Broke up to discern - now questioning it

I have dated the same girl for about the last three years. Recently we’ve broken up because I’ve felt like I needed to discern whether I’m called to the priesthood.

However, I’ve begun to think that I didn’t really give the relationship a fair shot. I never really treated dating as ‘discernment’ for marriage - and there’s absolutely no reason I shouldn’t get married to this girl. We broke up solely so that I could discern the priesthood.

I’m sort of wondering if I went about this backwards - if I was so gung-ho about the idea of ‘discerning’ for the priesthood that I forgot that one can discern whether they’re called to marriage. I’m not in any way involved with any formal candidacy or anything, so there’s nothing holding me back from getting back together with her. Part of me thinks we should get back together and perhaps be more serious about the prospect of marriage and figure it out. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t think the priesthood is going anywhere. What would you do?

This seems very similar to my case, except I have not broken up with my girlfriend yet for a number of reasons I won’t go into (they aren’t relevant). I found an Augustinian (I took the name Augustine at my Confirmation) prayer for discernment on the website of some Augustinians in the midwest. Here is a link to the homepage.

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love.

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.

I don’t know how much this relates, but personally a lot of conflict is pressure from loved ones. I’m the only Catholic left in my family (the others were two or more generations ago, or, in my mother’s generation are now in a non-Catholic ecclesiastical community.) I’ve been advised frequently to not go into the priesthood, and I listened and am studying now for professional education. I’m beginning to regret it.

I would advise you to pray. Slow down and listen. Don’t run towards something that isn’t a calling, but don’t run back to something that detracts from a calling either. Remember, if you are called to a religious vocation, there are also monks and deacons. If you feel that marriage is your vocation but also identify with pastoral care, you may look into the diaconate. Your diocese’s webpage should have some information on the diaconate in that diocese.

Hope this helped. Pax Vobiscum

I haven’t heard anything about love here. Are you in love with your girlfriend? I’m guessing not, considering that you still feel drawn to the priesthood. I mean, you say that if it doesn’t work out, the priesthood isn’t going anywhere. It sounds to me like you’re not ready for either at this point. :shrug:

I totally understand what you’re saying. I do love her quite a lot. The priesthood’s requirement of celibacy is not a rejection of love, it’s a sacrifice of it. So feeling a draw to the priesthood doesn’t mean that 1)the romantic love isn’t real or 2) that the calling isn’t real.

The priesthood isn’t going anywhere - just like marriage isn’t going anywhere if I discern that a vocation to the priesthood isn’t for me.

Here’s my two cents coming from someone with 10 years of marriage under his belt:

  1. Marriage is not about some idealistic romantic love. It’s about long-suffering commitment to your beloved and children. There will be ups and downs, true love is in the downs.

  2. Make sure you and your potential spouse agree on these essentials: How to handle money, Religion, kids and relationship with in-laws.

  3. Before you discern marriage it is best to discern what you will do with your life. Have a career at least started and some financial stability before getting married.

  4. If you feel that you are not called to have a secular career and supporting/raising a family, then you might have a religious vocation. Either that or you’re just lazy :wink:

  5. Ask the opinion of others: friends, pastors, family, etc. Sometimes we’re blind to our own gifts.

God bless!

Thanks for your comments!

  1. I don’t see marriage as idealistic or fluffy love. I understand that there are ups and downs.

  2. We’ve already spoken about those sorts of things: she’s not Catholic (but getting there), though she’s entirely open to the idea of raising kids Catholic. We both get along with each other’s parents.

  3. We’re both in grad school and headed towards academic careers.

  4. Whether I get married or become a priest, I see myself in academia.

  5. I have and I certainly will! Thanks again.

I guess you should just pray on it, but I will say that the priesthood is such a HUGE commitment and sacrifice that if you start out with doubts, you could be in trouble. You don’t want to spend your life regretting what might have been with your girlfriend. That being said, is your girlfriend converting? I imagine it would be very difficult for someone of your strong faith to be married to a non-catholic, I would think. Then again, maybe your path is to help her in conversion and raise some Catholic kiddies! That in itself is a calling of great import!

Prayer is definitely on the menu! I realize both marriage and the priesthood are huge commitments with sacrifices appropriate to each.

Realizing that they’re both states of life which need to be discerned is kind of what has me thinking. I would never treat a 2 year novitiate so flippantly, why would I treat 3 years of dating that way? I didn’t realize that I should have been and could have been discerning my vocation while with her - that dating is a period of discernment too.

I agree, but would she be willing to give it another try? Remember to be sensitive to the fact that if she loves you, it may be heartbreaking for her to get back together with you only to end up having you leave her for the priesthood. Try to be fair to her while you attempt to find your own way :slight_smile:

Tatian, a few words if I may:

First, if you have been with her three years and don’t clearly feel God’s call to marriage with her, how many more might it take to convince you in either direction? (This is just meant to get you thinking, rather than to suggest an answer)

Second, becoming a priest is an amazing response to a supernatural call. This allows a man to become the bridegroom of the Church. Good for you for discerning this possibility, even if you should not find God calling you here.

As for the ex, perhaps the breakup was indeed the best thing. Often, after we make a decision, some of us (me, especially) tend to immediately regret it. Sometimes we almost seem like we always want whatever it is we don’t have at that time, but upon receiving it, fear that what we had was better. If this applies to you at all, I recommend taking it to prayer, and spending time in silence with Christ in Eucharistic adoration.

Also keep in mind that although an interfaith marriage can work, we are all primarily called to be saints. That said, in a potential spouse we should look for someone who is going to help us and our children to become saints! This is of prime importance.

Dr. Anthony Buono actually just published a piece on choosing a good woman today:

There are many people with whom we could fall in love and live a happy life. However, there is only one God, one life, and one chance at salvation. That said, always remember that the canonized saints have been human beings, just like us, with similar temptations and choices. Sainthood IS within the realm of possibility for each of us, and is in fact our critical directive!

Strive to grow in Christ, seek him first, and trust that he will lead you closer to him.

Finally, this simple prayer may help:
“Father, I submit to you. Jesus, I trust in you. Spirit, I welcome you. Blessed Mother, lead me to your Son.”

Take time to thoughtfully understand and articulate what you mean in this prayer, and rely on the pillars of the Eucharist, Marian devotion, and faithfulness to the Church, and you can’t go wrong!

Just my humble two cents,


Addendum: I also have some reading recommendations for you.

Discerning the Will of God, by Fr. Tim Gallagher OMV
Be a Man!, by Fr. Larry Richards
To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood by Fr. Brett Brannen


I salute you for your courage in choosing to discern the priesthood. As I am sure you are well aware, there are always doubts and apprehensions involved with a religious vocation. It is my personal thought that everyone is called to at least discern… and I would recommend doing some serious discerning before you return to your girl friend.

If you felt that God was calling you strongly enough to leave a girl you’ve been dating for three years, you will not feel satisfied until you have sufficiently explored a calling to the priesthood. Look into it, get some spiritual instruction, attend retreats, and spend time in adoration… Pray that if God wants you to go further with this, He puts something ahead of you for you to reach out for, so you aren’t traveling without a map.

As someone mentioned before… you have to consider the girl’s feelings in this situation. How did she take it when you told her you’d like to discern the priesthood? Maybe it is best you continued to do what you broke up to do, until you are sure there are no options. If there aren’t, and you have sufficiently discerned, take the advice of the others who have posted here concerning discernment of marriage… both are holy vocations, and the point is to find God’s love and understand what He has chosen to fulfill you on earth.

God reward you for taking the time to consider a religious vocation… obviously you are a person of great faith, who understands that God is the one and only purpose of life in the end. Keep to it, offer Him everything, and then listen to find out how He will choose to use it. All we can offer you is advice, remember the only one who knows your own heart better than you is God.

In Jesus,

Don’t get back together with her unless you are committed to her. It would be completely unfair to her to start dating her again unless you’ve actually made up your mind that you are going to pursue marriage. A relationship doesn’t work if one of people has one eye on the door.

Make up your mind what you are going to do, and then go after it with your whole heart. If you love her and want to marry her, go back and pursue her. Otherwise, she would be better off if you left her alone.

I felt the same way two years ago and I was frustrated and even mad at God, why couldn’t he put the desire in my heart before I met this guy?

What I learned was that first and foremost I had the desire for a reason, second it is not fair to your discernment process to be dating. Discernment is about praying (talking to God) and listening. If you are dating seriously (I’m guessing a girlfriend of over 3 years fits in that category) It would not be fair to either one of you.

Having gone through the heartache myself and the wishing I could take back the words, I now know I made the right decision and trust the Lord. If you are meant to be with her you will be and if you are meant to be married, the fact that you have taken the time to discern your vocation (Priesthood, or married life) will make you an even better husband. What’s more, you’ll be more equipped to choose a faithful bride.

You are in my prayers,

Could you explain what you mean, and reasons behind, when you said that a priest becomes “the bridegroom of the Church”?

Sure thing, Matorin. You might want to check out the following article. You can read the whole thing, or scroll down specifically to where it describes the role of priests as husbands:

Hope this helps!

God bless,


Here’s a sermon called ‘Kissing a Vocation Goodbye’ which might well be taken into account.

Vocations Explained - by a Vincentian Father.

Q. Which are the marks of a vocation to the priesthood?
A. The principal marks are: 1, a virtuous life; 2, a pure intention; 3, a desire of becoming a priest.

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