The Grace of the Call

Religious life is a particular form of consecrated life, and, as the year of consecrated life opens, it would be helpful to begin in the beginning, that is to say, to begin with consideration of the call or vocation to religious life. By understanding better this grace, we will also learn what prepares the seedbed of vocations, what helps to discern and what will sustain them to the end. The Servant of God, Father John Hardon remarks that the call to religious life is a grace from God, given to some but not to all. He writes: Somewhere near the heart of a religious vocation is the idea that God chooses certain people to imitate His own Incarnate example of the religious life. [...] Jesus Christ was the first religious. His life and preaching inspired men and women from the dawn of Christianity to sell all they had, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him.... We must come to understand better than we have done so far that a vocation to the religious life is just that: a distinctive call from God, choosing certain individuals for this way of life.1
Promoting the Maronite Servants vocation.  
The discernment of the call to religious life and the response to it requires three things: faith, prayer and sacrifice.2 Without faith, no one could recognize Christ and his life as the model for all Christians and especially for religious. Without prayer, no one could hear the call or desire to respond by imitation of Christ. Without sacrifice, no one could persevere in responding to the call to leave all things for love of Christ. These three conditions best prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed – in this case, the seed of a call to religious life. The lack of these dispositions renders the seed fruitless.
To appreciate the importance of these necessary conditions for hearing and responding to a vocation, I will attempt to draw a parallel between the three types of fruitless soil in the parable of the seed (Matthew 13:1-23) with the three conditions of the "good soil" that enable the seed to take root, thrive and be fruitful. In the Gospel, Our Lord speaks of these conditions as necessary for Christian discipleship. All the more, then, are they necessary for religious life.