“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt 5:7)
According to the online Catholic Encyclopedia, Mercy is said to be “a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune.” If I were to put it in simpler terms, mercy is a habit (virtue) that has two functions:
- stirs one to have compassion for another person’s misfortune or misery
- motivates one to try to help remove the other person’s misfortune or misery
As mercy controls relations between two distinct people, it must also be linked to charity.
In discernment, we need a merciful heart. a heart that is habitually charitable and feels with the misfortune and misery of others. One of the reasons which many people are asked to pray for more vocations is that we have a shortage of priests and religious in the world. When making our discernment, we would need to ask if we are truly aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters in the Church due to the shortage of priests and religious. As the first function of the virtue of mercy suggests, we need to have compassion for those who experience this shortage. However, we should not volunteer ourselves for priesthood or religious life just because we feel pity for the situation. The virtue of mercy should motivate us to try to help remove this lack of vocations. If we have the call, then the virtue of mercy would motivate us to answer the call sincerely. If we do not have the call, then we would be motivated to promote vocations rather than ‘sacrifice’ ourselves.
While we can say that the priestly vocation (or any vocation, even marriage for that matter) requires a certain amount of sacrifice, it is primarily the sacrifice of our wills to the will of God. All other things that we give up, like an exclusive relationship with someone and a family, are not really sacrifices if we see them as choosing what God knows is best for us.
Even if we are not sure yet if God is calling us, we need to have that habit or virtue of mercy to help others in need. When we are in need, especially the need to know whether we have a call, then God would show us his mercy and indicate to us his loving plan.