Advice for a frustrated discerning college student?


#1

Hi all, this is my first post on these forums so please bear with my issues.

I'm a junior in college and discerning the priesthood. Before I set out on the road in college, I had determined my road as I'll complete college, 4-5 years if necessary, and while at college I'll finish discerning (I wasn't ready after HS to go straight to seminary) and depending on that decision I would go down the road that was determined. That seemed (and still does seem) reasonable to me and many I've sought advice from.

I set out on a brutally honest assessment of my last few years, and my conclusion is that I'm wasting my time at college. All the positive growth in discernment, and intellectual development are directly caused by my free time (reading, watching/listening, philosophy, theology, history, etc), and not at all because of the classes I've paid thousands of dollars for. The only discernible impact college has had on me is allowing me the time to discern and grow. All the discernment, growth, and intellectual development has occurred in spite of the thousands of dollars for classes, and not at all because of it.

That said, I completely understand that throwing all the money into a degree without finishing it wastes the money. With a business outlook (not from college, from common sense), that seems absurd. 2 more years? To me seems like ages spinning my wheels. It seems like there's something burning in the back of my mind saying time is short, and it's time to fulfill God's desire.

What I've come to as a partial solution is that I'll go to college one more year with a special eye to how college is advancing God's will for me. By "applications season" I'll have to have made my mind up and apply to seminary or continue at college.

I've offered this issue up in prayer to God through Mass, daily prayer and more, but have not received a response...yet.

What would you advise? Is there any other ideas that you might recommend?

Thank you in advance for your wisdom and advice.
Paul in MI


#2

Assuming you are interested in the diocesan priesthood go ahead and talk to the vocations director right now and bring all this up with him. Ultimately, you'll probably be advised to go ahead and finish college, but you'll be in much better position than you seem to be now, where you aren't working with the diocese yet and don't really seem to know what you should do.


#3

Hi

I am also in post-secondary and discerning a religious calling (nun or sister for me).

What advice I have for I offer along wiith prayers:signofcross:.

First off, I think you may need to give God time to put a desire in your heart. Try not to say "By this time...I'll know". You are likely to get to that deadline and choose quickly based on your emotions at the time, instead of waiting patiently for the call to become clear inyour heart. Setting deadlines on discernment also causes stress which makes the mind less quiet and able to listen.

Second, I think if you feel called, take the next step. Seminary is **not **a permanant commitment, and your next step may not even be that. If you want to be a priest, take the next step, and your path will become clearer with prayer. Sometimes, God tells us to pray through our actions and lets us know through them. Have you considered taking some theology courses at your college if offered. Semnarians need them I believe and you may be able to transfer over many credits you already have to a new degree useful in the priesthood.

Hope this helps.

CotL

PS what have you been studying to be, if not a priest? How have you been feeling about that calling? I find as my love of a vocation grows, my longing to have what vocation tells me to give up disappears? has this happened to you?


#4

I wish I would have done a graduate program relating to philosophy or theology and become an advocate for the Church - though not a priest because I am married. Instead, I am floating through law school counting down the time until I can do what I really want to be doing. If you feel the call, you should begin working toward that end. However, you should recognize that working toward that end might mean finishing undergrad.

You should really talk to someone and help with that discernment. I honestly believe that darkness has besieged the Church and God is calling people forward to serve and to fight. I think other people on this forum sense the call, I sense it, and you sense it. Saints are made in times like these.


#5

I am a sophomore in college, and am engaged to be married after I and my fiancee have graduated, though I have had doubts. I perhaps have a useless major/minor combination: Latin major with a dual philosophy and communication studies minor. I have always been a self-learner, so I understand the concept of the uselessness of college, especially in these days of the system.

That being said, I would have to advocate for your staying for your degree. Unless you are tied to an order, or have visited a seminary or monastery, you cannot know for certain of your vocation until you start on the road to its fulfillment - in the case of the priesthood, going to seminary. If you find that the priesthood is not your vocation, then you will need something to fall back on.

I did like your comment in the third paragraph. “Time is short, and it’s time to fulfill God’s desire.” I like it because it is almost typically the response of the devout Modern. Time is short? For whom? Not God. Could it not be your own frustrations with your college experience? I am frustrated in every class that is not Latin. I enjoy philosophy deeply, but I enjoy the application and analysis of it more so than the instruction upon it; same with comm. studies: the application is intriguing, but the theory dry. Not so with Latin. I seek the end of each class that is not Latin - and I think you are doing something similar, if you’d permit me to say so.

Let God work through your college experience - let Him humble you and teach you patience. If you are indeed called to the priesthood, which you most possibly can be (I cannot know beyond what you have said and my own experiences and knowledge), you will need all the humility and all the patience you can gather, for once ordained, the fate of eternal souls rests largely upon your shoulders. Everything a priest does is watched - and rightly so, for the priest is alter Christus, and properly embodies Christ’s Sacred Heart for the world. A priest has more power than anyone to lead a soul to paradise or to damnation. Let God cultivate needed virtues in you, and you, my friend, may become an excellent priest.


#6

[quote="Paul_in_MI, post:1, topic:245929"]
Hi all, this is my first post on these forums so please bear with my issues.

I'm a junior in college and discerning the priesthood. Before I set out on the road in college, I had determined my road as I'll complete college, 4-5 years if necessary, and while at college I'll finish discerning (I wasn't ready after HS to go straight to seminary) and depending on that decision I would go down the road that was determined. That seemed (and still does seem) reasonable to me and many I've sought advice from.

I set out on a brutally honest assessment of my last few years, and my conclusion is that I'm wasting my time at college. All the positive growth in discernment, and intellectual development are directly caused by my free time (reading, watching/listening, philosophy, theology, history, etc), and not at all because of the classes I've paid thousands of dollars for. The only discernible impact college has had on me is allowing me the time to discern and grow. All the discernment, growth, and intellectual development has occurred in spite of the thousands of dollars for classes, and not at all because of it.

That said, I completely understand that throwing all the money into a degree without finishing it wastes the money. With a business outlook (not from college, from common sense), that seems absurd. 2 more years? To me seems like ages spinning my wheels. It seems like there's something burning in the back of my mind saying time is short, and it's time to fulfill God's desire.

What I've come to as a partial solution is that I'll go to college one more year with a special eye to how college is advancing God's will for me. By "applications season" I'll have to have made my mind up and apply to seminary or continue at college.

I've offered this issue up in prayer to God through Mass, daily prayer and more, but have not received a response...yet.

What would you advise? Is there any other ideas that you might recommend?

Thank you in advance for your wisdom and advice.
Paul in MI

[/quote]

What are you studying? What is your major? Others have already given good advice, but if you're going to stay in college at least another year, why not gear your class schedule toward what interests you and what would be helpful for pre-theology (philosophy, history, etc.)?

Speaking with the vocations director is the best immediate course of action, but one way or another, if you're headed toward seminary, you're going to need some preparation from your undergraduate classes. It might involve switching majors or even switching schools, but the education is a must.


#7

I'm currently studying Supply Chain Management (recently changed from Accounting) at Michigan State University. I haven't really liked the way it's done at MSU, because they tend to teach the classes as if the entire class is going to become a professor. Their Accounting department is well known to do everything humanly possible to make all of their students CPAs, even students that don't think the CPA is in their path. There's little grounding in reality, and all is theory. I would much prefer an apprenticeship, but I didn't know that about myself before I went to college. It doesn't seem necessary to get an $80,000 certificate saying the University approves me for the job market, especially when I'm not getting what I desired from the $80,000.

I've taken a few classes from the History department, and it's all about memorization of dates, and not the actual story. I knew pretty much everything in the class anyway (because of my reading of history in my free time), so it was only a waste of time because I just needed the credits. The Philosophy department isn't much better: the prevailing philosophy is not friendly, at least Kantian, maybe Marxist, but generally very illogical and Anti-Catholic. I have a friend who's a philosophy major, what I would call a Kantian agnostic, with whom I've been debating (and received compliments for my arguments). The religious studies department doesn't have that many options within it, and from researching it, I don't think it would help me in my path. Additionally, the FSSP's seminary in NE is very hesitant to accept transfer credits for canonical requirements and also to provide the Church with the best priests possible, which I completely understand.

I visited the FSSP's seminary in NE this last March, and while many had at least a Bachelor's degree, they said that Accounting and Supply Chain skills really won't help at all. Essentially what I got from their additional comments was that the only uses for a bachelor's degree is to be able to have study skills in seminary and to relate with parishioners on a higher level than a hs diploma. It made me think again of how valuable getting a BA really is to me.

I've contacted the diocese's vocation director, and talked with some diocesan priests, and, while impressed, I don't feel called to the diocesan priesthood. There are very few options for me spiritual director-wise, because either the priest is (at the very least, un-traditional and dissenting, at the most) heterodox, or he has too many spiritual directees (because he's a great priest), or he's in another city (an hour away) which presents a transportation problem. I still have to finish my search around the area for a good spiritual director.

When I said

Time is short, and it's time to fulfill God's desire.

I meant time is short for me. I wasn't putting any constraint on God, nor am I a Modernist (can't stand those people!). It's something I can't explain, it's just a kind of push saying 'time is short, and you gotta work on what you are called to.' That's not satisfactory, I know, and it's not satisfactory to me: I want to understand what it means; but maybe it's not for me to understand right now. It's also partly because of what tlimon, said "Saints are made in times like these." I've noticed this message ever since I visited the FSSP seminary in NE this last March.

ZDHayden, I definitely understand how you want to get to Latin class! There's usually one class per semester that's like that, such as Italian class. The instructor is like a mother to the entire class, amazing at teaching, and I really enjoy Italian. My knowledge of Italian and English have definitely supplemented my understanding of Latin, learning some of the conjugations, which is always fun to find when praying the Divine Office!

I will definitely think and pray about if I'm saying "By this time...I'll know," and stop it, and go by God's time. I will say that I have not yet made my mind up, and will not decide until later (in God's time). I'm extraordinarily grateful for your advice to watch out for bad judgments made in haste or by emotion. I'm also very grateful for your keen insight, ZDHayden, regarding humility and patience. Heaven knows that I need that, and it doesn't hurt for God to purify me for His Work. I will definitely work on that and work on those virtues.

I'm very grateful for all of your advice and wisdom. I will work on implementing what I can, and as always, keep praying.
Paul in MI


#8

[quote="Paul_in_MI, post:7, topic:245929"]
I visited the FSSP's seminary in NE this last March, and while many had at least a Bachelor's degree, they said that Accounting and Supply Chain skills really won't help at all. Essentially what I got from their additional comments was that the only uses for a bachelor's degree is to be able to have study skills in seminary and to relate with parishioners on a higher level than a hs diploma. It made me think again of how valuable getting a BA really is to me.

I've contacted the diocese's vocation director, and talked with some diocesan priests, and, while impressed, I don't feel called to the diocesan priesthood. There are very few options for me spiritual director-wise, because either the priest is (at the very least, un-traditional and dissenting, at the most) heterodox, or he has too many spiritual directees (because he's a great priest), or he's in another city (an hour away) which presents a transportation problem. I still have to finish my search around the area for a good spiritual director.

[/quote]

Ah, the situation becomes clearer. Talking to the vocations directors for religious orders will probably continue to shed more light on things. I have investigated orders that are attached to a college or university, and they made it clear that they'd provide me with whatever coursework I needed (I have a BA, but not much philosophy), if I ended up pursuing the priesthood after my initial formation. I know a man who recently entered a monastery near my home, and by the end of his formation (year of novitiate + 3 years as a junior) he could probably be close to a BA if he and the abbot choose that course of action. Currently he has no college experience at all.

Based on everything you've said, I think leaving school makes sense, if you can find something meaningful (and preferably paid) to do while you discern. Most orders, as I understand it, will not take on a postulant/novice who has any outstanding debt. Some make exceptions for student loans, but I suspect there are limits.

Have you ever been on an Ignatian retreat? The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a great way to discern, especially when you're dealing with conflicted thoughts and feelings. One of his most important points is to not make a significant decision in a time of desolation. It sounds like you've done a lot of thinking and praying, but a weekend retreat (if you can swing it) might be a great way to quiet down and sort through everything. The Miles Christi order specializes in the Exercises and they're based in MI :)


#9

I’ll am leaning toward leaving school, but prayer and discernment will decide that for me. God and time will solve that.

I was going to go on an Ignatian Retreat later this summer, but the retreat center they were working at closed down and they’re still looking for a replacement retreat center. It looks like Miles Christi is holding a 2-day Ignatian Retreat later this year at a retreat center 10 minutes away from my house. I’ll definitely look into that! Thank you for the information!
Paul in MI


#10

I suggest reading “The Idea of a University,” by Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Education isn’t simply “job training.” Education is about formation. It’s about embracing and cultivating the God-given gift of intellect, so that we may glorify the Lord with it.

I looked for a spiritual director for about eight years before I found one who worked out (at least I think so, I haven’t had him for very long). God will send someone to you at the right time.


#11

Hi Paul:

I have a different perspective because I am closer to retirement than to my University days.

However, at least once while I was an undergraduate, and once when I was in graduate school, I thought a lot about leaving school.

I am so glad that I stayed in school.

I did not discern my vocation until my last year of graduate studies. Then, I met a person in my current profession and I was certain about my profession within minutes of meeting him.

Until that time, I was grateful that I studied hard to keep my options open, and always went to weekly Mass.

My only other suggestion is to consider adding a “faith affirmation” to your prayer life such as thanking God for making Isaiah 40:2 happen in your life: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight.”

Good luck:

Dedo


#12

[quote="ZDHayden, post:5, topic:245929"]
That being said, I would have to advocate for your staying for your degree. Unless you are tied to an order, or have visited a seminary or monastery, you cannot know for certain of your vocation until you start on the road to its fulfillment - in the case of the priesthood, going to seminary. If you find that the priesthood is not your vocation, then you will need something to fall back on.

[/quote]

I second this. It's what I've heard on retreats I've been on.

There is a bit of a dual reason. First, as ZDHayden said, it's a backup. Maybe you're called to be a priest, maybe you're not, you can never know for sure until/if you're ordained.

The second relates to the first. If you happen to be in the situation where you find that you are not called, then you're going to come out and not have anything to fall back on. The key idea here is about feeling complete freedom. It's funny how that sounds, but here me out. If you've got Supply Chain under your belt and are in Seminary, then you feel no pressure to completely follow God's Will for you whatever it may be. If you're looking at having half a degree and are in Seminary, it puts pressure on your to stay when you may not be called to do that. You can freely discern knowing that God's looking out for you, without fear. You're not going to feel like God has "tricked" or "trapped" you if you later find that it's not where you're called.


#13

I apologize for the delay in my reply. I've been busy with family things.

In addition to the Thanksgiving I give at Mass, I'll add some more specific ways as @dedo suggested.

@curlycool89, that’s a very interesting take. I will definitely give it a lot of thought and prayer. Thank you for the answers.

With regard to a spiritual director, I still haven't gotten to all the priests in the greater area of where my school is, so I'm going to contact some and see what they might be able to do about a meeting. I want to leave the door as wide as possible so God has the most possibility to form me into what He wants me to be.

I suggest reading "The Idea of a University," by Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Education isn't simply "job training."

I have added the book to my long reading list (and bumping it up as far as possible). I'm concurrently reading at least three books right now, with many on the list. While what little I know about the book makes so much sense (that education must have a higher purpose than just downloading information into students, that it's about growth, maturation), I have to say that the experience I've gained at my particular university is entirely far from it. I would be hard pressed to name a professor that cared one bit about their students' growth and maturation (aside from those that want their students to become politically and religiously liberal Communsitic atheists). Maybe it's Providential that in the last week or so that John Stossel (A man whom I hold great respect) wrote an article entitled 'The College Scam,' and Pia de Solenni of the esteemed CatholicVote wrote an article on her own personal experience in answer to Stossel's article, and I can't help but wonder why these came out at the same time (because the topic is not time bound, it could happen at any time during the year, but it happened this past week, while I'm trying to figure out my path).

My original reason for going into college was I wasn’t yet ready to pursue my vocation just after high school, and college also was a great ‘backup’ plan. The way the backup plan has panned out, however, gives me second thoughts. I don’t have the mind for math and the sciences, the liberal arts at my university are in shambles (and are not as the liberal arts were originally meant as, but now the politically liberal arts), and the business college is really my only other option there. That option is a bad one as well. For example, my Accounting professors have proven time and time again that they look down bookkeepers. One said explicitly that he assumed the students in the class weren’t wanting to learn how to take care of the books, but to learn all the ‘higher learning’ that is beyond those simple bookkeepers. Clearly, the way the classes are taught is that the professors assume that all the students will become university professors and all receive PhDs. Additionally, the Accounting department forces all their students to go for the CPA designation (and they don’t tell the students why: to get higher rankings in Newsweek, government subsidies, and pretty much nothing else). I’m not looking to become an Accounting or Supply Chain Management (SCM) professor, or get an Accounting or SCM PhD (I seem to be focusing a lot on Accounting, but only because I just recently changed my major from Accounting to SCM), I’m looking for the skills that will help me support myself and a family (if I was to chose the Vocation of Marriage). I’m looking for reality-based teaching, to keep my feet on the ground and realistic, not some high-minded, in the clouds, cloudy-minded, useless theories. Many of the thoughts and theories that they teach at the business school and economics department have been unequivocally proven false, yet they still teach these theories as the ultimate truth. Were I not careful in reading and teaching myself, I’m sure that I would be lost to their machinations. Had I not read up on the thoughts and theories myself to get an honest assessment of what they posited as Truth, I would have become exactly like them, and I truly fear for those who have not reality-checked what the professors have said.

I’m not trying to say that my only opportunity is with the priesthood (because that would be a grievous error), what I am saying is that it’s a smaller part of the picture. God has given me innumerable thoughts of celebrating the Sacraments, of consoling people, of helping them with their salvation as well as mine, of bringing Christ to the people, and the people to Christ. Those thoughts are always the more pleasant thoughts than any thoughts I’ve had regarding anything offered at college. It also seems the gifts God gave me do not lie in the sphere of business, or anything else offered at any generic university (at least, the quality kind that is necessary). The gifts God gave me, I think, lie in the areas of Philosophy, History, the Church, and not business, math, or the sciences.

Thank you, everyone, for the wisdom and advice!

Paul in MI


#14

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