Discerning Vocations With A Dark Past

I have been discerning my vocation lately and where in God’s vineyard he may call me to his service. I have largely been looking at the role of Pastoral Priest, but I have had a dark past and done a lot of things I am not proud of.

Do you feel it is wise to consider becoming a priest even though I have done things, a lot of things, in my past that have been in direction opposition to the Catholic Church?

God’s blessings,

A sinful past does not necessarily mean one cannot become a priest. However, there are impediments listed in this section of Canon Law.

You do not specify what your “dark past” and as such that limits the information we can give you. I understand you may not want to share this and I do not ask you to. If you are just referring to a sinful life, then that is not necessarily an impediment. Many of our great saints were converts and led sinful lives prior to their conversion.

You would be best advised speaking to your priest or the vocations director for your diocese.

A number of the saints had terrible pasts before their conversions. Thus, your past doesn’t necessarily preclude your being a priest provided you have no impediments as mentioned in the previous reply.

I would hasten to add a couple comments. If your past is terribly murky and dark, be sure to thoroughly discern what you may feel right now is your calling. You want to be sure you have conquered all your sins and desires of the past because Satan is going to really attack you with remembrances and desires of those past sins when you are a priest. Sins of the flesh and homosexuality are the ones that have the strongest effect and, thus, take the longest to discern they have been conquered. For the sake of Jesus, His church and your soul you don’t want to end up like a good number of priests who have caused great harm and scandal to themselves and others by falling back into their pasts.

Secondly, through your discernment period and during all the rest of your life as a priest (if you indeed become a priest), bring out ALL your past into the light – no matter how shameful it would be to you, those close to you and to those who don’t know you. This serves three purposes: 1) setting you free from the past by shining the light of full truth on it; 2) showing others the example of the loving providence and complete mercy of God towards ALL sinners, and; 3) keeping you free from trying to hide your past and thus potentially walking down the dark road of lies.

Pray mightily to the Holy Spirit during these next months – or even years – of discernment and He will tell you LOUD AND CLEAR what your vocation in life is to be – priest or no priest. I’ll be praying for you.

You might read up some on Sts Augustine of Hippo and Ignatius of Loyola. Neither one started out on a path for a pious life, but that’s were they ended up.

Better yet read up on St cyprian. He was a horrible, diabolical, evil man that experienced a profound conversion and went on to be a bishop and a saint

For my buck, when people talk about the “dark side” or “dark” this and that, they’re overglorifying bad stuff more than it deserves. it’s just junk and junk is what it is.

Skip it, let it go. Confess of course, and be contrite. The thing that comes to mind is Emerson’s famous quote about consistency being a hobgoblin of little minds. You’ve grown, you’re more experienced, you know more. … heck, at this point it’s a responsibility to change if you see you’d been wrong or off in the past. You’re different now.

No matter what you’ve done, God forgives you. In fact, I had committed many sins which I was not proud of. I thought they made me unworthy of a vocation. But it is very likely that God is calling you to a vocation in the priesthood as a way to say “I know what you have done, but that is all in the past.” God will not hold your past against you at all, He is merciful! Mary Magdalene was an adulteress yet the Lord forgave her still. If you have confessed what you’ve done, then it is in the past and, in the Lord’s eyes, forgotten. Whatever you have done before, God has forgiven it! If you feel called to become a priest, whatever you have done before will not stand in your way! God Bless!

I used to belong to some of the Evangelical churches and many of the pastors I had also had some dark pasts. One used to be into drugs, another had mental problems, my former spiritual director (Catholic) was sexually abused by a family member and yet God was able to use their experiences to help them in their ministries. Dark pasts should not prevent someone from saying yes to God’s calling. Depending on what it entails, one will have to be smart. For example if a former child molester is being called into ministry, they should by all means avoid contact with children. Former alcoholics should avoid all alcohol even the wine during the eucharist. Seeking counselling as well as the sacrament of reconciliation are important towards healing from the past.

The past is the past, we can’t change it but we can certainly learn from it as well use our stories to help others. Who knows if this priesthood works out, your past might help others either not make the same mistakes as you or they will see you as a model of someone who was able to rise above the past in order to do something really cool.

Keep praying and continue to search the Lord. By facing the past and by not allowing it to dictate our future we are putting more of our lives into God’s hands.

As many others here have said, some of the saints have had dark pasts (read St. Augustine’s “Confessions”). Don’t let a dark past deter you from following God. As long as you have the faith, you can conquer anything. Let Christ be your guide, and entrust yourself to Mary.

Talk to your diocese’s Director of Vocations. He’ll be able to tell you if anything will present a problem.

God forgives. St Paul was a murderer of Christ’s followers but he converted and became an apostle and a great saint. St Augustine was a terrible sinner too but went on to become a great theologian, bishop, and saint. Don’t look at the past, learn from it and move on. Be what you were born to be, a saint of God.

Ave Maria!

Fr. Calloway’s conversion testimony is one of the most powerful I have ever heard, and continues to be one of my favorites. It is called “No Turning Back: Teenage Rebel to Catholic Priest” and can be ordered or downloaded from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

Also, there is Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926), the former Satanist priest who became, according to Blessed Pope John Paul II, the “Apostle of the Rosary.”

As you can see, the greatest sinners can have a zeal and love for God that surpasses the rest of us. A Franciscan of the Immaculate recently gave a homily on the subject,

Jun 09 – Homily – Fr Ignatius: The Sinner’s Conversion and the Struggling Just

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

fra John Paul

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