated image of himself? Does he tend to perceive himself either as all-good (too idealistic self-image) or as all-bad (too negative or pessimistic self-image)?

            Maturity in self-knowledge and self-acceptance is a fundamental aspect because it will help the candidate in the process of identifying himself with the will of God and to have realistic expectations about himself and about others:

 

“The process of maturing takes place through one’s own identifying with the call of God. A weak sense of identity can lead to a misconceived idea of self-actualisation, especially in times of difficulty, with an excessive need for positive results and approval from others, an exaggerated fear of inadequacy, and depression brought on by failure”[6].

 

2. Emotional Maturity

            Emotional maturity cannot be overlooked in vocational discernment because it is a fundamental aspect in every human being: “it is through emotions that we enter into contact with ourselves, with others and with God”[7]. Emotions or feelings are morally neutral[8], but they can create problems if a person does not know how to deal with them in a mature way. That is why, in assessing candidates for religious life, one may ask the following questions: What are his main emotions? Does he accept and express adequately his emotions? Can he tolerate, control and delay the expression of emotions (sexual and aggressive)?

            We can distinguish three ways of dealing with emotions: (a) denying them and acting as if we don’t feel anything (for example, to hide or deny one’s aggressive feelings); (b) expressing them without control (for example, insulting or fighting with others as a rule when one gets angry); (c) integrating them into one’s values (for example, recognizing my anger, but deciding not to fight with others, and trying to forgive the offender). This last way is more mature and close to Christian values.

 

3. Psycho-Sexual-Affective Maturity

            This aspect is very important for candidates who will have to follow Jesus Christ as chaste, obedient and poor. Sexuality is part of one’s identity and should be dealt with in a mature way in order to help the candidate to live fully and joyfully his consecrated celibacy. Candidates with a weak or confused sexual identity may have problems in living out this value. That is why a careful analysis in this area is important for vocational discernment, for the psycho-affective maturity will help the candidate to love his vocation and to love according to his vocation[9].

            With regard to the candidate’s psycho-sexual-affective maturity, the following questions can be useful: Does he know his sexual identity and orientation? How does he perceive and accept his sexual gender? What does sexuality mean for him? What does it mean to be a man or a woman? How does he relate to people of opposite sex? Does he tend to avoid or to use or to devaluate them? Is there anything unusual in his sexual development? Which kind of sexual experiences has he had in the past?[10]

            With the candidates who have sexual weaknesses (masturbation, homosexual and heterosexual experiences), we need to consider not the single fact, but the whole personality to see whether the manifest weaknesses are signs of more serious problems or fragility and even pathology[11]. For this, we need the help of a well-trained psychologist who is familiar with priestly or consecrated life and has the right human and Christian values. With regard to the candidate’s capacity to overcome his sexual weaknesses and to live faithfully chastity, sexual promiscuity has a negative prognosis because it is a sign of very limited ego strengths and a diffused identity.

            This aspect is very important for candidates to religious life, because there is a inseparable link between affective maturity and the capacity to internalize the theocentric love as it is shown by the following signs: (i) in relationship with Christ (faithfulness to personal and liturgical prayer, vocational motivation as openess to the theocentric transcendence, and the relationship with Christ as affectively significant); (ii) in living celibacy (as expression of oblative love, no masturbation, nor pornography, no sexual intercourse, no exaggerated and exclusive relationship with others, no fear nor phobias in sexual domain); (iii) relationship with superiors (no defedence, no suspiciousness, no open conflict); (iv) relationship with the confreres or co-sisters (no rivalry, jealousy, no withdrawal from others or from community life[12].

 

4. Moral Maturity

            Here we consider the candidate’s capacity to perceive and follow moral values. The following questions may be useful: Is he able to distinguish between good and evil behaviour? Is he able to perceive and commit himself to ethical values and social standards? Does he prevalently look for an integral good or is he satisfied with a partial good? What are the most important values in his life? Does he have a moral sense of responsibility for his deeds and misdeeds? Does he experience guilt feelings for his mistakes and misdeeds? What are the main trends of his past and present moral conduct (honesty, truth, transparency, sense of responsibility for his promises, etc.)? In his way of following moral values, does he tend prevalently towards compliance, identification or internalisation?[13]

In assessing the candidate’s moral integrity, Father Charles Shelton suggests 7 dimensions to be taken into consideration: (i) Adaptive Psychic Energy; (ii) Defensive Psychic Functioning; (iii) Empathy; (iv) Self-esteem; (v) Guilt; (vi) Idealisation; (vii) Teleology?[14] That is why, a careful analysis should be made before admitting a candidate who manifests signs of an antisocial personality disorder[15], since he might create serious problems in community and will have difficulty in following moral and religious values and in accepting to live under the authority of a superior. That is why one has to consider the past experiences of the candidate.

5. Capacity to cope up with difficult situations

Like other human realities, religious life has not only its joys, but also its sorrows and difficulties. Responding to God’s call as a consecrated person does not exempt one from knowing hardships and pains. That is why we have to consider also a candidate’s capacity to deal with difficult situations: How does he tolerate and cope with stressful situations inherent to human life? How does he cope with his anger? How does he cope with frustration or with challenges from others or from daily events? What are his prevalent defence mechanisms?[16] Does he run away or deny or exaggerate the difficult situations? What are his sublimatory channels (sport, reading, music, gymnastics, cinema, jokes, hobbies, etc.)? Are they effective in his life?

With regard to candidate’s capacity to cope up with difficult situations, it is important to consider his autobiography and try to respond to these questions: Which kind of difficulties did he meet in his past life? How did he overcome them? What has he learnt from these difficulties? How did/does he deal with the experience of suffering (his own and somebody else’s suffering)? Is he able to make the sacrifices required in living religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience? Or is he a person who cannot delay any kind of gratification?

 

6. Intellectual Aptitudes

            It is true that holiness, religious vocation and the quality of vocational commitment do not necessarily depend on high levels of the candidate’s IQ. However, it is also true that the candidate to priestly or consecrated life will have to do higher studies, to grasp and explain the symbols and contents of the Christian values. That is why a minimum of intellectual capacities is required for candidates. At this level, for vocational discernment, the following questions may be useful: Is he capable of concentration, of abstraction, of paying attention, of thinking logically? That is why a careful analysis of the candidate’s autobiography should pay attention to his performance at school: Did he have some difficulties at school? Here we have to take into consideration his schooling context and level.

 

7. Physical Health

            The last, but not the least aspect to be considered is the general health of the candidate. Though religious life is not reserved for elite people without any health problems, it is important to look at the physical health of the candidate, to see whether he will be able to endure sacrifices inherent to religious life. It is not realistic to admit into an apostolic community a candidate with a serious chronic illness which will necessitate special care. That is why a medical test is required, without violating the candidate’s right to preserve his own privacy.

With regard to this issue, the following questions may be answered: How is his health? Any major past or present health problem? How does he sleep? His appetite? Does he exaggerate bodily appearances or health preoccupations?

 

IV. Aspects of the Interpersonal Level

 

It is true that God calls personally, but it is also true that the person is able to respond to God’s call through interaction with others:

 

“Through his dealings with others, through mutual service, and through fraternal dialogue, man develops all his talents, and becomes able to rise to his destiny” (VATICAN II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 25);

 

“Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1879).

 

As Imoda points out, no man can escape this aspect because it is through others that one can become a man:

 

“Every human being can become truly human only in encounter with another. […] To become oneself as person means then becoming individual, alone and unrepeatable, but at the same time it means inserting oneself progressively in a world of relationship; it means becoming capable of communication and participation in the world of others”[17].

 

This shows the importance of interpersonal aspects in vocational discernment. At this level, we have to consider the candidate’s capacities to establish and maintain meaningful or mature relationships with others. At this level, the fundamental question would be the following: How does he deal with others?

 

1. Quality of Object Relations

            Here object relations mean the candidate’s capacity to have inner realistic representation of others (human beings and God) and to interact with them in a mature way. Given the inevitability of otherness in responding to one’s vocation, we should not ignore or neglect the candidate’s capacity to interact with others, and especially in the case of candidates of consecrated life who will live in community.

            With regard to this issue, the following questions can be formulated: How does he perceive and accept others? Does he have a realistic image/perception of others? Does he accept and integrate their positive and negative aspects? Or does he deal with others in all-bad or all-good relationships? What does he expect from others? In over-dependency (fusional relationship)? Over-independence (pretending to be totally free from others) or does he engage in a mature interpersonal relationship, recognizing and respecting others without manipulating them for this own interests?

 

2. Capacity to Live in Community

            A candidate to consecrated life will have to live in community. It is important to assess his capacity to live with others, to collaborate and to tolerate conflicts which might come from the diversity of members of the religious community. For this, while analysing the candidate’s autobiography, particular attention should be paid to his family experiences (relationship with the father, with the mother, with the siblings), his school experiences (his relationships with class/school mates) and work experiences (his relationship with work colleagues): is there any particular or unusual event or pattern? How does he perceive his parents and siblings? How did he play with and deal with classmates? How did he collaborate with colleagues? Any particular conflict? How does he resolve conflicts with others? Any experience of friendships? Who are his friends? Is he able to create and maintain stable friendships? Does he tend to isolate himself or to collaborate with others?

            In religious community, it is necessary that the candidate be able to love and accept others with their limits. And this depends on his inner freedom and past experience of being loved and loving without limits[18]. In order to live in religious community and foster communion with others, the candidate will have to develop these qualities required for all human relationships: respect, kindness, sincerity, self-control, tactfulness, a sense of humour and a spirit of sharing[19].

 

3. Capacity and Willingness to Serve Others

            The vocation to consecrated life is a call to serve others and not a career. Hence, what Okeke says about the priestly vocation can be applied also to religious vocation: “it should not be entered into for the primary purpose of expressing one’s potentialities. It is not a means of achieving self-importance or simply advancing one’s social standing. It is a call to unite closely with Christ in service of humanity for the kingdom of God”[20]. It is good during discernment of vocations to see also eventual false expectations a candidate might have toward religious vocation. He will have to be at the service of others, following the example of Jesus who did not come to be served (cfr. Mt 20:28) and who wasehd his disciples’ feet (cfr. Jn 13:4-5).

            With regard to the candidate’s capacity and willingness to serve others, the following questions can be formulated: Is he able to serve others or does he tend to be served? What is his experience of work? Does he want to follow an ecclesiastic career or social promotion? Is he able to be attentive to the needs of others, especially the poor, the suffering, the sick, etc. or does he tend to run away from the hardships of the human condition? Is he constant and responsible for his commitments?

 

4. Family and Socio-Cultural Background

In order to understand well the candidate, it is always good to know his family background and experiences. Without being mechanically deterministic, it is true that family context does have strong impact in forming children’s personality traits and disorders. Some candidates might come from problematic or broken families and others come from positive family context. So, it is good the vocational promotor and formator know the family context in which the candidate has brought up.

            With regard to the impact of family background of the candidate, the following questions would be useful: How is your family composition? How did you relate to your father, mother, brothers and sisters? What are his early childhood experiences? Positive and negative experiences? In responding to these questions, the discerner should pay attention to anything unusual in the candidate’s family relationships.

            What has been said about the family context goes well also for the Socio-Cultural context, the school experiences and work experiences. For this, the following questions may be asked: what are the main features of his socio-cultural context? Anythings unusual in this context? What are his school experiences (relationships with classmates, teachers, friends, etc)? What have been his work experiences (relationships with the director, with colleagues, difficulties in relationships)?

 

V. Concluding considerations

 

1. Integration of three Ts (Time, Truth and Totality)

First, the vocational discernment is a process which takes time and it cannot be done overnight. Taking time into consideration implies also that of the candidate: he is the son of his time and his society and he cannot be assessed objectively out of his cultural and historical context.

Second, truth means the determination to be objective in discerning the authenticity of the candidate’s motivations. It is not just to admit to religious life people who have serious problems. Psychological problems should be resolved before entering, since religious formation should not be confused with psychotherapic treatment. Formators should not forget their moral responsibility towards the Church.

Third, Totality means taking into consideration not only one aspect or difficulty, but considering the candidate in his totality. One single aspect has no meaning if it is not taken into the whole context or reality of the candidate. The three categories of aspects (on spiritual, personal and interpersonal levels) have to be taken together to see if the candidate has the minimum of positive and promising signs which show that he has been called by God and that he is able to benefit from the process of religious formation and allow his life be transformed into Christ’s life.

 

2. Primacy of Prayer for Enlightnement

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to call, to form and He is the one to give light, to help in discerning the positive vocational signs of the person. The candidate is not a case to be analysed clinically with some diagnosis and prognosis; he is a mystery and as such he cannot be fully understood only by mere human means (interviews, colloquies, psychological tests, autobiography, etc).

We need also to pray and ask light from above, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We cannot forget the transcendental dimension of the call to religious life: “The Spirit, whose action is of another order than the findings of psychology or visible history, but who also works through them, acts with great secrecy in the heart of each one of us so as to be made manifest in fruits that are clearly visible”[21]. Without prayer and light from above, it would be difficult to discern, to form and to accompany the person who wants to give his life to Jesus.

3. Be aware of false expectations

While assessing candidates, we have to be careful not to follow our false expectations. False expectations are for example the following: that the candidate be without any problem, be perfect, be sympathetic to me, correspond to the model of my own vocational experience, or behave as an altar boy or a finally professed religious. Rather a candidate should be himself, a son of his time and living in his socio-cultural context, but he should be open to be helped, willing to learn from life experience, willing to start a vocational journey without pretending to know everything about his vocation or about religious life.

There are no infallible criteria for discernment of candidates to religious life. The human person will remain always a mystery and there is no guaranty that the good candidate of today will continue and integrate religious values. The history of consecrated life is full not only of holy and persevering consecrated men and women, but also of those who did well in formation, but later left religious life. And yet, before admitting any candidate to religious life, it is the responsibility of the formators to consider a minimum of reasonable conditions which permit to hope that the candidate will respond more or less positively to the process of total transformation in order to follow Jesus Christ in a chaste, poor and obedient life.

 

4. Necessity for well-trained formators

            The application of these these aspects for vocational discernment requires a serious training of the formators, especially in spirituality and psychology. They should be well trained in spirituality, so that they can be able to recognize the signs of God’s grace working in the candidate’s life. They should be also well trained in psychology, so that they can be able to help in recognizing and overcoming the unconscious motivations which might be mingled with true vocational motivations.

            According to the indications of Potissimun Institutioni, discernment is one of the main roles of the formators:

Their role is to discern the authenticity of the call to the religious life in the initial phase of formation, and to assist the religious toward a successful personal dialogue with God while they are discovering the ways in which God seems to wish them to advance. They should also accompany religious along the paths of the Lord by means of direct and regular dialogue […] Formators should also offer religious solid nourishment, both doctrinal and practical, in keeping with each one’s stage of formation. Finally, they should progressively examine and evaluate the progress that is being made by those in their charge, in light of the fruits of the Spirit. They must decide whether the individual called has the capacities which are required at this time by the Church and the institute” (Potissimum Institutioni,n.30).

According to the indications of Vita Consecrata, in order to carry out their responsibility, formators should be well-trained and have the following qualities:

 

“Those in charge of formation must therefore be very familiar with the path of seeking God, so as to be able to accompany others on this journey. Sensitive to the action of grace, they will also be able to point out those obstacles which are less obvious. But above all they will disclose the beauty of following Christ and the value of the charism by which this is accomplished. They will combine the illumination of spiritual wisdom with the light shed by human means, which can be a help both in discerning the call and in forming the new man or woman, until they are genuinely free” (JP, Vita Consecrata, n.66)

 



[1] Marcello De Carvallo Azevedo, “Discernment and Election in Religious Institutes”, in Review for Religious, 48.5 (1989), 713.

[2] Charles J. Jackson, “Vocations and Vocations Discernment”, in Review for Religious, 63.3 (2004), 307.

[3] Here we may recall the example of Jesus asking the two disciples of John the Baptist who was following him: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1, 38).

[4] “It can actually happen that some present themselves as candidates who have not completed their Christian initiation (sacramental, doctrinal, and moral) and lack some of the elements of an ordinary Christian life” (CONGREGATION OF THE INSTITUTES OF CONSACRATED LIFE AND INSTITUTES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes Potissimum Institutioni, n. 43); That is why, “before candidates are admitted to the noviciate they must produce proof of baptism and confirmation, and of their free status” (Canon Law, n. 645).

[5] For the link between vocation and the experience of the Cross, see A. CENCINI, La croce, verità della vita: ricerca vocazionale ed esperienza della croce, Ed. Paoline, 2002.

[6] CONGREGATION OF THE INSTITUTES OF CONSACRATED LIFE AND INSTITUTES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Fraternal Life in Community “Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor”, n. 36.

[7] M.P. GARVIN, “L’autobiografia nel discernimento vocazionale”, in Vita Consacrata 38 (2002) 5, p. 505.

[8]Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses, it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1768).

[9]To love one’s vocation, to hear the call as something that gives true meaning to life, and to cherish consecration as a true, beautiful and good reality which gives truth, beauty and goodness to one’s own existence — all of this makes a person strong and autonomous, secure in one’s own identity, free of the need for various forms of support and compensation, especially in the area of affectivity.[…] To love in accordance with one’s vocation is to love in the manner of one who, in every human relationship, wishes to be a clear sign of the love of God, not invading and not possessing, but loving and desiring the good of the other with God’s own benevolence” (CONGREGATION OF THE INSTITUTES OF CONSACRATED LIFE AND INSTITUTES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Fraternal Life in Community   “Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor, n.37).

[10] For assessing the person who may have serious sexual problems such as a potential paedophile, Rossetti suggests to analyse carefully the candidate’s intensive psychosexual history and see whether there are the following 6 red flags: (i) Confusion about sexual orientation, (ii) childish interest and behaviour, (iii) lack of peer relationships, (iv) extreme in developmental sexual experiences (none or excessive amount of sexual stimulation), (v) personal history of childhood sexual abuse and/or Deviant sexual experiences, (vi) an excessively passive, dependent, conforming personality (cf. S. J. ROSSETTI, A tragic Grace: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1996, pp.64-79). See also Gerard D. Coleman, “Taking a Sexual History”, in Human Development, vol.7, n. 1 (Spring 1996), 10-15).

[11] Cfr. L.M. RULLA – J.RIDICK – F.IMODA, Anthropology of the Christian Vocation. Vol. II: Existential Confirmation, pp. 287-291; see also B. KIELY, “Candidates with difficulties in celibacy: discernment, admission, formation”, in Seminarium A. XXXIII (1993), n.1; cfr. A. CENCINI, Quando la carne diventa debole. Il discernimento vocazionale di fronte alle immaturità e patologie dello svilluppo affettivo-sessuale, Ed. Paoline, Milan 2004.

[12] Cf. B. ANNA, Maturità umana: cammino di trascendenza, Casale Monferrato, Piemme 1991, 205-206.

[13] There is compliance when a person accepts the values without internal conviction, but because of external gain (in order to receive a reward or to avoid punishments); there is identification, when a person adopts values not because they are seen as important in themselves, but merely as important for the person (they satisfy and increase his self-esteem and self-image); there is internalisation, when a person accepts and integrates the values into his life, not because they are important for himself (for personal gain), but because they are important in themselves (cfr. H.C. KELMAN, “Processes of Opinion Change”, in Public Opinion Quarterly 25 (1961), 57-78; cfr. L.M. RULLA-J. RIDICK-F. IMODA, Anthropology of the Christian Vocation, Vol. II: Existential Confirmation, Gregorian University Press, Rome 1989, 67-70).

[14] (cfr. Fr Charles Shelton, SJ, “Assessing the “moral integrity of candidates for Religious life”, in Review for Religious 48 (1989), 183-190).

[15] According to DSM-IV-TR, the essential feature of an antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood; the antisocial person manifests signs of a failure to conform to social norms, of deceitfulness (repeated lying or conning others for pleasure), impulsivity, irritability and aggressiveness (repeated physical fights or assaults, reckless disregard for safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, and lack of remorse for his misdeeds (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, 301.7).

[16] For definition and classification of defensive mechanisms, see Georges Vaillant, The wisdom of the Ego, Havard University Press, 1997. The author defines and classifies defensive mechanisms into four main categories: (i) mature mechanisms (altruism, sublimation, suppression, anticipation, humour); (ii) neurotic mechanisms (displacement, isolation, intellectualisation, repression, reaction formation); (iii) immature mechanisms (projection, fantasy, hypochondrias, passive aggression, acting out, dissociation); and (iv) psychotic mechanisms (Delusional projection, denial, distortion) (car. Ibid., 28-75). The more the person tends prevalently to use immature and psychotic defence mechanisms, the more his ego-strengths are limited and his ego is fragile.

[17] F. IMODA, Human Development: Psychology and Mystery, Peeters, Leuven 1998, p. 190.

[18] Cfr. CONGREGATION FOR THE INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND INSTITUTES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Fraternal Life in Community   “Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor”, nn. 21-22.

[19] Cfr. Ibid., n. 27.

[20] C. UCHE OKEKE, Expectations of Life as a Priest. A comparative Study of Igbo Catholic Diocesan and Religious Seminarians, Dissertatio ad Doctoratum, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome 2003, p. 17.

[21] CONGREGATION OF THE INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND INSTITUTES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes Potissimum Institutioni, n. 19.

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