Are vocations determinate?


#1

People seem to talk about vocations as if they are determinate, i.e., God has a will for you and it's to be this one thing in life (either a priest or religious or a spouse or celibate, etc.).

I haven't really understood vocations that way; rather as a kind of skillset or disposition that naturally predisposes you to a certain life, and God's will being more analogous to a game plan (i.e., flexible, fluid, constantly adapting to the circumstances) rather than a blueprint (everything must be this one way or else it all falls apart).

But perhaps I'm wrong about this, so some clarification might be in order. What does it mean to have a vocation? Since (if the "blueprint" understanding is right) it is possible to choose the "wrong" vocation and these decisions are largely irreversible, what does it mean to have chosen the wrong vocation?

I ask all this because I'm discerning a little more heavily now. I have felt called to marriage since I was a much younger man (i.e., not long after I hit puberty!) but the feeling of being called to the priesthood is more recent. Then again, I only just decided to become a Catholic less than a year ago. In the past few months I've had approximately two dozen people tell me I ought to be in seminary, including two priests and a seminarian, which is enough to raise red flags in my mind that, hey, perhaps I ought to be in seminary. On the other hand, I have a temperament that I think makes me ill-suited for both the priesthood and the religious life. On the (third) hand, it's often said other people know you better than you know yourself. So... eesh.


#2

Tell us more about your unsuitable temperament:D Sounds interesting!

It's a good question:

One I've questioned for myself. I'm married with kids, but was in a religious order. Did I bury my vocation to get married?

On the other hand I have 3 wonderful kids, who would not have lived if I had not got married, so when I look at them I don't feel guilty.

So in discerning for the diaconate I ask myself, is this guilt and regret pointing me towards the diaconate, or my "real" real vocation along with being married and parenthood? Or... the most appropriate given my gifts, talents, training and married lifestyle?

If there was a computer program and you could just plug in your responses it would be easy.

Unfortunately it's not so simple: vocations are about being called and responding. So how well I listen and how honestly or wholeheartedly I respond affects the outcome.

But I'm sure your temperament is fine for the priesthood, unless you have a personality disorder (and though I've disagreed with some of your posts I don't think you have a personality disorder - it's merely that you're wrong on the internet;) :p).


#3

[quote="sw85, post:1, topic:285756"]

I ask all this because I'm discerning a little more heavily now. I have felt called to marriage since I was a much younger man (i.e., not long after I hit puberty!) but the feeling of being called to the priesthood is more recent. Then again, I only just decided to become a Catholic less than a year ago. In the past few months I've had approximately two dozen people tell me I ought to be in seminary, including two priests and a seminarian, which is enough to raise red flags in my mind that, hey, perhaps I ought to be in seminary. On the other hand, I have a temperament that I think makes me ill-suited for both the priesthood and the religious life. On the (third) hand, it's often said other people know you better than you know yourself. So... eesh.

[/quote]

Trust yourself. And, after you have been married for a while, you and your wife might want to discuss you entering the permanent Deaconate. (I probably said that wrong.)

If you are not yet Catholic, you can always become an Anglican priest, and then convert if you wish and keep your wife. But I think you'd like being a Deacon, myself. There's a thread around here someplace about it, you might chat with some of the men in it.


#4

Hey, I found the thread!

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=678350

People don't know how cool being a Deacon is, you probably don't what with being newish to the Faith. Also, there might be a professorship of Catholic theology in your future!

Listen to the voice of the spirit in yourself and trust God to lead you and trust your own hearing.

God bless and, I hope, welcome Home.


#5

[quote="Julia_Mae, post:3, topic:285756"]
Trust yourself. And, after you have been married for a while, you and your wife might want to discuss you entering the permanent Deaconate. (I probably said that wrong.)

If you are not yet Catholic, you can always become an Anglican priest, and then convert if you wish and keep your wife. But I think you'd like being a Deacon, myself. There's a thread around here someplace about it, you might chat with some of the men in it.

[/quote]

I thought of that! But you can't - it's considered apostasy and is grounds for being denied Holy Orders! You can become a Maronite however!;)


#6

[quote="sw85, post:1, topic:285756"]
People seem to talk about vocations as if they are determinate, i.e., God has a will for you and it's to be this one thing in life (either a priest or religious or a spouse or celibate, etc.).

I haven't really understood vocations that way; rather as a kind of skillset or disposition that naturally predisposes you to a certain life, and God's will being more analogous to a game plan (i.e., flexible, fluid, constantly adapting to the circumstances) rather than a blueprint (everything must be this one way or else it all falls apart).

But perhaps I'm wrong about this, so some clarification might be in order. What does it mean to have a vocation? Since (if the "blueprint" understanding is right) it is possible to choose the "wrong" vocation and these decisions are largely irreversible, what does it mean to have chosen the wrong vocation?

[/quote]

God has created every person with a specific vocation in mind, and gave them the skills and abilities to do this vocation.

Choosing the right vocation therefore means you are doing what you were created to be, so you will do the best in that vocation and will have the most joy.

It is possible to pick the wrong vocation, and it means you won't reach the full potential you were created for.

It's hard to talk about what form that takes because every vocation has a very unique history.

[quote="sw85, post:1, topic:285756"]
I ask all this because I'm discerning a little more heavily now. I have felt called to marriage since I was a much younger man (i.e., not long after I hit puberty!) but the feeling of being called to the priesthood is more recent. Then again, I only just decided to become a Catholic less than a year ago. In the past few months I've had approximately two dozen people tell me I ought to be in seminary, including two priests and a seminarian, which is enough to raise red flags in my mind that, hey, perhaps I ought to be in seminary. On the other hand, I have a temperament that I think makes me ill-suited for both the priesthood and the religious life. On the (third) hand, it's often said other people know you better than you know yourself. So... eesh.

[/quote]

I'd keep it in mind, but it's good when you're a new Catholic to take a few years before making any decision to experience all the different seasons and celebrations a few times.

If you think that priesthood is where God is calling you, then you should pursue it. If you have concerns, then discuss them with the vocation director or your spiritual director. There is an application process that I'm pretty sure doubles as a mini-screening process, so if there is a major issue they will identify it and let you know if it's something you may need to work on or if it does make you ill-suited.

There's also the Seminary itself. It is many years of formation, and the formatters are trained to recognize and address anything that may be problematic or needs to be worked on. I believe the Rector makes a final recommendation to the bishop on whether the seminarian is a good candidate for Holy Orders or not.

Remember, God qualifies the called; He doesn't call the qualified.


#7

[quote="triumphguy, post:2, topic:285756"]
Tell us more about your unsuitable temperament:D Sounds interesting!

[/quote]

Heh. Well, I'm arrogant. I want things done my way. I would rather fight people than compromise with them. I would be a liturgical stickler, demanding that people cease from holding hands during the Our Father and stop the annoying arm-flapping throughout Mass. Lectures during the homily on proper Mass attire would be belligerent and numerous. I would easily see myself clashing with parish councils and winding up causing a ruckus like the Platterville priests. More likely than not I'd be a practicing priest for approximately eight minutes before being promptly exiled to teach at the seminary forever. And Heaven help my diocese if I were ever to be elevated to the episcopacy! Everyone with functional knees under the age of 60 would be kneeling for communion. Much of this comes from a resolution I made long ago not to let people push me around, which has been great for me psychologically (and even socially -- people like aggressive men, for some reason) but is perhaps not compatible with the humility and patience required of a priest.

I think I'd struggle with celibacy too. Not that I'd ever violate it, but that it might be too big of a cross for me to carry and I'd wind up bitterly resenting my ministry and grieving over my lost opportunity for marriage and fatherhood. I've always thought I was meant to be married, and I know it's just horndoggery because I wanted to marry before I even knew what sex was.

That's a pretty comprehensive list of the downsides for me. There's lots of upsides, too -- e.g., I'm a smart cookie, a decent writer/homilist, a good listener, I've a strong concern for the spiritual welfare of others, I already know Latin, philosophy, and theology, etc.

[quote="Julia_Mae, post:3, topic:285756"]
Trust yourself. And, after you have been married for a while, you and your wife might want to discuss you entering the permanent Deaconate. (I probably said that wrong.)

If you are not yet Catholic, you can always become an Anglican priest, and then convert if you wish and keep your wife. But I think you'd like being a Deacon, myself. There's a thread around here someplace about it, you might chat with some of the men in it.

[/quote]

Thank you for your advice, Julia Mae. I've thought about the diaconate before. I think it contains all the elements of the priesthood I would enjoy and excel at without giving me so much power that I could easily abuse it. I'd be an excellent homilist, for instance, but the priest could keep me in line when I go overboard on the theatrics. It's something to consider for sure and talk over with my future wife if I go that route.

I am in fact already baptized and confirmed in the Roman Rite, and I've heard changing rites is amazingly difficult.

[quote="curlycool89, post:6, topic:285756"]
God has created every person with a specific vocation in mind, and gave them the skills and abilities to do this vocation.

Choosing the right vocation therefore means you are doing what you were created to be, so you will do the best in that vocation and will have the most joy.

It is possible to pick the wrong vocation, and it means you won't reach the full potential you were created for.

It's hard to talk about what form that takes because every vocation has a very unique history.

[/quote]

Thanks for your thoughts, curlycool89. This actually corresponds with something I was thinking earlier, hence why I posted this -- that vocation is not in fact a subjective state we will but an objective fact we discover. So what I'm made to be is necessarily what I want to be. Mastering that sort of total self-abandonment to God is surely the work of saints.

On the other hand, surely how I respond to the prospect of priesthood (internal dread and turmoil) is as important and objective a fact as how I respond to the prospect of marriage and fatherhood (internal peace, joy, and gratitude).

[quote="curlycool89, post:6, topic:285756"]
I'd keep it in mind, but it's good when you're a new Catholic to take a few years before making any decision to experience all the different seasons and celebrations a few times.

[/quote]

Sadly, I'm at the age where I need to get on the boat before it leaves the harbor. I turn 27 this year, already several years older than I would've liked to have been by the time I got married. If I wait much longer, I may have no options left but the priesthood!

So whatever I'm called to, I feel like I need to have a relatively solid idea relatively soon. If it doesn't work out for whatever reason, that'll be the evidence I need, a clear indication that I need to go a different way.

[quote="curlycool89, post:6, topic:285756"]
If you think that priesthood is where God is calling you, then you should pursue it. If you have concerns, then discuss them with the vocation director or your spiritual director. There is an application process that I'm pretty sure doubles as a mini-screening process, so if there is a major issue they will identify it and let you know if it's something you may need to work on or if it does make you ill-suited.

[/quote]

It was meeting with my priest earlier today (for what started as simply soliciting advice for an unrelated issue) that got me thinking about this. We talked for about five minutes and he asked if I had considered entering the seminary. Which makes him the sixth or seventh person in the last six months (including our associate priest, one of our deacons, my RCIA sponsor, the RCIA organizer, and our parish's seminarian) who've said I should consider it.

I'm scheduling an appointment with him next week to talk it over with him in more detail, ask about the process, etc.

[quote="curlycool89, post:6, topic:285756"]
Remember, God qualifies the called; He doesn't call the qualified.

[/quote]

Boy, is that something worth remembering!


#8

You are presuming that you wouldn’t change - Maybe a few years in the seminary would change you.

Or perhaps you are called to religious life.


#9

[quote="curlycool89, post:6, topic:285756"]
I'd keep it in mind, but it's good when you're a new Catholic to take a few years before making any decision to experience all the different seasons and celebrations a few times.

[/quote]

(Hey. I'm new to this whole site, but I'm gonna go ahead and jump in here.) I think that's some serious wisdom right there. I'm a recent convert myself, and I've gone through some crazy fluctuations just in the last 9 months, in terms of vocation. I've had weeks where I was sure I was being called to holy orders, weeks where I was sure about marriage and fatherhood, weeks where I was really fired up about the Word, weeks where I was completely weird and dissociated. Obviously the best thing to do is cling to the Church and wait it out. But I wonder if these swings in discernment are something a lot of converts have to bear---like it's part of our formation. Maybe sw85 can relate?


#10

[quote="groceries, post:9, topic:285756"]
I think that's some serious wisdom right there.

[/quote]

Well, I can't take credit for it. It's oft-repeated wisdom, but I'm pretty sure I did at least read it in To Save a Thousand Souls by Fr. Brett Brannen (which is a book about discerning a call to priesthood).

[quote="sw85, post:7, topic:285756"]
Boy, is that something worth remembering!

[/quote]

That one ... I can't really remember where I got that one from, but I think again it's a variety of sources that have repeated it over time. I think I might have first heard it on these forums actually (inevitably it was probably Br. JR, who is a Franciscan brother on these forums under the username JReducation. He always seems to have something to teach us on spirituality).


#11

[quote="sw85, post:7, topic:285756"]
Heh. Well, I'm arrogant. I want things done my way. I would rather fight people than compromise with them.

[/quote]

You realize these are also problematic qualities in husbands, right? :jrbirdman:


#12

I second this advice.

Many of us just need recieve recieve the sacraments and be healed for a few years, and pray, pray, pray.

Remember that we all have a primary vocation to holiness. Holiness is everyone’s first vocation.

-Tim-


#13

[quote="sw85, post:1, topic:285756"]
Then again, I only just decided to become a Catholic less than a year ago. In the past few months I've had approximately two dozen people tell me I ought to be in seminary, including two priests and a seminarian, which is enough to raise red flags in my mind that, hey, perhaps I ought to be in seminary. On the other hand, I have a temperament that I think makes me ill-suited for both the priesthood and the religious life. On the (third) hand, it's often said other people know you better than you know yourself. So... eesh.

[/quote]

Do the people who are making these suggestions know you well?

Speaking also as a convert (3 years ago), I take what people say with a grain of salt. I have had a few people say similar things to me, but these are people who barely know my name, and are probably saying what they're saying because they see me at daily Mass, or active and involved in the parish in some way. And when they find out I'm not married, it's a safe bet what the next comment will be.

My family, on the other hand, all push me toward marriage because they're evangelical protestants who are freaked out by celibacy. Sometimes the suggestions people make tell you more about them than about yourself.

Consider the sources... and keep on praying and spending time in adoration :)


#14

[quote="sw85, post:1, topic:285756"]
People seem to talk about vocations as if they are determinate, i.e., God has a will for you and it's to be this one thing in life (either a priest or religious or a spouse or celibate, etc.).

I ask all this because I'm discerning a little more heavily now. I have felt called to marriage since I was a much younger man (i.e., not long after I hit puberty!) but the feeling of being called to the priesthood is more recent. Then again, I only just decided to become a Catholic less than a year ago. In the past few months I've had approximately two dozen people tell me I ought to be in seminary, including two priests and a seminarian, which is enough to raise red flags in my mind that, hey, perhaps I ought to be in seminary. On the other hand, I have a temperament that I think makes me ill-suited for both the priesthood and the religious life. On the (third) hand, it's often said other people know you better than you know yourself. So... eesh.

I took this out of order as this part of the question perhaps ought to be answerd first.
First welcome to the Church!!! As a new Catholic you will most likely want to spend some time learning about the Church. If you feel a "possible" call to relgious life then by all means speak to your parish priest about it. There is a waiting period for converts before they can enter relgious life but if you are thinking of exploring the idea now would be an ideal time to begin. Just the process of meeting with someone ( A Spiritual Director or Vocation Director for your Diocese) can begin to answer some of the questions you might have. While you are in the waiting period and exploring you will probably receive a clearer indication of wheter or not you feel called to relgious life or the priesthood, and if so in what capacity.. (Trust me if the vocation director thinks you are called to marriage he will not force you to try the relgious life.) A wise priest once told me (in my early days of discerment) to follow my heart as that is where the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us. I would encourage you to pray, ask questions and avail yourself of any helps offered by your diocese. I get a bit long winded so I apologize and hope this helps some. One other thing.. while these boards are an excellent starting point... They can't take the place of "live" people. Blessings on your search !

I haven't really understood vocations that way; rather as a kind of skillset or disposition that naturally predisposes you to a certain life, and God's will being more analogous to a game plan (i.e., flexible, fluid, constantly adapting to the circumstances) rather than a blueprint (everything must be this one way or else it all falls apart).

If we try to follow Gods will there is no "wrong" vocation. There may be a time when we might think we could have made a better choice. What I mean by that is that yes God calls us to a certain type of life but sometimes we might detour. For instance St Philip Neri, he wanted to be a Jesuit, studied, then spent 14 years (or so) working as a layman with the Poor. It was after his spiritual director encouraged him to become a priest that he finally did. So in this example he tried a vocation as a layperson before deciding on the priesthood. In other words no "things don't need to be only one way" or they fall apart... You might say God writes straight with crooked lines.
Other saints have felt a call to the priesthood then ended up with holy family lives (such as St Therese of Lieseux' father. Or Saint Rita wanted to be a Nun then due to the times she lived in she married and later became a Nun. (hope this helps)

But perhaps I'm wrong about this, so some clarification might be in order. What does it mean to have a vocation? Since (if the "blueprint" understanding is right) it is possible to choose the "wrong" vocation and these decisions are largely irreversible, what does it mean to have chosen the wrong vocation?

"Vocation is from the latin "Vocare" or to call.. it can mean to call to religious life or to married life. If you discern with a spiritual director (or Parish Priest)and spend some time in prayer you will most likely have an idea of what you are truely called to do. If you are truely called to relgious life there will be plenty of time for discernment. Likewise if you are actually called to Married life you will have time also. Let the Holy Spirit lead you.

Happy Pentecost!

Sr Debbie O.S.C.

[/quote]


#15

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