Discernment questions

Hi everyone!

I just wanted some advice and encouragement when it comes to discerning my vocation in life. I’m in my mid-twenties and I’ve been trying to discern for the past few years, but I really feel like I’m getting nowhere right now. I can’t say I feel particularly attracted to either religious life or marriage at the moment; I can sure think of a lot of things I don’t find attractive about either vocation, but nothing is really pulling me in either direction, except the fear that if I don’t find an answer soon, it will only become harder as I get older. I feel like I’ve been stuck on these questions for years, and I have been trying to pray about it for a long time, but it’s really been so frustrating not to find any answers, that it’s becoming harder and harder to see the purpose of prayer. Can someone offer me some encouragement, or maybe even some harsh criticism? I’m really feeling about ready to give up on the search! :shrug:


A good friend of mine told me once that praying through your vocation is simple. Simple, not easy (haha). She told me that you should pray about what your heart was made for–did the Lord create your heart to be His and only His, or did He create your heart to be Married? I think with my discernment I put a lot of pressure for it to be a certain way, but when I stopped praying with prejudice and let the Lord tell me about my heart, it’s hard to deny what the Lord wants.

It is completely normal to feel a little anxious about finding your vocation. I am only 21 and I already sometimes feel like I am way behind the game, but the Lord is so good and I know he has a plan for me (and your life as well!). Praise the Lord that you are being open to His will for your life–all young people SHOULD discern a religious vocation.

If you feel any inkling of being called to the religious life, get out there and visit! It is good to pray about your charism or how you feel the Lord is asking you to serve Him (contemplative or c/a, what your apostolate would be, etc.) and get out there. You may visit a few flops, but you may find your home.

Something that has really tremendously helped me was the advice of my confessor. He always told me “Whatever you do, as long as you are with the Lord, you will be happy.” We always think we know what will make us happy, but the Lord has so much more in store for us than we could ever imagine. Know of my prayers for you. Either way you are called (religious, single, marriage) it is a beautiful gift from the Lord and is to be embraced! Let the Immaculate Heart of Mary lead you straight to the Heart of her Son and let His Heart tell you about your heart.

I think you also need to give yourself a break and try to not be so impatient. Sometimes prayer isn’t enough. You need to be willing to get out there and try new things. Trial and error will also help direct you. It’s been my experience that callings will change direction and yet will maintain the same core. If you feel stuck, I suggest that you start volunteering somewhere, get connected with some sort of young adult group, finish your education if it isn’t completed yet and hop on the boat and go for the ride.

Go out on dates, hang out with people of the opposite sex and have some Christian fun. As you do this, continue to maintain a prayer life, attend mass regularly and try going to reconcialltion as much as you can.

God will reveal the right path. I struggled for years, asking and crying out to God for help and direction. Two years ago, when I was 28, I received a hint. Since then, the doors have slowly opened and I have also changed denominations in this time. God will reveal his plans, it just takes longer with some than others.

I hope this helps,

All the best,

So the good news - God is present with you while you search!!

One suggestion - read the lives of the Saints - some searched almost their entire lives trying to find what God was calling them to, often finding that the searching was part of what God was calling them to do. It is encouraging to know you are not the only one to have searched…

Recommendation - make a directed retreat to do the The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola - an especially good tool for discernment.

And an observation - being married or religious life are not the only two options - single people can also live holy lives - (and even serve as missionaries - I just shared one group on another thread that is the oldest in the US for lay Catholics - www.LayMissionHelpers.org) -

God Bless - will certainly keep you in my prayers as you work to discern what God is calling you to!

What about going with the assumption that you do not have a vocation?

(I’m gonna get trashed on this no doubt.)
By your age and 2 years of thinking, you should know.

Meanwhile pursue something else meaningful, college, a job, or if you want to keep a religious involvement, maybe volunteer work, teach CCD, or whatever suits your interests. Keep busy, KEEP PRAYING, but don’t obsess over the issues. Just concentrate on being close to God and a good Christian.

If you do have a vocation, that will soon become apparent, you will miss the very idea of it. It sounds like you have in reality been “toying” with a vocation, not discerning one. So drop it, and if it’s right after all, you won’t let yourself get far. On the other hand, you may realize and feel some relief if you decide you’d rather pursue a degree or career.

Each of us has a vocation. It may be religious, married, or single. Each of these descriptions can also describe our current state in life.
A person drawn to the married life does not necessarily seek a life partner. Rather he/she is open to the possibility of falling in love and marrying the person of his/her dreams. I had a list of desirable characteristics I sought should I marry. I did not marry the person with these characteristics. Instead I married the person who brought these characteristics out in me. It was not so much that I was seeking marriage as marriage found me.
Discerning the religious life is a bit different. I also looked at the possibility of religious life, but for the wrong reasons. During a time when many religious were also teachers, I saw it as the only path into the profession. Religious life was also my “fall back plan” if I did not marry by a certain age.
I would second the advice of previous posters. Go for discernment weekends to explore whether or not you are drawn to the religious life. Check out vocations.com for a list of communities and frequently asked questions.
I have been living a single life for many years now. A few years back I found the right reason for religious life (although impediments stand in the way). I learned of a community in NJ where a woman can go to discern whether or not she has a calling to religious life. At the end of the year, she enters the community to which she is called, or returns to life as a lay person. Sorry, I can’t remember the name of the community. It is a place I might have liked to checked out were I younger.

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