BARAO: Discerning God’s Call... Why surrender?

September 10, 2019

Question: When Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” what gave her the strength to surrender to God’s will completely?
Answer: She knew God the Father completely and totally loved her.
Question: What does that have to do with your vocation?
Answer: Your discernment also involves the faithful abandonment of yourself to God even when you do not fully know what the future holds.
Mary was conceived without sin, the rest of us weren’t, but despite our rough edges, God still calls us. He gives us a family upbringing, school, friends and our parishes. With that foundation, we discern our calling from a mature place. Our Baptism gives us our universal call to holiness.

We work for the common good. It requires our identity being rooted in knowing that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Otherwise, we can succumb to a false view of God and end up trying to “please an angry God” or “earn points with good deeds.”

Both never establish an authentic relationship. Sadly, the troubles of a difficult life will not be tempered by a joyful heart. Instead, I invite you to turn to Mary’s example of rooting her identity as a beloved daughter of God. When the time came to live out her vocation, she knew who she was in the eyes of the Lord.

And, when the storms battered her life, she was faithful to the end. Mary stood firm and returned Jesus’ look of love as He hung on the cross. She suffered but entrusted everything to God. Her life was about bringing Jesus and His love to the world. I invite you to ponder Mary’s approach as you go about discerning God’s call.

 In the Office of Vocations, I meet people during this pivotal stage of their lives. Be comforted by the fact that even if you’re not sure, God says to you, “I know well the plans I have in mind for you... plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

With these in mind, I want to give you some tried-and-true tips to help you know and respond generously to God’s will for your life:

Pray. Carve some time to cultivate that relationship with God. Designate a special prayer space in your home or at church. God is always initiating this time. Respond with a generous heart. The biggest challenge will be consistency.

Serve your home parish. It can be liturgically through different parts of Mass or helping in the church in whatever capacity.

Prioritize frequently receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation (as needed). If there’s a time you can go to Mass in addition to our Sunday Mass obligation, go and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. He is the vine; we are the branches. Without Him, we can do nothing.

Find a group of peers who will help you grow in your Catholic faith. Typically, your church will have a peer group. But, if not, look for one close to your area. It takes time and effort, but it is so important.

Find a spiritual mentor or, better yet, a spiritual director. If you’re a high schooler, I’d recommend your small group leader who may be a young adult or adult. It’s easier to find a spiritual mentor since it takes formal training to become a spiritual director.

What is a spiritual mentor? Someone who is living out their Catholic faith, is faithful to the Magisterium (teaching office composed of all the bishops of the world in union with the pope) and is someone who listens to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Pray to find a good one; they’re out there.

In conclusion, the outlined tips will not just happen without us doing our part. Our office can help. Discern with us. Contact us via email at, or call us at 713-652-8239 and find us on social media
@houstonvocations and online at

Remember to ask for our Mother Mary’s intercession every step of the way. You’ll be in great hands.

For you we pray, Hail Mary... 

Marlon Barao is an associate director for the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations.