Discerning a vocation could be overwhelming. It requires patience and total surrender. Unlike others, I was not raised in a religious family nor do I have relatives who are priests or nuns. I am just a typical guy who met God through His Mother by a weekly devotion. It was tough considering I had no one to ask about questions on faith. Fortunately, in this digital era, everything is almost reachable through the internet. Like others, I love reading (despite my OCD), that’s why I decided to compile some of the best books for discernment I received good reviews about on the web.
Note: If you are like me who also discerns vocation but do not know where to start, I suggest finding a Spiritual Director. They will guide you along the way of your discernment process. You can check this guide in finding one.
Here are the reviews of the best books to read for vocation discernment regardless if you are for the priesthood, religious brotherhood, or sisterhood, consecrated virgin, or single-blessedness in 2022.
The Imitation of Christ
Author: Thomas Kempis
This classic is the first spiritual book I ever read. I tried reading it the whole Holy Week and it changed my perspective on life. Everyone can relate to this piece but it is also helpful for those who are preparing to enter religious life. The book focuses on how one should not be swayed by the world’s predicaments. That as long as you trust the Lord, everything will be alright. It also highlights how to live well with the three (3) vows, poverty, chastity, and obedience with God as a center. I highly recommend this book!
The Priests We Need to Save the Church
Author: Kevin Wells
As I am deeply in love with the ministries of the Priests and seeing its thought-provoking title, I literally click the check-out button and order this book. It is a well-written piece! The content structure is easy to understand. It tackles the essential characteristics of the priests we need in this generation. I love how Wells enumerated and discuss each one of them thoroughly. He also discloses testimonies from several individuals attesting how these attributes of the priests contribute to the holier community and society. If you discerning for the priesthood, this is a must-have!
Introduction to Devout Life
Author: St. Francis de Sales
When I realized I might have a calling, I searched in the Catholic Forums, what are the best books for vocation discernment. This is by far the majority recommendation by the active members. The book is geared toward people from all walks of life. It has five (5) sections, all of which help in awakening one’s consciousness to be holy. It discusses ways how to adopt devout living, the significance of prayer and the Eucharist, living in the world pursuing virtues, conquering temptations, and examination and sustenance of devotion.
At first, I wonder why should it be considered a book for vocation discernment, and then it came to me that just like The Imitation of Christ, it is also a great foundation during the discernment process. That knowing one’s vocation is a long road to take and resilience in virtue is a must.
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life
Author: Henri Nouwen
Suggested by my friend, a Redemptorist Brother, this book proves how Henri’s work on spirituality is one of the best! This 256-page book contains the practice of discerning which is an act of submission rather than knowing your destination. It will help you to listen and be aware of God’s presence anytime and anywhere, in ordinary life. Through this book, Nouwen will be your personal guide on discernment. I also appreciate how there are questions in each chapter. It’s an examen that encourages you to reflect which is really helpful, especially for discerners.
The Practice of the Presence of God
Author: Brother Lawrence
In one of the groups I am in, The Catholic Gentlemen, a post popped in my feed displaying the book with an eye-catching title, Practice of the Presence of God. Since I am fond of spiritual discernment references, I quickly checked if it’s available in my go-to online bookstore. Yes, it was! Sold. When I received the book, it was small. But, as they say, do not judge the book by its cover (literally fitting). By just reading the first chapter, I already sensed how the content would flow and it would be of tremendous impact. The simplicity plus the humility of the practices of Br. Lawrence is inspiring. There were so many instances that I became emotional. His life, exemplifying gratefulness and hopefulness humbled me. I could not say anything more except one of the best I’ve read!
Single for a Greater Purpose: A Hidden Joy
Author: Luanne Zurlo
Single life is a vocation. Yes, you read it right. It is also a calling. In this book, Luanne explained the single-life vocation well. The message was simple yet profound, that there is joy in choosing this way of life. It assists single Catholics to understand their role within the Church. The book is both theological and practical. It is filled with Church’s teachings and personal anecdotes. A helpful guide in contemplating single blessedness and living it. If you are discerning a single life, add this to your book collection.
To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood
Author: Brett A. Brannen
Are you discerning about becoming a diocesan priest? This book is your perfect companion! It covers everything about becoming a diocesan priest, from discernment up to entering the seminary and living a priestly life. The book gives an honest view of this noble vocation. Brett wrote it in a straight-to-the-point and easy-to-understand manner. It was clear and concise. All the questions you have in mind about discerning diocesan priesthood are answered here. It will surely help you in your discernment. Such a great resource!
A Living Sacrifice: Guidance for Men Discerning Religious Life
Author: Fr. Benedict Croell O.P. (Author) and Fr. Andrew Hofer O.P.
If “To Save a Thousand Souls” is the best book for discerning a diocesan priesthood. This one is the best for the religious priesthood. It is a comprehensive guide for men who are discerning religious life. It clearly differentiates a vocation to religious order from the diocesan, providing a balance of spiritual and practical recommendations to discerners. The book also helps them navigate through this life-changing decision, giving them sound advice in responding to the call. A powerful book.
See I Am Making Something New: New Religious Institutes, Diocesan Hermits and Consecrated Virgins, and New Forms of Consecrated Life
Author: Sister Amy Hereford, CSJ
Unknown to some, there are other vocations less traveled, Diocesan Hermits and Consecrated Virgins to name a few. This book highlights these calls, helping people know more about them. It explores new religious institutes, in re-introduced individual forms of consecrated life, the diocesan hermit and the consecrated virgin, and in the other new forms of consecrated life. It is a guide for those discerning their vocation, spiritual directors, and pastoral diocesan staff.
And these are some of the best books for vocation discernment! Again, looking for a Spiritual Director is still beneficial in the long run. I actually do not know any individual who is discerning and does not have a spiritual director. All the priests, nuns and other religious I know have one. That’s why if you really are serious about your journey, I highly suggest you get one.
I hope that one day, we will find our vocation, whether it be for the priesthood, religious life, married life, or single blessedness. In the meantime, let’s live a holy life, getting closer to God each day with the help of these books.
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St. Alphonsus of Liguori, Patron Saint of Vocations, pray for us.