Call to Priesthood or OCD?

Hi All,

A little background: I have suffered from anxiety disorder and OCD since I was about 9 years old. From the beginning my OCD manifested as intrusive thoughts telling me I was going to hell, etc. I was raised a “protestant” Catholic. We went to Mass but never confession and I wasn’t taught many teachings of the Church. One of my recurring thoughts was “You have to become a priest”.

For a while, I drifted away from the Church entirely. While I was away, these thoughts faded. This last July, I made a full sacramental return to the Church. Since then, I have been having a worsening obsession that I “have to become a priest” with “or else you’re going to hell” implied. This is not a gentle pull but an urgent, terrifying feeling.

Recently, I’ve been dating a girl who has helped me grow closer to God. We attend daily mass as often as possible and hold each other accountable in prayer and life. I sincerely think that we may be able to do more good as a married couple than I could on my own. Still, the obsessive feeling has remained. Since January however, when I’ve been at my most desperate, I’ve had 2 distinct moments in prayer when I felt like the burden of “you have to become a priest” has been lifted and replaced with a feeling of joy - “you may love and serve one of my precious daughters”. I’ve had peace for a couple of weeks each time. However, the obsessive thoughts and torment have returned.

I don’t desire to be a priest, though I’m trying to pray that I will try to be open to it if that is truely what God really wants me to do, but it’s very very hard to discern where conscience ends and obsessive thoughts begin. I don’t think I feel called to administer the sacraments. I know that I’m theoretically not even able to go to a seminary for at least another 1 to 4 years. However, more than anything, I don’t want to disobey God. It’s so hard to think and pray when I’m in this torment.

I’ve been having panic attacks and I can’t think about anything else lately. I feel like I am under attack which makes me think this is not coming from God. But could this be a genuine call to the priesthood? Sometimes I think that if I’m this miserable now, I might as well just become a priest because it can’t be any worse. But I also doubt the Church wants priests who only want to be priests to satisfy obsessive thoughts.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


These are really questions for your spiritual director, not random strangers on the Internet. If you don’t have one, ask your parish priest if he can recommend one.

hi, i am limiting my comments, as the suggestion of the other post is quite well said…

so if your girl friend keeps your soul on track…must you sail on troubled waters, as far as vocation is concerned/ as you mention ‘the enemy…’ …so your OP begins to tally relationship-perhaps a belief system to review or term a temptation, and vocational calling…Pending your visit to see a priest about your inquiry (it would be fine to approach your diocese’ vocational office-i think)…meanwhile, how is your prayer life?
On prayer:
Do you feel at peace after confession?
On vocation:
have you ever wondered why-about certain scriptures-that speak loudly to you?

i suggest that perhaps you, happily, join the rest of us (maybe -the rest of us) that we admire Jesus in the personality of priests…if so, if there is a bit of truth to that-perhaps, we are living / walking scripture of whom-are souls keen to discovering what is spiritual progress in the eyes of God…(i promised to limit my comments);in the search for ourselves-we are a vessel to hold Jesus/ (to ‘admire’ needs some clarification) /two things unfold, (1) to admire another person is to follow the example of another- to admire because you love them, or admire ‘them’ means to desire to be like the ones of whom you love; (2) i think the man in priest hood has one set of problems, while the man of married life has another set of problems…The road to holiness, has many forks in the road…is a journey of prayer…so pray about everything!
OOPS! i returned to edit, as i said in the following, initially:
" To that end, review what is required of ‘penance.’- ask the priest-about how spiritual
progress and penance go together on the road to holiness…"
as per the last statement-let me add upon revising and editing-that i have personally known many priests…and i am convinced that, even though i admire them greatly, i today know that they did not get there without a great inner struggle…just to let you know-but this makes me admire and honor and be thankful to them-even more)

Talk to a spiritual director.

Look into going on discernment retreats. There are some great counselors on the retreats that can help you discern whether or not the priesthood is for you. If marriage is your calling, they can help you figure that out as well. Some people leave and want to discern further with whatever group was hosting, some want to look into a different community (they like the idea of religious life, but didn’t think the particular community was for them), and others discerned that marriage was their vocation.

This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try: do a novena to ask God to take away the thoughts drawing you toward whatever vocation is not yours. I was listening to a podcast from a local parish priest and he was trying to discern whether he should be a hermit or a parish priest (both appealed to him), so he did a novena. On day 4, the thoughts of being a hermit vanished and he found that his calling was to be a parish priest.

I would also talk to a doctor about possibly getting on some medication for your anxiety. You will find a greater sense of peace if it turns out your brain chemistry is off, and then you take the appropriate medications to correct that.

It is best for you to speak to a priest about this. I will only add that God respects your free will and has no desire to “force” you to be a priest or a married person. It is your choice. Regardless of the direction you choose there will be ups and downs, but through the journey that unfolds God will work out your salvation.

What God wants most from all of us is our Love. You don’t have to be a priest to Love God and you don’t have to marry. Love is a simple thing that can be accomplished every day through patience, sacrifice, acts of charity, compassion etc.

I will pray that you have peace no matter what choice you make. God will help you with either one.

Praying for you. It sounds very much like OCD. I know, I been through a very similar thing. If you were meant to be a priest, the thought would bring
peace and joy, not torment.

Unfortunately, I wasted my 20’s and 30’s obsessing about being a nun and what punishment would happen if I did not become a nun. God does not operate like that. His call is gentle. He gives you a yearning for the state of life to which you are called.

Unfortunately, I wanted badly to be a wife and mother but I continued to obsess
about being a nun. By the time I got married, I was too
old to have children.

Seek help from a wise priest. You probably nreed counseling and medication for your scrupolosity and OCD.

God bless you.

Someone complained to Padre Pio of being excessively distressed by sins he had committed. Padre Pio replied: “That which you feel is pride; it is the demon which inspires you with this sentiment, it is not true sorrow.” The penitent replied: “Father, how can you then distinguish what comes from the heart and is inspired by Our Lord, and that which instead is inspired by the devil?” “You will distinguish it,” replied Padre Pio, “always by this: The spirit of God is a spirit of peace, and also in the case of grave sin, it makes us feel tranquil sorrow, humble, confident, and this is due precisely to His mercy. The spirit of the demon, on the contrary, excites, exasperates, and makes us in our sorrow feel something like anger against ourselves, whereas our first charity must be to ourselves, and so if certain thoughts agitate you, this agitation never comes from God, who gives tranquility, being the Spirit of Peace. Such agitation comes from the devil.”

I got this from there are other quotes from St. Padre Pio on there that would really help too:)

Thank you all very much. I was given a prescription for xanax, which has helped tremendously. I still plan on talking to a spiritual director but in the meantime the obsessive thoughts have subsided and I am able to function again. Pray for those with mental illness without access to medication!

discernment retreats and seminary visits.

the girl does sound like she could be a good match for you, though.


Hi All,

I can’t meet with my spiritual director until the second week of March so I’ve decided to continue giving you updates in case anyone is experiencing the same thing or has helpful pointers.

I’m feeling more and more confident that I am suffering from OCD. When the thoughts of being forced to join the priesthood are at the worst, I feel like I’m being tormented. I can’t concentrate or think about anything else. I can’t sleep or work. It feels like I am “under attack” and find myself without joy for life and feel driven farther from God and the Church.

This morning my girlfriend asked if I would like to do a consecration to Mary together - something I would have never thought of myself. It gave me a beautiful flash of inspiration of what a blessing she is in my life. My heart is singing with praise for God and all the blessings he has given me.

I have the feeling that my tormenting thoughts will come back (as has been the pattern) but it’s so nice to have a momentary reprieve and be able to praise God and feel alive again. Please continue to pray for me!

Well, my reprieve is over. Back to the torment. That didn’t last long.

Ok, I was able to speak with my priest today and have found some consolation:

God’s will is for us to serve him and be happy. To that end, he has provided for us vocations which may be seen as paths of varying resistance but which can all ultimately lead to salvation. Vocations are blessings to attain salvation, not burdens from a demanding God.

I’m also not supposed to read any more about it for the time being so I will be signing off. God bless.

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