Discernment as… Serendipity

I happened to be a part of an event last night that hosted a wonderful Jesuit named Fr. Pat Conroy, who is currently the chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives, and during this event, Fr. Conroy spoke about his ‘discernment’ process as one of holy obedience. Obviously, that particular label and the connotations of that phrasing are not necessarily perfect for my own journey. For one, I am not part of the Jesuit order, and for another I am not a highly religious individual. However, the way that he addressed holy obedience as a way to find your true calling was very inspiring to me.

Fr. Conroy expressed a concern that many good people are taken away from their true callings because they are tempted by other callings that are useful or good but do not match up best with the individual’s actual strengths and passions. For instance, I may be very good at math, but if I were to pursue a career in engineering or accounting, I would not be following my passions. On the other hand, people can lose their true calling when are attracted to doing something they are very good at but that feeds the wrong parts of them, particularly the ego. An example of this could be any number of famous artists, but it could also be something more like a person choosing to work in a profession that is noble but is very mentally draining for them. Becoming a social worker or working for a non-profit may be extraordinarily admirable, but if doing those things does not fit your passion and abilities, it will likely wear on you in such a way that you will likely not be of service to anyone.

For Fr. Conroy, finding your calling means trusting that the opportunities presented to you are going to be good for both you and the community you are serving. He implied that often, we may not be thrilled about our job at first. We may be neutral, and we may not know how we feel. But, that lack of personal emotional attachment to your work was in part necessary. We shouldn’t be choosing work based on our pride or our comfort or what we think is best for us. Instead, we should be open to the possibility that something else might be better than what we think we need for ourselves. Sometimes the universe works in our favor in ways we don’t understand.

It made me think hard about applying for jobs and programs after I graduate. How will I know if the job I take is feeding me or helping me feed the world? I’m hoping I’ll find things that can do both, in positive ways. Fr. Conroy’s talk did give me a little bit more peace in terms of letting my path shape itself as I walk rather than trying so hard to control every step. Here’s to hoping he’s right!

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