Discernment for Dominican Vocation

Do I have vocation?

Yes, you do. We all do. Vocation is a call from God and God calls all to himself. Any Christian vocation is a particular call within this universal call. As we are all called to enjoy the fullness of life through Jesus Christ by believing in him, we are more precisely called to achieve this through God’s gifts and exercise our service to the Church through God’s charisms. The Holy Spirit, the “Giver of Life”, produces abundant vitality within the church. The same Spirit that makes us call God, “Abba”, prompts us to serve others through the exercise of particular charisms that all of us have and within a particular “state of life” (lay person, married, consecrated, clergy, religious, etc).
God’s call is not something imposed on us from outside, but something that germinates in us from inside. God invites us from within with his intimate call, not to be alienated from ourselves, but to  find our true selves.
This is why listening to his call requires some insight into our authentic thirst to be, but it also requires us to distinguish this authentic voice from the noises that alienate us. This is called the discernment process. Discerning your vocation might be a long, complicated and confusing process where many factors enter into play. This page only tries to help with a few fundamental concepts to assist you in that discerment.
Questions for discernment?
  • Do I understand what God’s call is?
  • Have I found my place in the Church and in the world? 
  • Are there any false assumptions I have about how God has called and keeps calling?

How does God call? 

God is not likely to tap you on the shoulder and whisper what he wants you to do, as in the old stories of the Bible. Ordinarily, God uses ordinary instrumental ways to let us know. That is what makes discernment difficult and mysterious.
There are no absolute rules with regards to discernment. This can be frustrating, but we need to remember God has a good reason for that. God does not want to force you. He wants to invite you. His calling is, like Jesus’ calling, an invitation to leave everything behind and follow him unconditionally. This is God’s way to respect our freedom.
The business of discernment is a spiritual journey into ourselves, which at the same time, implies insight into the way we relate with what is outside.
Questions for discernment
  • What do I do with my life?
  • How much insight do I have into my needs, my tendencies and impulses?
  • How much time do I spend to search within me the real drives of my life?
  • Do I find the environment to be able to listen to God’s promptings?
  • Do I create the attitude and practice of silence and contemplative prayer to facilitate the listening to God’s call?

Who discerns? 

Each person has a responsibility to discern God’s call for him or her. We should not run away from that responsibility because no one can discern for us. However, the community can help us in this process.
In some ways, it bears similarities with dating. Dating is just a discernment process to find out if the two of them are called to grow and give themselves mutually in the sacrament of marriage. In dating, one person helps the other to discern just like a community helps the canditate to discern the vocation to a particular state of life, such as religious life or even priesthood.
The community has a voice in this discernment precisely because it is one of the parties involved. This community can be the community that receives you, or even your Christian community of origin, like your family, if they are Catholic, or even a special Christian community that sends or knows you well enough to help you in this discernment process.
Questions for discernment
  • Am I ready to let others be part of my discernment process or do I think this is something between God and myself alone?
  • Am I willing to volunteer necessary information about myself to help others help me?
  • Am I ready to, at least, consider the clues of discernment that others may offer me?
  • Am I ready to speak about myself to the discerning community?

What do I have to discern?

A few key things: what are my charisms, what is the state of life I am called to live, and also how am I touched by the needs of the world and the Church.
Charisms are meant for the community, not for the individual. The charism of teaching, for example, is not meant for the personal gain of knowledge, but to build up the community by being effective instruments of the Holy Spirit in teaching the matters that concern the work of God. I will have to discern how God is working in the community through my skills, my talents and my gifts in an efficient manner.
I must discern my state of life. Married life is one such state. God does not call to an abstract or vague way of life like “married life” in general. He calls him or her to marry a particular person. So the process of discernment happens within a particular situation. So, I should ask myself, “which of the possibilities that God is presenting to me in this particular situation seems to be more fulfilling for me and the life of the Church?”
Now, at times, God distributes his graces not in a loose manner, but, as if it were, in clusters. He may give together the gift  compassion and  the charism of prophecy, for example. And some of these clusters of charisms fit nicely into a particular “ecological niche” of the Church.
For example, there are certain gifts and charisms associtated with begin a Dominican, such as teaching, prophecy, understanding, compassion, the capacity to live in community, etc. So, when God calls people to be Dominicans, He will bestow on these candidates several of these gifts that form the “clusters” of gifts by which the Dominicans are known.
Throughout history, the Holy Spirit has inspired particular men and women to enrich the church with a particular order or congregation to express the vitality of the Holy Spirit and help the church to serve the world better. This is why the candidate must have a sense of God by which he perceives what are the needs of the church and the world. His mission to serve can then be realized in one of the existing particular communities or congregations.
The charisms of these orders are not to be identified with the practices of the founder. For example, St. Dominic had the habit of praying in a particular manner with different positions of his body, but he was very well aware that it was something personal and not necessarily part of the identity of his order.
Finally there is the fulfillment and happiness of my life. This is tricky. Happiness does not mean a feeling of perpetual bliss and constant smiles. True fulfillment is at times plagued with suffering and trials.
St. Francisco de Capillas was tortured in a Chinese prison in the XVII century. He knew he could be killed at any moment yet his letters speak of a happy person, eager to evangelize, catechize and celebrate his faith in prison. He believed there was no need for him to go out of prison, because inside he had found the church. His suffering had meaning. It was not a reason to be happy, but was not an obstacle either. So, although God calls us to a fulfilled life, true happiness and fulfilment do not exclude sacrifice and trials.
So it is my responsibility to see if my particular gifts match this or that particular order or congregation or this or that particular state of life.
Questions for discernment
  • What style of life am I fit for?
  • What are my personal inclinations? Are these only personal likings or are they contributions I can make to the church and the world?
  • Do I picture myself in this kind of life? Does this kind of life present itself as something attractive to me?
  • What are the most urgent needs of my world today?
  • What aspects of these needs touch my life in a special way?
  • Is there something the Church should do about it? What is it?

I know I am not called, when…

It is very hard to know immediately whether we have a particular vocation, but there are times when it is much easier to know that we do not have a particular vocation. There are some basic guiding principles for this.
First, we know that God does not call us to do impossible things. Some physical or psychological conditions may make some missions or vocations impossible. So, if we are afflicted with those conditions, we know God is not calling us to do what they render impossible. In this respect, and as to regards to the vocation to marriage, St. Paul has a practical advice to give, “It is better to get married than to be tortured” (1 Co 7:9). This means that particular situations and conditions incapacitate us for certain states. St. Paul knew that some people were just not called to celibacy and advised them to listen to the call to marriage.  Therefore, you have to ask yourself: “Am I capable to cope with the demands of this state of life?” If the answer is negative, you can conclude that God, who does not want you to do impossible feats, is not calling you to this concrete way of life.
Strong influences from outside can disturb our listening. Very often parents have great influence on their son’s or daughter’s behaviour. Sometimes parents discourage possible candidates; sometimes, they encourage them too much. Ideally, parents should respect the choices of their children and accept them as God’s plan and part of their journey to fulfillment. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Emotional blackmails and self-inflicted guilt often blurr the process of discernment.
Sometimes parents are not the problme, but friends or any other person who may have exerted influence in your life. You need to pay close attention to any possible influence these people have on you. You may decide to enter into religious life to fulfill someone’s expectations or, on the contrary, you find yourself rejecting the call because you are following someone’s inclination. In general, be suspicious of anyone who claims to know better than you what is good for you. In this regard we need to pay attention to intimate relationships in the past. Someone may want to join a religious order because they had negative experiences in the past. They were abandoned by a boyfriend or girlfriend and they have given up trying new relationships so they approach religious life hoping that this solution can fill their emptiness.
A vocation is something we pursue, not a refuge we take when we run away from something. A person may see religious life as a “safety net” knowing that there will always be someone to provide for them. Sometimes, people run away from work, from fast-changing society because they cannot cope, etc.
Sometimes, parish or community life may appear as havens of economic protection. At times, those from countries or regions struck by economic difficulties may feel it is their filial responsibility to help their families in their difficulties without the consent of the community. Vocation is not a way to solve our problems, no matter how noble we may think this solution is.
However, the motives of the attraction may differ from the motives for the call. In other words, to be attracted for the wrong reasons is not necessarily a vitiated call. It simple means that God can call us in many ways. Some people have entered the Dominicans because they liked the habit. In itself not a good reason to remain a Dominican, but it is a way of being lured into a Dominican community to get to know the Dominican charism better, and then after you know yourself better and the Dominican charism better, you decide to embrace that style of life, this time for the right reasons.
Loneliness or lack of a fulfilled affective life can also vitiate the discernment. Some candidates are in affective need of company and they go to the religious houses to address their affective unmet needs. A religious community might appear as desirable because it is a good opportunity to be provided with a group of friends automatically.
In some cultures, the priest or even the religious has acquired a social status of respect and power that may be very alluring. The tendency to be liked, the necessity to be perceived as someone “nice” to others may also vitiate the discernment process.
The unique access that priests and religious have to the intimacy and vulnerability of others may also present some appeal. Other times, it is the authority and reverence that the priestly or religious status gives that is coveted.
Some priests may seem to enjoy a life free from domestic obligations, from the responsibility of a family, etc. God’s call is not a hiding place or an exit from a difficult situation. God calls one to mission, not omission.
All these are false attractions that the candidate must be very careful to be aware of.
One last consideration about distinguishing the feeling of being inadequate with really being inadequate. Really being inadequate for the mission is a clear signal that we do not have that specific vication. The perception or emotion of inadequacy is quite common and even the prophets often felt that way. But it is precisely this feeling that make us turn to God for help and courage, rather than sink ourselves in despair.
In brief, at times, in the process of discernment, it is easier to know when someone does not have a vocation than when someone does have a vocation for a particular congregation.
Questions for discernment
  • Do I think God is forcing me to follow this particular path?
  • Are my parents encouraging me to do something I would not do without their encouragement? Do I feel I have to satisfy their desires for me?
  • Do I want to become like someone I met who made a great impact in my life?
  • What is the real motivation for my vocation?
  • What are my expectations if I were to join this or that religious congregation?

Am I called to religious life?

Religious life entails three conjoined invitations: the call to obedience, celibacy and poverty. These three calls can be separately given to certain persons, but for those called to religious life they come together.
Obedience means primarily the offering of one self to God. This implies a constant union with the will of God who wants all to be saved. Jesus saved us by obeying this saving will of God. Religious or consecrated people similarly are ready to put their wills and interests at the service of the superior who represents a community, which in turn fulfills the saving will of God.
Today’s culture of independence and autonomy finds challenging this “renunciation” to our own wills. To obey God means basically to obey him through the many mediations we find in our lives. A rule, a community, a particular life style are just some of those meditations by which we obey God.
To follow Christ means to let him lead us where He went. He went to the Father through a life of poverty –“though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2:6-7). Some are therefore called to this “renunciation” to material attachments to be more free to follow Christ closely.
Poverty implies a style of life that is first and foremost in solidarity with the poor of the world where the community lives. Secondly, it implies a commitment to hard work to sustain ourselves and our ministries, not for the sake of profit, but for the sake of honesty, so that, like St. Paul, we do not become a burden  to the local church. Poverty also implies  a life of simplicity, free from luxuries and unnecessary expenses. Lastly poverty means a life of penance and acceptance of the lack of material resources.
Celibacy implies to live in such a relationship with God that it absorbs all our energies, all our time and all our resources in the service of the building his kingdom here on earth. The celibate attempts to live here on earth the vows of the Wedding of the Lam by having an undivided heart. In marriage, the physical intimacy corresponds with a spiritual, mutual and exclusive self-giving. Celibacy demands of us an intimacy with God that excludes another spousal relationship and enables us to give ourselves generously to the service of our neighbor.
Community life is very often the reason why many join religious life and, alas, the reason why many leave religious life. To love one’s neighbor could be an idyllic ideal when the neighbour is someone you see once a month. But by definition, the neighbor is someone who lives “close” to you.
Nothing beats the embodiment of the neighbor like the spouse, in the case of marriage, or the member of your community, in the case of religious life. Sharing your life with a person you have chosen is difficult, as married couples know. Sharing your life with persons you would never choose may seem impossible at times. Not all are ready for this.
Different congregations have different levels of community life. Some hardly see all the members in days; for others, it is customary, to pray, to have meals or even to work together. It is very important to pay close attention to this aspect. Which level of community life can I handle with ease and certain comfort?
So, you should ask yourself a few questions.
  • Do you think that your life could find fulfillment when you submit your will to a superior as the representative of a community?
  • Do you think you can commit yourself to a simple or even lacking style of life in solidarity with the local poor?
  • Can you live in committed celibacy, making of your relationship with God your free, faithful, total, and fruitful choice with undivided heart, rather than devoting yourself to a spouse?
  • Can you commit yourself to a life in a community that you haven’t chosen, and be ready to work for it, support it and put your community before your personal interests and friends?

Am I called to be a Dominican?

The Dominican charism is strongly distinguished by compassion. St. Dominic was a natural in that field, and the very purpose of the Order is “the salvation of OTHERS through preaching.” It is this gift to be able to see our brothers and sisters as people, that warrants devoting all of our lives. It is in opening God’s love to others that we in turn open ourselves to God’s love.
The Dominican vocation is strongly but not solely linked with the priestly ministry. Some Dominicans are not priests or deacons, but most are. This is so because of the obvious relationship between the office of preaching, that belongs to priests and deacons, and the charism of preaching, that is shared by the Dominicans. Priesthood and Dominican charism is not always linked because the true agent of preaching is not the individual friar but the community.
We all share in the ministry of preaching. Some ordained ministers, some not ordained ministers. Some directly, others indirectly. But all are a part of a community that is called to preach.
Truth is our motto, but rather than being something we believe we possess, we prefer to allow ourselves to be possessed by the Truth so that we can later share in our preaching about that experience, which is both liberating and challenging.
Therefore community life is essential for us. We are called friars, and that means, “brothers”, because we are governed by a democratic system that ensures that all we do is the will, not of one superior, but of the whole community listening to God’s promptings.
Questions for discernment:
  • Do you believe that preaching can make a difference in people’s lives and be a true and necessary service to the world and the church?
  • In you pastoral experience, do you feel attracted to the ministry of the word and preaching?
  • Do you have a desire and passion for truth?
  • Is study for you a struggle or a passion? Can you spend hours at your desk trying to understand better something you found confusing?
  • Are you cut out to live in community and ready to belong to the Order as one belongs to his family?
  • Are you a good communicator? Do you notice that people understand what you mean and even listen to you with ease and interest?

Am I called to be an ordained minister?

The whole Church is a priestly people. All the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This means that all in the Church are called to share with Christ his threefold service: service to the word of God, service to the worship and service to the community. 
For the people of God to enjoy this “common priesthood”, the Church has ministers. There are different kinds of ministries, among which are the “ordained ministries”. Those called to be ordained ministers receive the sacrament of “Holy Orders”, so called because it authorises these ministers to make visible the ministry of Christ in the Church.
The ordained ministries come in three degrees: deacons, presbyters and bishops. Deacons are not ordained to the priesthood, but to the service of the Church and they have their important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship and pastoral governance. Bishops have the fullness of priesthood and those who help them in this service are the presbyters.
Ordinarily we call the presbyters “priests”, but we should distinguish this “ministerial and ordained priesthood” of the presbyters from the “common priesthood” of all the baptised. The service of the ministerial priesthood is precisely to help the faithful to sustain and grow their common priesthood. They perform this role in the threefold manner of the priesthood of Christ: serving the word, serving the worship and serving the community.
They serve the word when they announce the Good News so that the community by listening and believing in the word of God become more and more united with God.
They serve the worship through their liturgical role. The Church is the visible body of Christ and she exercises that visibility by doing what Christ did, offering himself to the Father for all. The Church continues this supreme act of love through the celebration of the liturgy. Mainly when she celebrates the Eucharist, other sacraments, praying the Divine Office or any other liturgical activity. The ordained priests then serve the community by being visible signs of the activity of Christ who keeps sanctifying his Church today through the activity of her ministers.
Finally, they serve the community by their pastoral ministry by helping the people of God to live in unity, to be one. In the words of the Second Vatican Council,
Exercising the office of Christ, the Shepherd and Head, and according to their share of his authority, priests, in the name of the bishop, gather the family of God together as a brotherhood enlivened by one spirit… For the exercise of this ministry, as for the other priestly duties, spiritual power is conferred upon them for the building up of the Church. In building up of the Church, priests must treat all with exceptional kindness in imitation of the Lord. They should act toward men, not as seeking to please them, but in accord with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. They should teach them and admonish them as beloved sons… Priests therefore, as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free. Ceremonies however beautiful, or associations however flourishing, will be of little value if they are not directed toward the education of men to Christian maturity. In furthering this, priests should help men to see what is required and what is God’s will in the important and unimportant events of life. “
(Presbyterorum Ordinis, # 6)
Questions for discernment:
  • Do you have a love for the Word of God? Are you trying understand it better? Do you have a frequent habit of reading the Scripture? 
  • Do you have an inclination to know and teach more about your faith?
  • Do you see yourself celebrating the Eucharist and breaking the bread for the Christian community?
  • Do you understand the celebration of the sacraments as the work of Christ to sustain the “fullness of life” of the faithful?
  • What is the characteristic of the priesthood that attracts you most? his authority? his being popular? his humble apostolic zeal? his quiet service? his freedom from responsibilities? his freedom to be at the service of all? 

Am I called to be a missionary?

Our Dominican province is called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Province. Unlike other provinces within the order, where missionary activities are just one more choice among many, our province is  predominantly missionary. This means that we all must be ready to be sent to foreign missions “according to the designs of the superiors.”
To be a missionary may entail a life of active evangelization and it often also means spending one’s life in a different culture and country. Missionaries need to be adaptable, willing to learn to live in the midst of cultures foreign to their own and cope with different languages and dialects.
At times, the immersion in other latitudes and countries takes a heavy psychological and physiological toll on missionaries. Very often, the standard of performance is much lower than one would achieve in one’s native country. Missionaries need to be aware of those demands and embrace them willingly, trusting that God is the one who sends and the one who empowers.
Questions for discernment
  • Do you like to “give a reason for your hope”, to share the experience and joy of your faith with people who haven’t even heard of it? 
  • Are you adaptable to other kinds of climates, environments, foods and countries?
  • Is learning languages an obstacle for you?
  • Are you comfortable with an austere way of life?
  • Can you accept without prejudices people of different culture, customs and ways of life?
  • Can you learn to love those who are from a different culture even when you do not understand them?

I am contemplating my vocation to the Dominican Order…

  • Contact us
    • Please contact our Vocation Promoters all around the world and make an appointment to visit us.
  • Tell us who you are. Write a short biography about family and upbringing, your relationships with family and friends. Please also give us an account of your professional history. The biography should not be less than four pages long, but the more you write, the better we will be able to know you and help you in your discernment process.

David Garcia, Vocationhttps://dominicansingapore.wordpress.com/vocation/ [accessed 11 March, 2016]

Requirements for the Admission

  • Right motives to enter the Order;
  • Sound mind and body
  • Capacity to live in community
  • Missionary zeal and enthusiasm.
  • High School Graduate (minimum)
  • College Graduate (preferable)
  • Working knowledge of English
  • Not over 35 years of age.


Formation is at the service of mission and of the proclamation of the Gospel.  The main objective of Dominican formation is “to form Dominican preachers.” (Ratio Formationis Particularis No.5 & 6)  Our Dominican formation is a life-long process, which includes both initial (institutional) formation and permanent formation. The initial formation involves various stages –postulancy, novitiate, studentate– that constitute a progressive integration into the Dominican life (Ratio Formationis Generalis, 22).


RFP 26.  The Pre-novitiate or postulancy is “the first of the stages leading the aspirant in the path to solemn profession” (Ratio Formationis Generalis, 32). It is the period that precedes the Novitiate, during which reflection, discernment, vocational options and information on the different paths of life within the Church and within the Order are promoted, so as to help the candidate make decisions among the challenging offers that may come to him and help him find a path for fulfillment following Christ in the Dominican religious life. It is a time for a non-institutionalized probation in the Dominican Order.

RFP 28. Following the norms of the Order (LCO 167; Ratio Formationis Generalis, 32-42), our Province has adopted a Pre-novitiate or postulancy period during which candidates are initiated to community and Dominican life, and given a time to clarify their Christian, religious and Dominican vocation (ACPHK 2009, 07). The pre-novitiate period will last, as a general rule, from one to two years, depending on the candidates’ preparation to enter the novitiate. In some exceptional cases, upon the discretion of the Prior Provincial, the postulancy period could be extended, shortened or interrupted.

LCO 177. – The novitiate is a trial period during which the novices come to understand more clearly the nature of a divine and Dominican vocation. They experience the Order’s way of life, are trained, mind and heart, in the Dominican spirit, that their intention and suitability may be ascertained. 
LCO 178. – § I. – Before beginning the novitiate, aspirants shall complete five full days of retreat.

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