Discernment and sexuality

It seems to me that when one is discerning his or her vocation, the emphasis is about seeking God’s will in prayer, silent time, Adoration, going on Come-and-See retreats (for young men discerning priesthood), that sort of thing; all these are absolutely true.

However from a pragmatic standpoint, should one also consider his/her sexuality when discerning their vocation? For instance, if someone knows that they have a high sex drive (highly attracted to the opposite sex) or would like to be sexually active/want to fulfill a sexual need, is this a good reason to go into marriage?

Also, do they address this issue of sexuality in discernment retreats? I know someone who may be interested to go in one of these.

Just curious.

Good question.

The answer is no; a high sex drive does not necessarily mean that one has a vocation to the married life.

The idea of the religious life is that one gives up a legitimate good, that is, the natural inclination towards marriage, to instead devote one’s life to a higher, more perfect end. This does not mean that the sex drive should disappear or be mitigated; on the contrary, it is perfectly natural for a religious person to still have attraction to people of the opposite sex.

The whole point is that they have sacrificed that part of themselves. If they cease to have such attractions, it is no sacrifice at all.

Now to clarify:
This does NOT mean that it is perfectly natural for a religious person to have lustful thoughts of others. That is just as sinful as it would be for anyone.
Rather, it just means that those who choose the religious life may still feel that natural pull towards the married state.

Remember that discernment is not a matter of making a retreat, per se. There are several stages, and it is not completed until the bishop anoints your hands, in ordination; or making final vows to the religious state.

There are many years during which one weighs out all the issues including that of sexuality, before taking the last step.


I don’t think it’s exactly right to believe that ordained people have no interest in sex. They forego it for a higher calling.
Most people have an interest in sex, and the opposite sex. Mastering these passions is the key. It also doesn’t mean that a person who gets married is having sex 24-7 or on demand, even. There’s much more to both vocations, each self-sacrificing in its own way.

…if I understand you correctly you are intimating that sex (sexual drive) has implications in our Vocational Call… it does, but not in the manner which I believe you are proposing…

Regardless of the Vocation (Priesthood, Religious [Monk, Nun…], Marriage, Single-Life…) we are to exercise self-control (something that is lost on most “Catholics”); clearly, if a young man feels highly attracted to females the Priesthood should not be the Vocation of choice; however, self-control should not be thrown out the window/door if the Priesthood is not the Vocation that is sought.

Have you ever heard/read in the news where a person died because they could not copulate? As far as I know none has died because of lack of sex. So “high sex drive” is more an enabler and an escape-goat than an actual condition that’s beyond self-control.

…still, “sex drive” is not the only thing that enters into the Vocation equation; there’s Faith, Obedience, Knowledge, Understanding, as well as Conception and Preconception.

Most Catholic Archdioceses have a Vocation Office which is open to receive the queries of those who are discerning a Vocation (some parishes could also offer guidance)–they will orient the candidates and assist them in defining their Vocation.

Maran atha!


There are needs and wants. If a man is going to keep looking back towards what worldly good he is allowing to be destroyed in his life, then he will turn into a pillar of salt - useless food for the beasts. Or worse, he will go back and be destroyed with it even more quickly. This man “needs” it.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as grace, and sincere cooperation with grace. This man “wants” it but has the help necessary to take the direct advice of Christ and go without it.

A high sex drive by itself is not a good reason to get married. Marriage sometimes demands periods of abstinence, if the woman is after giving birth, for example, she may not be able to have sex for several weeks, or even for a month or two.

High sex drive is also not a good reason to avoid a religious vocation. We are called to master our urges and not be a slave to them.

I’m fairly sure that most young men have a healthy sex drive, but that doesn’t stop them from entering the priesthood. It’s definitely difficult to do, but obviously possible.

I would also suggest that there’s not really such a thing as a sexual “need”. Nobody “needs” sex in the same way we have other “needs”. Everybody needs love, obviously, but this comes in different forms. I think we tend to see sex as something that you just can’t survive without. But that is really not the case.

Also…I do think more could be said at vocations retreats about sexuality in religious life (and even in marriage). I do think this is one area where the Church has neglected to deliver it’s teaching effectively. Many people think that the teaching is overly prohibitive, but if it is given in the full context of the understanding of the human person, it is beautiful and makes perfect sense.

I’m just going to say this:

I’m not sure of your age, but for younger men this is quite often due to hormones. Don’t treat it as a definite sign—Pray about it.

In many ways of thinking about it, it may mean nothing whatsoever about your vocation. Instead look at the higher powers of the intellect: Can you see yourself with children (this is the fruit of marital sexuality); Can you live your sexuality in a healthy way without physical intimacy?

I have personally never seen/heard it formally discussed on a discernment retreat. It is generally viewed as something to be addressed during formation often through discussions, classes, and workshops.

I have an insanely high sex drive and feel a calling to the priesthood.

It can be managed if your foundations are pure. Celibacy is a gift and is beautiful.

I suggest some reading:

  • When God asks for an undivided heart (Andrew Apostoli, CFR)
  • The Courage to be Chaste (Benedict Groshel, CFR)

1 Corinithians 7: 8-9 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

I’m not really qualified to answer, but that is what Paul says, and I know many religious orders only admit heterosexuals. Obviously your gender/sexual orientation/sexuality would effect whether you got married in the Church as well.

Also, check out the encyclical ‘Sacerdotalis Caelibatus’ by Paul VI (On the celibacy of the Priest). Google it - its free on the Vatican website and in English.

Furthermore, I met an interesting priest today by the name of Fr. Carter Griffin. His docotoral thesis and book is entitled ‘Supernatural Fatherhood through Priestly Celebacy: Fulfillment in Masculinity, A Thomistic Study’. It’s on Amazon. I just broke into it today.

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