By Maria Mellis

What does God want me to do with my life? Where is he calling me? Will I ever find my vocation? Few things cause as much anxiety for Christian young people as vocational discernment. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it — over and over again.

Yet St. Paul tells us to “have no anxiety at all” (Phil 4:6), and Blessed Solanus Casey cautions us to “be on guard against” worry as “this most insidious enemy of our peace of soul.” God’s plan for vocational discernment is one of peace, trust and freedom, not one of anxiety and fear. If you are in a place of seeking God’s will for your life, I pray that these reflections will lead you to peace in the present.


We all too easily buy into the lie that, if God calls us to a certain thing, we are just going to have to grit our teeth and bear it — that we will somehow manage to do it for love of God. That is not God’s vision of vocation! While our vocations will challenge us, they will not leave us miserable. God uses our vocations to make us happy. When we sincerely seek God’s will for our lives, God molds our hearts to a perfect plan and fulfills the deepest desires of our hearts (cf. Ps 37:4).

I recall going on a religious sister discernment retreat when I was in college. While I didn’t feel called to a religious vocation, I did feel called to be open to discerning it. This led to nervousness that, because I was open to it, God was going to call me to religious life even though I didn’t “want it.” However, my experience of the retreat was freeing. I walked away with a deeper conviction of the beauty and goodness of religious life as well as the single and married states of life. This is all a part of holy indifference! It is knowing I can be happy in either of the three states when I believe in and know God’s personal and intimate love for me. It is knowing that God desires only good and peace and happiness for me.

Love the present

Years ago, I came across a bookmark which read, “Serve the garden where you have been placed.” That wisdom continues to reecho in my mind. Right now, you are in a certain place for a purpose. You are called to serve where you are. To paraphrase St. Thérèse, you are called to be a flower along whatever path you are walking. In truth, the only moment you ever get to live is now. So we might as well all work on getting good at it!

We can be in a big hurry to find our vocations and “settle down,” but there is no need to force it. God knows how and when to tell us when God wants us to move or adjust our lives. At least in my life, God seems to share the next step of the plan on a need-to-know basis. We don’t need to know what is next until we are there, probably largely because knowing too much would distract us from living in the present moment. And while it may seem scary to not know the future, I can assure you that it makes life a glorious adventure. God wants to offer you a life full of adventure, purpose and surprises. Let God do it!

Primary vocation

Ultimately, we all have the same primary vocation. Our vocation is to love. I am not being dismissive of the real need to discern. But that said, if you don’t know your secondary vocation, it doesn’t matter all that much after all. Uncertainty about the next stage in your life shouldn’t dictate your level of contentment, peace or joy. You can still live your primary vocation. Choose to love where you are, and let God sort out the rest.

What if I miss it?

Perhaps the most crippling vocational fear is that we are somehow going to miss God’s plan for our lives because of our incompetence, sin or inability to hear God’s voice. You can’t do a single thing to change the past, but God can do everything to redeem it. In simplest terms: live in the state of grace, pray sincerely every day (this means both talking and listening), and say yes to what you know God is calling you to do today. If you do those three things, I assure you, you will not miss God’s plan for your life!

In fact, thinking that you will be able to “miss” God’s plan for your life when you are sincerely seeking it is utter nonsense. What that fear really boils down to is a belief that God is somehow not powerful enough to weave through your mistakes, possible misunderstandings, and moments of deafness to lead you to him. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you actually are trying to hear and respond to what God is calling you to do, you will not miss his will for your life. Be not afraid!

So what is my vocation?

Your vocation is this: God is calling you to peace in the present moment, living a lifetime of love and watching God’s perfect plan unfold. Maybe that is all you ever need to know. Next time you fret over your vocation, speak the truth aloud. Live in the freedom of a daughter of God, trusting in the most exquisite plan for your life!

More about Maria Mellis

View our new Vocation Video.

Called in baptism to proclaim by our lives and our works the presence of God in the world, we Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ accept the invitation to live a vowed life in community. We are inspired to listen prayerfully, to live simply and to serve joyfully. We respect and value each person. We stand with the poor and the powerless and respond to the need of Church and society. We deserve to foster peace in the world, and we accept the challenges of the future. Going forth with hope and joy.

by Sr. Connie Bach, PHJC

On October 14, 2018, I had the wonderful experience of a lifetime in attending the canonization celebration of our foundress, Saint Katharina Kasper at St. Peter’s in Rome. It set me on fire! I am still left speechless when I am asked what it feels like “to be the daughter of a saint!” I know down deep inside that following “Catherine” calls me to a deeper commitment in my personal life to the conscious pursuit servant leadership at all levels in my life, as she did, among the poor and underserved and in care for Earth.

In my human, imperfect nature, I can only turn to “Catherine” as a model exemplar. She herself was a poor German peasant girl who knew nothing about religious life but sought only to do the will of God in her life. She was unlearned and sickly, but she had a passion for service, a dedication to prayer, a devotion to Our Lady and a desire gained from a vision to gather women around her who sought to do the same.

“Not all those who point the way to God for us may themselves be perfect. There are figures gleaming in their holy causes who are awkward in their personal lives. They are sometimes in confusion, as we are. They are virtuous beyond telling in one dimension and weak to the point of sin in others. At the same time, they hold a fire in their hearts bright enough to light a way for many. They are impelled by the will of God for humankind and they will brook no less. They stand on gilded stilts above the rest of their generation and become a sign for all generations. They are proof of possibility from ages past and a symbol of hope for ages yet to come. They stand in mute conviction of the age in which they lived and challenge us to do the same. Most of all, they are important to us now. “ —from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

As a daughter of Saint Katharina, I desire to grow more intimately in love with God and to move beyond myself in reaching out to others in love and compassion, sharing the fire within while helping to build the kingdom here among us.

Where did I obtain such zeal? I believe my parents planted these seeds early on. They always taught by word and example to never let a good deed go undone. As well, I learned many lessons from my Poor Handmaid teachers at St. Mary’s in East Chicago. In fact, I have many mentors who have touched my life in ways not always seen. I learned to be the hands, feet, voice and eyes that see and serve those most in need with deep compassion.

My then pastor, Fr. Bob Gehring, nurtured these same seeds. He taught me that we will never be perfect, but we are always loved and touched by God’s grace in mysterious and amazing ways if we are attentive enough to feel the spark, open enough to allow it to enkindle our hearts and, as Pope Francis exhorts us all, ready enough “…to set the world ablaze!”

Saint Katharina Kasper ignited the same fire in her sisters when they began the congregation in 1851 and again in 1868 when she sent the first eight sisters to America to serve German immigrants and orphans. Over seven thousand women have walked in her shoes, and I am deeply grateful for her electrifying spark in my life!