Age limit on vocation discernment

I’ve been perplexed why there’s an age limit (which seems quite young) for lay people to discern a vocation? What if God was calling and I missed it? Then what? :confused: I’m reaching the age limit for joining certain congregations and almost feel rushed to discern. However there’s just too much chaos in my life now for me to think properly. :hypno:

The older we get, the harder it is to adapt to a new lifestyle. At the abbey I’m an oblate of, the limit is 45 but sometimes, rarely, an exception is made. Even if over the limit, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The reason really is to facilitate adapting to religious life.

Another reason, in addition to the “adjustment” one, is that at a time when many communities already have aging memberships, they often cannot afford to take members who may have only a few years left in their working lives, and who may have more medical issues than younger people. While this is not universal, I have actually heard people speculate about how nice it would be to “retire” to a convent. That is not what religious life is all about.

In addition to what was mentioned above, it takes time for one to acquire their vocation. I am an Aspirant who has been discerning the diaconate for four years. Myself and nine of my brothers started with two years of discernment while completing the preliminary courses and interviews needed for acceptance to becoming Aspirants. We have completed two years of classes and another round of discernment and interviews, and next weekend we become Candidates. We will have three more years of classes and discernment. That will be a total of seven years of discernment before any of us are ordained. If there was not an age limit, it is possible that by the time they are ordained one could be too old to be of any real service to the diocese. Vocations are a huge commitment by both the diocese and by the individual, for which there must be some benefit realized by both.


It all recall depends on the congregation of diocese which you’re seeking to join. Congregations seem to have lower age limits than dioceses for some reason - possibly because of the likely difficulties in adapting to community life. However, I’m also aware on one US dioceses which has an age limit of about 50 (although the John XIII national seminary accepts applicants up to the age of 60). The difficulty I see with this is that it excludes candidates with valuable life experience (including widowers) in favour of younger, less experienced candidates. While there obviously needs to be an age limit there equally needs to be recognition that calls people at different times in their lives. What I would advise is that you should first of all discern (with the help of a spiritual director) what sort of congregation you feel called to and then make enquires after doing some research into likely options. I appreciate that when you’re working it’s hard to find time for yourself, so this would probably be best done during the course of an eight day retreat (or longer).

Look up the Franciscan Brothers/Sisters Minor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They are a new and flourishing community, and they have no age limits. This is a great article by the founder of the community which explains why thinking older people have a harder time to adjust to religious life is complete BS:

That is so true I volunteered at a Catholic retirement residence here in Dallas staffed by the Bethlemite Sisters in the nineties. One day when the superior and I were running errands we were talking and she was telling me that the cut off age was 30 and it makes since because most people are pretty set in their ways at that age I know i was and still am.I really grew to love the sisters especially the superior and another sister who passed last July at the age of 92 The superior that told me about the cut off age never tried to get me to join which I appreciated. She recently stepped down to second in command at the retirement residence
but when I went to visit for Mother’s day the new superior welcomed me with open arms and told me that I was always welcome The former superior stepped down because of her age she is nearing 80 now.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble. I will post my website here that has lists of religious communities that are more forgiving of the age issue:

I heard the I.V.E. order accepts older people.

it takes time for one to acquire their vocation.

This is probably untrue, depending upon how you mean it. In the first place, we all have the vocation to holiness. This is the sense in which vocare is used in the New Testament. So what would “acquiring” this mean? If you mean, simply, it takes us a long time (indeed, a life time) to realize (in the philosophical sense - not just intellectual awareness) our vocation, then sure - but we can only realize it by living it out.

I’ve been perplexed why there’s an age limit (which seems quite young) for lay people to discern a vocation? What if God was calling and I missed it? Then what?

Don’t be anxious. You can’t miss it. God has called everyone to holiness - the most expedient means of this call is the religious life. I can understand some of the economic concerns of religious orders in taking older candidates, but their cut-off ages are so low that I can’t help but think it’s something else. Read about the ancient and Medieval Church and you find tons of “late vocations” - guys who would never be accepted today (St. Augustine is a prime example). I think there’s just a bad theology in the air concerning religious vocations and its ramifications are myriad. Pray that the Church recovers right thinking on this and many other topics.

In the middle ages it was not uncommon for people to do what Pope Emertrius Benedict VI did and move into a monastery after ther spouse dies.

The primary reason for an age limit is health care cost. As we age health care cost sky rocket. Retirement for religious is already severely under funded and they don’t want “just” 20 years out of someone and then have to provide for their retirement. Same reason why they don’t take young people with student debt or medical conditions that might cost $s. A soul at 40 or 45 is no less valuable in God’s eyes and it may not speak well of charity but the orders don’t want $ debt or cost-same thing in regard to regular jobs-not too many companies want to hire a 50 year old and give them a pension and health care cost

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