Advice on discerning religious/marriage vocation


#1

Hello, I am currently 19 years old and am a freshman in college. I have just started discerning my vocation in August this year.
I will try to make my background story as concise as possible(which will be tough..):

I've been in a relationship with my boyfriend for almost three years now. I have to be honest and say that we have not been in a holy and chaste relationship.
But well, in August, I felt myself slowly changing...my perspectives regarding relationships, marriages, life, faith, religion...everything was changing. My desire to be holy immensely grew; not to say, my hidden desires for chastity, purity, simplicity(well, I've always been simple in nature) abruptly uncovered themselves-my desire for every aspect of holiness skyrocketed, pretty much. And I knew that these were all gifts and graces given to me by God..
Then I suddenly felt as if perhaps God was calling me to a religious life. Why? Mainly because of how I changed so quickly, and because of my new arising desires and perspectives. It was as if God had molded me into a person that would be fit to live in a religious life as a nun. Well, that's how I saw it, so I thought that I was being called.
For the past months, I have been struggling..so much. Especially because of my fears for entering a religious life. It was all so unreal..I never even knew a person could discern his/her vocation. I never knew God had a will for each and all of us. Is God really calling me to the religious life? I feared and resisted.
And because I was so broken and fearful, I prayed more than ever before. I also attended Adoration and daily masses whenever I was able to(prior to this happening, I would not consider myself a faithful Catholic who constantly prayed). I grew closer to God. I became so much more spiritual and faithful. I started to trust in God more-trusting in Him in taking care of the people I love if I ever do leave everything and everyone behind to become a nun(one of my biggest fear for entering a religious was leaving the people I love). Now, I am also learning to trust in His will for me bringing me the utmost joy and peace.
I went to a discernment retreat last week and since then, surprisingly and strangely, this new feeling of really being called to a marriage life appeared. Well actually, I've always been torn between a marriage and religious life regarding God's will for me. But this time, I felt even more called to a marriage life(after many Ignation contemplations and meditations at the retreat). My vocation would not just to be married, but to raise my children in faith..to raise a holy family.

So here are my problems:

1) I know that I should detach from everything in order to properly discern, but I am still with my boyfriend, who is Buddhist. Ever since I've changed and became more spiritual and faithful to Catholicism, I've been feeling a growing separation between us. In the beginning, before all of this happened...it was always in my intentions to marry him. But now that we are so different and there is a lack of a spiritual connection between us(something that is so essential in my relationship now..if I'm called to marry), it is harder to see a future with him. I have been very honest to him regarding my discernment process. He has been through so much struggle in order to be with me and yet I know that he will never give up. He even said that he'd convert for me and allow our future children to be Catholic(some things that he did not intend to do before).
But the thing is..I've been feeling for months now that I should let him go....as if perhaps it is not God's will for me to marry this guy... but what if I can convert him to Catholicism? Do I stay with him in hopes that he will convert and become as faithful and spiritual as me? I just can't seem to let go of someone that has so much love for me...it is very hard of me to let go even though I know that I should. But what if I'm called to marry him and convert him?

2) Doesn't it seem like God is calling me to a religious life? Like..He is setting this all up so that I can become a person strong enough and well equipped to live a religious life? That's what I always..always thought. But after my discernment retreat...after being even more aware of my deeper self, I suddenly feel even more drawn to a marriage life. And as of right now, I know that living a marriage life will bring me this joy that living a religious life cannot.

I'm terribly sorry for not being able to keep my post short. :(
Thank you for taking your time to read this.
God bless.


#2

Congratulations on embracing your Catholic faith! There is rejoicing in heaven! :extrahappy:

The only advice I have ever seen given about "missionary" dating/marriage is: don't.

It can seem like a nice idea, to dedicate your life and person in the hopes that someone will convert. But when you think about it, you are predicating your entire relationship/marriage on the hope that something fundamental about the other person will change. It's hard for me to imagine this creating the stability necessary to raise a holy family, as you rightly desire.

I would also discern the nature of your boyfriend's willingness to convert. Real conversion is not a matter of RCIA and baptism, it is a matter of one's honest beliefs. If you are called to marry, you would need a real Catholic as your husband. Is he really interested in Catholicism, or is he more interested in keeping you?

Now we here at CAF cannot know your situation like a counselor can, so don't take what we say on personal matters as the final word. However, we can offer good advice (many on here have experience to speak from) to be considered prayerfully.

God bless you and welcome home! :thumbsup:


#3

Hi! Do you have a spiritual director? If not you might want to engage one or discuss your situation with a priest. Good luc
k and may God continue to bless you!


#4

Dear simplemiss,

I truly admire you, opening your eyes and heart to God's will. I would suggest that you concentrate on yourself right now and God's will for you.

Your boyfriend must discern for himself alone. You cannot help him. If the Holy Spirit is calling him to the one true Faith, then it is up to him alone to answer or not. But his conversion of heart cannot be based upon you staying with him and maintaining the status quo in your relationship as it has been for the last three years.

Why not take a complete break from the boyfriend for an predetermined extended time (no contact/talking/texting) in order to create a neutral environment for you to recognize what is truly right for you? It sounds like he could be distracting and/or influencing you and your discernment for religious/marriage. If he loves you and is planning long term to share the rest of his life with you in a holy sacramental marriage as a Catholic, then he will respect you, wait and give you space to make the right decision. You deserve a husband who is 300% committed to you and vice versa.

After reading your post again. I think that you are doing a great job already. Focus on the Lord. He truly loves you and he will reveal to you how he is calling you. Take your time. Be patient and have faith. Talk to your priest. This whole process will open your eyes to what you really want. (Religious life, or Marriage by recognizing the qualities in a husband and father who can share all aspects of your physical and spiritual life) And finally, think about this.......maybe by taking time for yourself in a neutral environment, He will lead you into completely new opportunities that you do not see now! God bless you.:thumbsup:


#5

Hello everyone.
I sincerely thank you all for taking your time to respond to my post. :)

Yes, I forgot to mention that I do have a spiritual director. I have been meeting with her ever since my "Come and See" visit at a convent in September.

Regarding my boyfriend's conversion...I know that as of right now, he is only willing to convert because he wants to be with me. And knowing this, I do not feel very comfortable because I'd want his conversion to be based on his sincerity and wholeheartedness to be a Catholic and to learn to love God..not based on me and only me. I do not want to change him, I want him to choose to change for himself and God. Based on the person I know he is, it is hard to predict whether he will be a faithful Catholic like me. He is the type of person that needs concrete and logical facts to support his beliefs. And that is rather contrary to what faith is all about. But I also want to have faith in him..
But yes, I will open to him about the idea of him discerning whether he is called to the Catholic Faith. I have never thought about that.
There were a couple of failed attempts when we tried to separate for my discernment..but I am more determined now to figure God's will, so I think I will implement this break in our relationship.

And regarding my discernment, I'd like to add that in the beginning, I had felt as if something was missing in life...even though I was fully aware of my blessings and how much I already have. This emptiness was actually the first cause as to why I felt called to a religious life-that perhaps, I had desires and pursuits for things that does not belong to this earth, but for those of which that belongs to Heaven and God.
I was scared that nothing in this world would fulfill me in this spiritual way. And being in a relationship that lacked a spiritual connection, I was also afraid that no one could fulfill me in this sense.

But I do not feel this vacancy anymore. A part of it may be because I've found my first friend who I can spiritually connect with(it is very hard to find friends that are of great Faith), as he is discerning a religious life like I am. But mainly, it is because I have learned to completely accept God in my life-to invite Him into every aspect of my life. It sure is of great joy. :)


#6

My background (I think it may help give credence):

I am 22, and for a good while was discerning the priesthood. Partly because I had always given it thought, partly because I was coming off a relationship (not exactly the most chaste, we'll say) of 3.5 years with an atheist. For the past year, I have found myself in a relationship with a wonderful Catholic girl. While the priesthood is still a possibility, at this point marriage seems to be the more likely course that God has given me. Either way, I am happy to do His will.

[quote="simplemiss, post:5, topic:309700"]

Regarding my boyfriend's conversion...I know that as of right now, he is only willing to convert because he wants to be with me.

[/quote]

Stop. That, right there, is reason enough to break with him. Religion is a personal thing, and to break from one to another simply for staying with another is ludicrous.

[quote="simplemiss, post:5, topic:309700"]

And regarding my discernment, I'd like to add that in the beginning, I had felt as if something was missing in life...even though I was fully aware of my blessings and how much I already have. This emptiness was actually the first cause as to why I felt called to a religious life-that perhaps, I had desires and pursuits for things that does not belong to this earth, but for those of which that belongs to Heaven and God.
I was scared that nothing in this world would fulfill me in this spiritual way. And being in a relationship that lacked a spiritual connection, I was also afraid that no one could fulfill me in this sense.

[/quote]

I know that feeling well, for the same reasons.

[quote="simplemiss, post:5, topic:309700"]

But I do not feel this vacancy anymore. A part of it may be because I've found my first friend who I can spiritually connect with(it is very hard to find friends that are of great Faith), as he is discerning a religious life like I am. But mainly, it is because I have learned to completely accept God in my life-to invite Him into every aspect of my life. It sure is of great joy. :)

[/quote]

Reading between the lines (perhaps erroneously), do you perhaps feel that a relationship with your new friend would be possible? He's brought something into your life that you've (rightly) felt missing for quite some time.


#7

Dear Lamentation,

I have a couple of questions: did you have a desire to be a priest? To carry out the duties of a priest? Because as for me, there are certainly times when I find myself wanting to serve God's people by living a religious life-that's why I am thinking about the religious life. I do have desires that can only be fulfilled if I live a religious life. But then again, I also have desires that can only be fulfilled if I live a married life.
Either way, I know I'll have to make sacrifices to follow God. Just still trying to figure out what my deepest, inner desires are.

I have actually talked to my boyfriend about the break between us. We are going to have some time off for ourselves-for him to figure whether or not his conversion will be of heart, and for me to discern.

And regarding my spiritual friend, well, we have actually known each other for say..more than ten years because we've been at the same parish. We've never been close friends-mostly only saw each other on weekends at our Bible studies.
It wasn't until the beginning of my discernment that we started to become close friends. At the time, I felt so lonely for I did not know who to talk to about my discernment process..But I kept on getting this strong "feeling" that perhaps I should share what I've been going through with him, even though we were not close of friends. And surely enough, I found out that he was discerning the religious life too. Yes, seemed as if God had brought us to each other to help each other out with our discernment. :)
I have to admit, I have attractions for him(mostly in a spiritual way). Yes, I was very honest to my boyfriend about this. But he understands that attractions are just a normal part of our human nature..now, I am trying to suppress these attractions by not talking to him as much.

But I am not intending to be in a relationship with him because:

1) We are both discerning our vocations. I think being in relationships would distract us both. I will be implementing my break with my boyfriend soon to discern properly and better..so I don't see myself getting into any relationships nor initiating them at this time. Also, I still love my boyfriend very much. It would undoubtedly take time for me to move on(if I'm called to pursue a marriage life).
And mostly, I do not ever want to be a distraction for him if he IS called to the priesthood.

2) Well, quite frankly, I think I am not more than just a spiritual friend to him.

3)We go to different colleges and he has just recently moved to another state(don't know if a long-distance relationship would work).

Yes, I am or was in quite a mess. I hope I don't sound too dramatic and complicated of a person. :(


Discerning and dating someone special you found?
#8

I love questions. :smiley:

Yes, and I still do from time to time (which is why I haven’t entirely discounted the possibility yet :shrug: ). I attended a school run by a religious congregation, and had quite a bit of experience socializing with them. I felt like I would belong rather well in their community, actually. Yet, when the vocations director came around (on business, not because of me), I felt very strongly that it wasn’t the right time to commit to anything. Believe me, I certainly felt I was ready to commit before that encounter, but it was a very strange “not yet” feeling.

Yes. I have always been the “rock” in my family who kinda listens to everyone and the such, the same in school. I feel that I am rather knowledgeable of some of the finer points of Catholicism (though I know I’m not always right, of course), and I feel that I could enter into a person’s final moments without it affecting me adversely.

…but I also know that I am not the most sociable of people, which for a large contingent of the priesthood is required. Also, accepting others is the hardest part of being Catholic, I find (although I am improving); which is why I felt I would need a community to help keep me from burning out and becoming too cynical.

Sometimes, dating can be both a distraction and a method of discernment for celibate life. A good example would be a friend of mine, who happens to be a home-schooled freshman who has never had a first kiss, let alone a date. He believes that it would better for him to enter into the priesthood, when in fact I feel he really should get to know the contemporary community a little bit better; but I digress…

Fair enough. I didn’t realize you were already friends before that… It’s kinda hard to date friends, and is discouraged for a variety of reasons.

Not at all… The discernment process can certainly leave you wondering about a lot. :o


#9

If anyone still happens to stumble upon this post..
Just wanted to say that I finally mustered enough strength and faith to break up with my Buddhist boyfriend whom I've been with for almost three years. I cannot avoid this sense of "knowing" that it will be better for the both of us if we were to not marry one another...I "know" that God is not calling me to be with him. It is very tough, but I am enduring with Christ by my side.

Whether it be that I am to become a nun or a spiritual mother/wife, I am ready for God's will.


#10

Just wanted to say that I bet it’s rough, but I think that little sense that keeps niggling at you is probably a good thing. I wish you all the best, and strength to follow Christ and God’s call. :slight_smile:


#11

Simple Miss,

I just stumbled upon this post, and wanted to say: Awesome! I'm so proud of you and happy for you. As I read the different thoughts, I realized that no one had given you the signs that you might be called to religious life, and I thought I'd add that as my little contribution to your on-going discernment:

6 signs you might be called to religious life:

[LIST=1]
*]Heroic Spirit: desire to do great things for God, to live for a higher purpose
*]Dissatisfaction with (the thought of) married life/dating: Yes, it's nice in the moment, but afterwards there is this sense of something being "wrong." It has also been described as your heart being chained, imprisoned, or too big to fit
*]Deep prayer: satisfying your heart and emotions so that you could say, "God/Jesus alone is enough for me."
*]Spiritual Sensitivity: deep joy or love connected to physical manifestations of the faith: Mass, confession, chant, incense, candles, churches, art, music, philosophy, theology, Scripture, Church Fathers, pope, etc.
*]Love for Apostolate: material, spiritual, or mixed, but especially spiritual apostolate because many laypeople also desire to practice material charity
*]Concrete Attraction to a specific form of religious life
[/LIST]

Now while these may be helpful, none of them are conclusive that you have a religious vocation. The ONLY sign that you have a vocation is:

[LIST]lasting peace of heart in a religious community no matter what happens
[/LIST]

The nice thing about the first 6 is you can check on those before you visit. The last one requires some experience.

I hope this helps. You will be in my prayers.

God bless,

Fr. Scott Kallal, AVI


#12

Dear skallal,

I want to personally thank you so much for this. I am sure anyone reading this thread can use this concrete list of things to consider in determining a religious vocation. I would suggest to simplemiss and anyone else to pray and meditate over each of your 6 points and let the Lord speak to her/him.

Concerning the last point, it called to mind something that a friend of mine who is a Cistercian monk once said to me upon entering into the Church. He said, "You will see....It will give you an inner joy!" I think that it could also be that way with a vocation.

:)


#13

Exactly hmgbrd! May God continue to bless you on your journey…


#14

This might help you out too! :)

Discernment


#15

Hello! This is my first post. I am very afraid . My whole life I have wanted nothing more than to get married and have children. I still do. I come from a very religious family. I have been close to God for most of my life. About 6 years ago when I was 19 I met a man who verbally and emotionally abused for about 5 years. I still stayed with despite all this and continued to pray for him in knowing that God would change him. The same way St.Monica prayed for her son. He spoke with a priest who forever changed him. It has been almost one year and he is no longer abusive and an incredibly wonderful man who I want to marry. He brings me closer to God and continues to build his relationship with God. About 6 months ago we went to confession together. In the confession room the priest told that he thought I should think about becoming a nun. I do not want to become a nun. I want to get married and have children. I have always wanted nothing more. After that day my relationship with God has become so bad bc i am afraid he will not let me be happy unless I become a nun. I used to go to adoration frequently but do not find myself going anymore. I don't want to be close to God or to trust his judgement bc I so badly do not want to become a nun. Not being close to God has left me very depressed and unhappy. I take this unhappiness out on my boyfriend who doesn't deserve it. I do not want to become a nun at all and this is hurting me a lot. Some one help please.


#16

First of all, to*** Simplemiss***:

It is probably for the best that you ended your relationship with your Buddhist (ex)boyfriend. The more you grow in the faith, the less you would be able to tolerate his beliefs.
I loved your post because I had a similar issue this summer after I converted (in my heart) to Catholicism!
I am engaged to a wonderful Catholic man, but I felt called to something more... the religious life. I prayed about it and talked to some religious; God answered my prayers in a quiet yet humorous way! Kind of a long story.
One thing I discovered during that discernment process is that, to be quite frank, sometimes marriage is the tougher path! Not only are you obliged to submit to the will of God, but you are also obliged to give yourself fully to your husband and your children!
If a woman (or a man) can do this faithfully, then imagine how rewarded they would be in heaven. Think of how many lives they can help improve on earth, if they accept their burdens with a spirit of joy!
I don't know if this will help you any since you have already broken up with your boyfriend, but maybe it will help you in case you find a nice Catholic guy. ;)

Therese Grace:
The priest cannot discern your vocation for you! You must pray to God and listen to him in your heart and also in outward signs! Ask for the intercession of St. Lucy Filippini, pray pray pray.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Filippini

Do not let this priest's suggestion ruin your relationship with God. Only you can know what you are called to.
Find a different church if you have to.
Talk to your boyfriend about your grievance - if he has grown in the faith then I am sure he can help you as well. And pray for you!
Also consider the fact that nuns are mothers in their own right. They care for everyone! All the orphaned babies, the lost, the broken, the hungry.
But if you truly are 100% sure you don't want to be a nun, then don't be one! Do not let the devil deceive you into believing that God doesn't love you and your special calling to be a mother.
Mothers are extremely important - they are the main force in raising the next generation to be Godly people!
I hope this helps you some.


#17

Thank you so much. My boyfriend does know and he does pray for me. Your words are very comforting. When I first spoke with my dad he said the same thing. God wouldn't force you to anything knowing it wasn't what you wanted and that it would make you unhappy. Today I had a rough day. But I have decided that I need to strengthen my relationship with God once again and not let the devil deceive me. Thank you for your words. It means a lot.


#18

I want to say thank you to you all for your thoughts, inputs, and discernment advice. I sincerely appreciate them very much.
Sometimes, I still struggle with freeing my heart from my own desires and wills-especially my desire for marriage..But I know that it will take a lot of prayers, and a deeper and more intimate relationship with God for me to completely surrender my whole self to Him. So I am still working on this :)

Therese Grace,
If the thought of becoming a nun makes you go through moments of such desolation, then maybe it is really not God's will for you?
This is from the discernment link that lynnanine posted on this post:
"So while some may be afraid of getting too close to God because they think He’ll make them do something they don’t want to do, the truth is that God is the good shepherd who brings you to green pastures and only asks you to do what is going to bring you more joy than you could ever have on your own."
But for now, I do pray that you will rekindle your relationship with God. I hope everything will be better for you.


#19

Where I cannot fully empathize with your situation, I can understand the question of which vocation has God called me to? What I have come to see is my vocation at this time is that of single life. While I feel the pull to learn more and more about my love, my God, I also have a strong desire for a husband, a family. I understand that for the time being I am to carry the vocation of single life with grace, taking charity to the world around me,while guarding my chastity jealously.

Single life is a beautiful thing it allows one to find who they are from their own eyes as well as from the eyes of God. I have been single all my life, never once have I had a boyfriend or anything close. In the end if God has called me to the life-long vocation of singleness I am at peace with it, I will with joy serve the people of my community, and my parish, and do so with a love that comes from Christ through me.

May God give us both peace as we make this journey, and may we see the perfection in it’s ultimate end.

God bless


#20

I quickly breezed through the posts on this thread and I must admit that a similar situation has happened to me. The process continues to unfold and I'm not quire sure if I am called to the single apostolic life, married life or religious life.

Past November, my fiancee of 11.5 years decided to break off the relationship. As like SimpleMiss described, we grew separate and I don't think our values of faith were going in the same direction (he was lukewarm Catholic).

I know now, more than ever, I would like to marry someone who is an active participant of the Catholic faith; who loves, cherishes and is compassionate with me; who upholds to the morals of a holy family, marriage and commitment; and has God as the focal point of our relationship.

I'm still healing and as each day unfolds, I discover more and more what God wills in my life. Sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm sad, sometimes I question God, sometimes I'm mad. I just know that God has this huge plan before me and whether it is my calling to a religious life or single/married life, then I'll embrace it with open arms.

One thing I also found quite difficult was trying to talk to others about this discernment process. When I say "others" I'm referring to family and friends who are caught up in the secular lifestyle. Most of my closer friends and friends at Church have been very supportive through the process, but I've found some to question my deep relationship with the Lord.

I know I'm rambling - I'm sorry. I wish you the best in your discernment and please feel free to chat with me if you'd like to bounce off your thoughts because it can be overwhelming sometimes.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.