Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation

Texts of St. Alphonsus de Liguori cited in the book

Here you will find a compilation of the texts of St. Alphonsus Marie de Liguori cited or mentioned in the book Paths of Love.

  • One needs signs of a vocation in order to choose a state of life

    • Regarding the state to be chosen by an adolescent, let the confessor not presume to determine it for him; but from the signs of his vocation, let him take care to recommend to him that state to which he [the confessor] can prudently judge that he is called by God. (Practical notes for confessors, in Moral Theology)
    • To enter into any state of life the divine vocation is necessary. For without this, if it is not impossible, it is at least most difficult to satisfy the obligations of that state and to be saved. (The dignity and Duties of the Priest, chapter on preaching)
    • It is clear that our eternal salvation depends principally on the choice of our state... In regard to choosing a state, if we want to make sure of our eternal salvation, we must follow the divine vocation, where alone God has prepared efficacious helps to save us... This is exactly the order of predestination described by the same Apostle: “He whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified... and those he also glorified.”... Upon vocation follows justification, and upon justification follows glorification, namely eternal life. He who places himself outside of this chain of salvation will not be saved. With all the efforts and with everything else that one will do, St. Augustine will say to him: “You run well, but outside of the way,” namely outside of the way through which God will have called you to walk, in order to attain to your salvation. The Lord does not accept the sacrifices offered from one’s own inclination: “For Cain and his offering he had no regard.” Rather, he enjoins great punishment on those who want to turn their backs to their calls, to follow the plans of their own inclination: “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord through Isaiah, “who carry out a plan, but not from me; and who make a league, but not by my spirit!” The punishment of the disobedient will begin already during his lifetime, when he will always be restless; for Job says, “Who has resisted him and had peace?” Hence he will be deprived of the abundant and efficacious helps for living well. Therefore the Theologian Habert wrote: “Not without great difficulties will he be able to look out for his salvation.” With great difficulty will he be saved, being forever like a member out of its proper place, so that only with great difficulty will he be able to live well... Therefore he concludes that “although absolutely speaking he could be saved, he will with difficulty enter the way, and lay hold of the means of salvation.”
    • Divine calls to a more perfect life are certainly special and very great graces that God does not give to all. Therefore he has much reason to be indignant with him who slights them. How offended does a prince consider himself, if he calls one of his vassals to serve him more closely and as his favorite in his palace, and he does not obey! And will not God resent it? Ah, only too much does he resent it and utter threats, saying, “Woe to him who strives with his maker!” “Woe” in the Scriptures signifies eternal perdition....
      To such as these, as rebels against the divine light (as the Holy Spirit says: “They were rebels against the light; they did not know his ways”), justly has been given the punishment of losing the light; and since they did not want to walk on the way indicated to them by the Lord, they will walk on the way chosen by their own will, without light, and thus they will perish... Therefore, when God calls to a more perfect state, he who does not want to put his eternal salvation in great danger, ought to obey, and obey quickly. Otherwise he will hear himself reproached by Jesus Christ as he reproached that youth, who, invited to follow him, said: “I will follow you Lord, but let me first take leave of those who are at home.” And Jesus answered him, that he was not fit for paradise: “No one putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The lights of God are passing, not permanent. Hence St. Thomas Aquinas says that vocations to a more perfect life should be followed as quickly as possible. (Counsels concerning a religious vocation)
  • Purity of heart is necessary for knowing God's will

    • It is necessary for you to pray diligently to God to make you know his will as to what state he wants you in. But take notice that to have this light, you must pray to him with indifference. He who prays to God to enlighten him in regard to a state of life, but without indifference, and who, instead of conforming to the divine will, would sooner have God conform to his will, is like a pilot that pretends to wish his ship to advance, but in reality does not want it to: he throws his anchor into the sea, and then unfurls his sails. God neither gives light nor speaks his word to such persons. But if you entreat him with indifference and resolution to follow his will, God will make you know clearly what state is better for you. (On the utility of the spiritual exercises made in solitude)
  • Yet this signs can be just the objective signs: a good and firm intention, and lack of impediments

    • Let the confessor test well the vocation of his penitent, asking whether the penitent has some obstacle to it, due to incapacity, poor health, or the need of his parents. And let him especially weigh his purpose, to see if it is right, i.e., in order to unite himself more closely to God, or to amend the falls of his previous life, or to avoid the dangers of the world. But if the primary end is worldly—in order to lead a more agreeable life, or to free himself from relatives of an unfeeling character, or to please his parents, who push him to this—let him beware of permitting him to enter religious life. For in that case, it is not a true vocation, and entering in this way, without a true vocation, will have a bad outcome. But if the end is good, and no obstacle is present, then neither the confessor, nor anyone else, as St. Thomas teaches (Quodlib. 3, art. 14), should or can without grave fault impede him, or attempt to dissuade him from the vocation. (Practical notes for confessors, in Moral Theology)
    • There is a true vocation whenever the following three things concur. First, a good end, namely, to get away from the dangers of the world, the better to insure eternal salvation, and to unite oneself more closely to God. Secondly, that there is no positive impediment due to poor health, lack of talents, or some necessity on the part of one’s parents, in regard to which matters the subject ought to quiet himself by leaving all to the judgment of the superiors, after having exposed the truth clearly. Thirdly, that the superiors admit him. Now, whenever these three conditions are truly present, the novice ought not to doubt that his vocation was a true one. (Exhortation to novices to persevere in their vocation)
  • And even if there was no vocation at first, God in his providence can use the choice for good

    • You will answer me: “How can I be content, if I was not called to this state?” But what does it matter if at the beginning you were not called? Although you did not become a nun by divine vocation, it is nevertheless certain that God permitted that for your welfare; and if he did not call you then, at the present time he certainly calls you to belong completely to him. (The True Spouse of Jesus Christ)
  • On the need of a firm commitment to being faithful to one's chosen way

    • A final caution to him who wishes to enter religious life: let him resolve to become holy, and to suffer every exterior and interior pain, in order to be faithful to God, and not to abandon his vocation. And if he is not so resolved, I exhort him not to deceive the superiors and himself, and not to enter; for this is a sign that he is not called, or else what is even worse, that he does not want to respond to the call as he ought. Hence, with so bad a disposition it is better for him to remain outside, in order to dispose himself better, and to resolve to give himself entirely to God, and to suffer all for God. (Counsels Concerning a Religious Vocation)
  •  Marriage is normally to be chosen only when one cannot exercise self-control otherwise

    • "If you resolve not to become a religious, I cannot advise you to enter the married state, for St. Paul does not counsel that state to any one, except in case of necessity, which I hope does not exist for you." (Counsels to a young woman in doubt as to what state to choose)

Writings of Alphonsus: True Spouse of Christ, Way of Salvation, and others

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