I would like to introduce to you a new book, Discernment Do’s and Don’ts: A Practical Guide to Vocational Discernment (TAN Books, 2018). This is a great book that I highly, highly recommend. My own discernment process before I entered seminary was a bit unguided; I wish I had had this book back then. For the sake of full disclosure, I have to first say that I know the author of this book. Fr. George Elliott is a priest of the Diocese of Tyler and is currently assigned as Pastor of Sacred Heart in Nacogdoches. I studied with Fr. Elliott in Rome and have known him since I entered the Diocese as a Seminarian twelve years ago. (I promise he didn’t pay me to say nice things.)
All Catholic young people go through, even if unconsciously, a process of discernment as they decide what path to take in their lives. When we hear the word “discernment” however, what comes to mind for most people is the religious life, becoming a Priest, or Nun, or Monk. This book is not intended only for those seeking to enter into the religious life, but those seeking to enter any vocation, married or celibate. Young people’s options are seemingly endless, and that can create a sense of overload and paralysis. Many young people just can’t make up their minds about which path to take because there are too many choices and too many voices pulling in different directions.
Fr. Elliott gives several straightforward, simple, and practical steps to better understanding God’s call for you in your life. Too often the discernment process is clouded in mysticism or rooted too heavily on emotion. We may wait for a glaring sign from God, a literal booming voice from heaven, before deciding what vocational path to take. Fr. Elliott’s steps, rather, help young people to hear “the still, small voice” that God often uses to speak to us. Taking our natural personality traits, strengths and weaknesses, and our own interests and abilities into account, God calls each of us a path he has planned out for us. As St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, grace builds on nature.
Each step is accompanied by a short real-life story from Fr. Elliott’s own experience. He then explains the way in which a person can implement the step in his or her own life, drawing from many saints and the traditions of the Church. He then gives the practical Do’s and Don’ts. These are short reminders of how to approach each step and what pitfalls to avoid as we implement the step. There are also discussion/reflection questions at the end of each chapter, making this ideal for use in Bible study or youth groups and for personal reflection or journaling.
If you are looking for something to give as a graduation gift to a friend or family member, this small book should be on the list. At just under one hundred pages, it’s a very quick and accessible book for any young person. If you’re a young person not sure what you want to do with your life, these steps will help you discover God’s will for you.
I have one criticism of the book, the title. I suggest he re-title the book in the next printing, Every High School Graduate Should Read This Book.