Vocational accompaniment, which is done without fear through dialogue and prayer, seeks to meet with what the person is and what he/she longs to be. Here, the will of God and the human will coincide.
The pandemic brought in new habits and new fears. Suddenly, personal communication carries a lot of risks and, without realizing it, we have given priority to communicating through digital media, and, little by little, our dialogues become a vicious circle of conversations through social media.
For vocational discernment, this becomes a dangerous habit! Dialogue that is part of the accompaniment proper to the vocational discernment process does not delight in “nonsense conversations.”
Rather, without violating health safety standards, it requires looking at oneself in the eye and stepping out of oneself, from the comfort zones we are used to walking through. Without this, we cannot take the vocational discovery process seriously, nor can we set ourselves on a responsible path towards an authentic and happy life–a life that fulfils us fully.
The fears brought about by the pandemic served as an excuse to close ourselves to self-centred reflection and to move away from serious conversations that go to the innermost part of our being. The fear of leaving home has become an excuse and justification not to get out of oneself and to stop doing so many things that are fundamental to our lives. Watch out!
Fear corrodes what we are, destroys our relationships, and undermines all our horizons of hope for tomorrow! Are there, in fact, genuine reasons to fear the vocational discernment process? Is it an amazing path full of disastrous consequences? Will we allow fear to emerge victoriously and become the reason for our existence?
First of all, it is important to bear in mind that this is neither a path that is taken alone nor a path where God is absent! On the contrary, in vocational discernment God makes himself a path and, at the same time, a companion on the journey. If so, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
What is there to fear when we could not be more “protected” and freer along the path? Perhaps what frightens us is not so much the lack of accompaniment, but the fact that accompaniment exists. Indeed, as life is not black and white, it is sometimes frightening to have an immensity of possibilities and future scenarios ahead of us.
On the one hand, we want to live the fullness of our freedom; on the other hand, we are frightened by the responsibility that is inherent in our choices. We cannot forget that we are not alone and that the person–or people–who accompany us are not there “to set us up” nor to choose for us the paths we should follow. Accompaniment seeks to meet what the person is and what the person yearns to be. It is here that the will of God and the human come together.
In this sense, the countless possible paths should not be seen as deviations from the path, but as aids to good discernment. If we are attentive, the path becomes increasingly clear in front of us.
In our day-to-day, we make similar experiences through the small choices we make. Of course, the little things of everyday life are not as relevant as the vocational issue, but they can help to illustrate what is at stake. Often, for example, we choose what to wear or what to eat based on what we like most, or what we are going to do next, on the suggestions of those who are with us to carry out the same type of activity.
What happens if we make a “bad choice”? In principle, it is not the “end of the world” because of this. We chose poorly, but this does not bring “insurmountable consequences” for the future, so we will be able, the next day, to make a new choice.
Just as these daily choices do not frighten us or paralyze us, so the process of vocational discernment must not frighten us. It is a path that is taken step by step and, especially at the beginning of the path, the steps that are taken do not become something with “insurmountable consequences”; rather, they make it possible to refine our choices and look at ourselves with greater authenticity.
It is worth remembering that this is not an individual process. Those who accompany us, through dialogue and prayer, come to understand who we are and, as the saying goes, those who see us from the outside have a different breadth of vision.
The companion in our journey does not “generates the ideal solution” for our life! On the contrary, as Pope Francis warns, “true wisdom, the fruit of reflection, dialogue and the generous encounter between people, is not acquired with a mere accumulation of data, which, in a kind of mental pollution, end up saturating and confusing.” (Laudato Si’, n. 47) These springs from the fruitfulness of sincere dialogue and a path illuminated by God himself.
What if the escort gets it all wrong? This is always the big question/excuse that we use for ourselves to escape the responsibility and demands of the vocational path! The companion may perceive some things wrongly, but not all! And what do we do when someone doesn’t understand us as well? We talk to the person!
If we think of Jesus and His disciples, we understand very well that what is at stake is a dialogue with a view to discernment. Jesus spoke to the crowds, performed great miracles, but later, only in the intimacy of the dialogue with the twelve did he explain them and go deeper into his teachings.
In this way of acting, we see the way how vocation accompaniment is carried out: we talk to many people, and through different means, throughout our day, but we dialogue–intimately and eye to eye–only with certain people.
These are the people we love the most because they help us to be who we truly are. Vocational companions are part of this last group of people–they will not always tell us nice things or things we like to hear, but they will always seek our greatest good, they will always try to be a means to listen to the voice of God and the message that, more intimately, it gives meaning to our lives. Once again, then, I ask: why be afraid? (Susana Vilas Boas)