The word vocation basically means the call. In religious contexts, it refers to God’s call to us. In a broader sense, God calls all of us to live our lives according to God’s plan for the growing Kingdom. However, God also calls each of us to live a particular lifestyle. Some are called to be married, others to be single. Some few others yet are called to priesthood or religious life. Jesuits are called to live religious lifestyle in an order called the Society of Jesus. Most Jesuits, though not all, are also called to be ordained priests. Some men will ask to serve God as a Brother in the Society of Jesus.
If we want to live according to God’s particular plan for us, then, we would really want to know whether God is calling us to live the life of a layperson or of an ordained minister. We also would want to know whether God wants us to go into religious life and, particularly, which religious congregation. The process of understanding God’s life plan for us is called discernment.
The discernment process starts with an attraction or interest in a particular lifestyle. This attraction can be explosive or subtle, instantaneous or prolonged, earlier or somewhat later in life, from the interior or through people or events. If a Christian feels an attraction to religious life, a proper response for him would be to examine whether this attraction comes from the Holy Spirit. He could start by finding more information about religious life and a particular religious congregation and perhaps to seek guidance in clarifying his vocation and his possibilities.
Many religious congregations, including the Jesuits, post information about themselves online. Most also assign a member of the congregation to be the vocation director. However, if the person who feels the interest also knows another member of the religious congregation, that member might also serve as a preliminary resource on the process of discernment. Meanwhile, the discerning person will enter into more prayer, asking God to clarify the call. A spiritual director could help him with this process, which might include a few days of discernment retreat.
If the discerning person reaches a degree of certainty that God is calling him to become a Jesuit, he could meet more formally with the vocation director, who might direct him to meet with other Jesuits or invite him to vocation camps. If he decides to apply, he could be admitted into the candidacy program, where he lives with other young men who are discerning their vocation.