A Brief Introduction
I recently received a letter from a dear little friend of mine, asking me how to determine what state of life she should enter. I wrote back to her an answer as best I could in several pages. Yet, afterwards, realizing the importance of this subject, and that that any short description I give falls short of explaining everything correctly; I thought that I would share here with everyone – in a series of posts – what seems to be some of the best advice about discerning one's state in life.
It comes from the writings of Father Lasance’s book, The Catholic Girl’s Guide. This book is a treasure which I would suggest that every young girl, in fact every woman, should read if she wishes to understand many helpful secrets of how to save her soul.
Yet, knowing that a number of people find it hard to read entire books; I thought that I would quote a number of passages here which I think may be helpful to those trying to determine their state of life.
Which is My Path? - Chapter LVX - The Decision to Be Made
“Let us suppose that, while you are traveling in a foreign country, you come to a spot where one road stretches straight before you, another leads to the right, and a third to the left. It is then indeed very important for you to know which road you ought to take in order to reach your destination.
Now, you have really set out upon such a journey; you whole life is truly a journey to heaven. Perhaps you have already reached a spot where the ways part, or you may soon arrive at such a place; you will be obliged to come to a decision, and choose one of the three roads. But which are you to choose? Are you to marry, to go into religion, or to live unmarried in the world? All three roads have one and the same goal – they all lead to heaven. But each has its own special difficulties and obstacles, which everyone is not equally able to surmount. Those only can do this who have the requisite qualifications, and receive the necessary graces from God. He who enters upon one of these paths without the necessary graces and qualifications, can scarcely hope to get to heaven.
Perhaps you have already reached some spot where a decision must be made, or you may soon arrive at it. You must make your choice and enter upon one of the three different paths. Consider the importance of this decision, in order that you may choose the right way.
People speak of condition or state of life, and calling; these expressions have a certain similarity, but they are not identical. By calling is understood more properly the relation in which each individual stands to society. When one inquires as to a man's calling, one does not mean to ask whether he is to marry, live single, or go into religion, but whether he is to be a shoemaker, baker, tailor, or an artisan of any description; whether he is to be a doctor, lawyer, tutor, or embrace any other learned profession. These various callings are to society what, in a manner, the different members are to the human body. Society is sound and prosperous when the various callings are properly filled and carried out, as the human body is well when all its parts are in a normal condition and regularly perform their functions. Yet in the sense we have attached to the word, it cannot be said that the salvation of the soul directly depends upon the calling of which choice may be made. Whether you become a stenographer, a dressmaker or a postmistress may be very important as far as your temporal welfare is concerned, but as far as your eternal happiness is in question, the decision is of no direct moment.
The all-wise providence of God orders and arranges everything. His merciful eye beholds all creatures He has made, all ages and places, nations and families, from all eternity. He knows the needs of each individual and of every nation, He foresees peace and war, plenty and famine, all generations that are to come, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. He has endowed each individual man with an immortal soul, gifted with such special capabilities as will enable him to attain his destined goal. And God permits body and soul to develop in a manner corresponding to this appointed end.
When a young person comes to the parting of the ways, the call of God makes itself heard more or less plainly, sometimes by external means, sometimes by a voice speaking within: “I have destined thee to be the father or mother of a family; upon thee I shall bestow a vocation to the religious life; I intend thee to live unmarried in the world.” Thus the call of God is addressed to each one, though in widely varying ways. One hears it in his own hear from early childhood, another only when the moment of decision arrives. God calls some person suddenly by means of some unusual event, others, and these constitute by far the largest number, through the circumstances and relations of their life.
How exceedingly important it is to recognize and to follow the call of God. All men have been created in order that they may love God and keep His commandments while they are on earth, and be happy forever with Him in heaven; such is the chief end of man, his final goal. The commandments of God are the same everywhere and for all men, but all have not the same difficulty in keeping them. The same state of life is not suited for everyone, nor can everyone experience the same facility in reaching heaven, whatever be the state of life he may embrace.
If you are called to live unmarried, you would find it difficult to save your soul if you were to marry. If, on the other hand, it is your duty to marry, the unmarried state would prove a great hindrance in your journey to heaven. And if it is the will of God that you should become an inmate of the cloister, you could scarcely save your soul in the world. The same rule applies to the marriage state in which the character of the husband you choose is of the utmost importance. St. Gregory Nazianzen say: “He who errs at to his vocation will go from one mistake to another all his life long, and in the end perhaps find himself deceived in regard to his hope of reaching heaven.
It is easy to perceive the reason for this. If a young girl refuses to follow the clear call of God because to do so would cost her considerable sacrifice, and she therefore follows her own will – for instance, if she contracts a marriage forbidden by the Church – she will not receive the graces appertaining to the state she has chosen, for the very reason that she has acted contrary to the will of God. She will be unhappy all her life, and failing some very special intervention of Providence, be unhappy also during the countless ages of eternity…
…You may already be filled with anxious dread lest you should make a wrong choice, and wreck your prospects of happiness. But fear not, be of good courage! There is a sure and simple means of choosing aright. In the meantime be truly chaste and pious, and your choice cannot fail to be a happy one.”