How to Recognize the Holy Spirit
in Vocation Discernment
The Holy Spirit’s Requests (What they are like)
1. Firstly, for most people, a dramatic decree (or edict) from the Holy Spirit occurs only a few times (perhaps just once) in their lifetime (a type of crossroads annunciation experience). On the day-to-day we sense mild conversation with the Holy Spirit. What I describe below is directed towards major turning points in our lives whereby we are truly tested regarding our willingness to put everything on the altar of God and (by faith) light the match ourselves.
2. It doesn’t have to feel peaceful. It can be frightening in a good way, as in a super spiritually challenging (emotionally, mentally, etc.) way that holds the makings of a fantastic adventure.
3. On the downside, if we let cowardice win out, we’ll never know what might have been. That is what’s truly terrifying.
4. We can be furthered assured that the Holy Spirit’s words are His own because they suddenly interrupt our thoughts. Because of this sudden interruption of our day-to-day plans and cares, we know that it is Him and not our own egos attempting to lead us astray. Our Baptism and full Sacramental life have freed us are free from the bondage of our own egotistical motivations.
5. The request seems to come out of the literal blue. It is akin to the sudden appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary at the annunciation and is objectively real. They are not and cannot be “self-generated”.
6. It is common that the Holy Spirit speaks outside of an official prayer moment (in an ordinary place during everyday activity) which further surprises us, confirms it is Him, rather than us sitting in a pew, expecting, and attempting to conjure a spiritual (ecstatic) experience.
7. When another person speaks to us two things take place. We hear audibly and perceive almost instantly. The words of the Holy Spirit are a perception in the mind (felt in the heart) minus audibility (for most).
8. What He tells us can be something we choose to act on right away (without hesitancy) because we have instantly determined that there is no reason not to and that no harm would be done to ourselves or others.
9. However, sometimes our move to respond is not so quick. We may take time to analyze the request because it has a great consequence, is potentially life altering, and requires our willingness to exert our faith and trust in God at the maximum, also known as an “heroic”, level.
10. The voice of the Holy Spirt can be experienced as a type of gentle wave suddenly washing on the shores of our minds. The remnants of that wave leave behind (if we are at least willing to consider the request) a mental rumination (creating a deep contemplative presence) which is union with the mind of God, the will of God amidst the Holy Spirit’s request. This pondering rumination is our drinking the “living water of eternal life” (John 4:14). During these ruminating moments we experience a greater greatness, a significantly enhanced animation of our being, of what it means to be “truly alive” (John 14:12 and John 10:10).
11. Along with the request, if we are willing to respond, there is a notable increase of graces known as the cardinal virtues. God gives us both the message and the means. We are encapsulated in the wisdom wrought forth by prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. This expanded power to birth the impossible, to heal despair, is what ignites the purifying flame of the Church Militant. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we overcome darkness, evil, and death for ourselves, others, and all creation throughout antiquity, in the present, and eternally.
12. How we respond to the requests of the Holy Spirit and His gifts of extraordinary grace determines how we will “rule and reign with Christ” in eternity (2 Tim 2:12). There is jurisdiction in the next life depending on how well we trust God and respond in this life.
13. The Holy Spirit’s requests are for the eternal good of mankind. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat (a seed) falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (for the eternal good of mankind) John 12:24.
14. Our decisions to respond need not (and should not) take longer than necessary.
15. Only after we respond, as we continue to travel in faith, do we more fully experience a share in the infinite love of God birthed by the Holy Spirit’s requests. Our joy increases with the knowledge of the eternal impact that our response has had on humankind.
16. The biggest mistakes we make are:
a. to insist on a feeling of peace or consolation before we are willing to move.
b. to keep talking about it, overly confiding in others often less courageous than us, rather than decisively acting on the Holy Spirit’s request.
c. Warning: There is a point where our lack of response allows death to creep into our spiritual health. We experience a noticeable dissipating effect (a critical lessening of our resolve to live out our confirmation). Necessary (and extraordinary) graces now seep from the cracks created by our hesitancy because we are now actively distrusting the Holy Spirit. We have reneged on our confirmation. We are no longer cooperating with our confirmation commitment which is that: we will openly live out our specific mission within the context of our Catholic faith no matter the cost.
(Reprinted with permission from the September 2022 edition of Vocation Placement Service Newsletter. See Free Catholic Vocation books articles videos ready to download (catholicvocationsplacement.org))