Discernment: How do you know that you are called to religious life? You might get some answers to that question by asking a couple of other question: How do you know what career to pursue in college? How do you know to date such and such a person or terminate the dating relationship, not pursuing marriage?
The answers are: 1) you sense the direction to take career-wise by listening to an inner voice. You choose according to your preferences, your likes, your dreams, your talents. You choose according to what energizes you. 2) You hear yourself say “Yes! That’s it!” 3) Then, you take steps to move in that direction. 4) If the choices you make confirm your decision, you continue pursuing your dreams and making them a reality or you change careers.
Religious life: 1) an inner voice directs you to look into religious life as a vocational option, 2) your research confirms your decision, 3) when you find the right community, you and the community says: “Yes, this is it. Let’s proceed with the application process”, 4) through the process, you and the community come to the decision to accept you into the postulancy: the first stage of training to become a member of that religious community ,5) during postulancy, you and the community continue to believe that you are called to religious life within this particular community—or you and the community come to realize that a) you are not called to religious life or b) you are called to religious life but in a different community (for instance, a Dominican community instead of a Franciscan one).