| Father Tim Pfander

Vocation and Discernment

A look at married life

When I was asked to write an article for the Vocations Issue of One Voice, I was initially confounded. What can I say about vocations that hasn’t already been said? Nothing! While it’s not all that complicated, it can sometimes be confusing. God is the source of our lasting joy and happiness. Becoming, as author Matthew Kelly says, the “best version of our self” is to follow God’s plan. That plan is our vocation.

The process for considering the suitability of any vocation is discernment. Discernment, very simply, is the process of coming to know God’s will for one’s life through prayer and meditation. Prayer is the raising of one’s heart and mind in praise and supplication to God (CCC 2559-2565) and meditation can be described as listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Discernment is a process that (depending on the matter at hand) can take hours, weeks, months, or years to resolve.

This process keeps the lines of communication open with God. Everyone, therefore, would benefit from discernment of some sort in their lives.

Most people are called to married life, to be fruitful and multiply, as we hear in Genesis. Be careful, though. Just because you’ve been called to married life, that doesn’t mean that you marry the first person that comes along. A couple is well-advised to take considerable time to get to know each other, six months to a year at a minimum.

It is really important to know and understand your future spouse’s personality, habits, likes, and dislikes. You need to discuss your hopes and dreams for the future. Knowing a little about your future spouse’s past (family life, education, employment, etc.) is also beneficial. Among other things, just as you would utilize discernment to communicate with God, you need to be sure to communicate with your spouse.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in presenting Engaged Encounter and Marriage Encounter weekends. People have asked what the main reason is that, in today’s society, marriages fail. They ask about a litany of things that may cause issues in a marriage: finances, education, raising children. The answer is really all of these and none of these. It’s that they didn’t know how to communicate with each other about these things. Engaged Encounter tries to introduce serious questions about which to communicate, maybe for the first time in a relationship. Marriage Encounter teaches a communication method called “dialog” that allows for a safe space to discuss feelings about different matters. Continual practice in communicating your feelings to your spouse helps you not only to know each other better, but, more importantly, to grow in your love for God together.

Marriage, like any vocation, has its joys and challenges, but the main goal of everyone’s vocation should always be growing in love for God and neighbor. With certainty, I can say this is best accomplished through prayer and meditation. So, no matter where you are on your journey of discernment, never forget that God has a plan for you. All you have to do is ask — then listen.

Father Tim Pfander currently serves as pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Huntsville. He has served on several diocesan committees including the Human Resources Committee, the Defined Benefits for Priests Committee, and the Priest Personnel Board. Ordained in 2004, he spent several years in the business world before studying for the priesthood. One of his great pleasures is offering weekend retreats for married couples and for people in recovery from addictions.