Discernment should not cause you anxiety


Look, friends, I see a good many of you on here who are incredibly anxious. Lots of questions are rooted in the idea that somehow you have to feel called or somehow God has to put something into your “heart of hearts” (whatever that means). You will have an incredibly difficult time discerning a religious vocation if what you’re thinking about is whether you feel called. It’s nearly impossible to weigh the relative values of emotions. What you need is clear, objective teaching from the Church.

I would recommend everyone read Fr. Richard Butler, OP’s book, “Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery.” Basically, Fr. Butler reiterates the Church’s perennial teaching on the religious life. It is objectively superior. We are all “called” to holiness - that is our end. What is the way of life which has the least amount of impediments to this holiness? Religious life. So, are you called? Yes. Every one is called. Do you desire holiness within the context of religious life? Good - then will to follow the Evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Find a community whose charism you can follow. Join. Live your life in service of the Church and we’ll see you in Heaven.


Thank you. Your words are a breath of fresh air.

Study the saints and their discernment stories, too.


Amen! You will know when it is your calling. For the last few years, I have thought about the diaconate. My Priest is very supportive of it, my Parish has been prodding me towards it and I feel like I will head in that direction…in time. I have not received the “slap in the face” feeling of DO IT NOW that I have received n the past for other things God has led me to. Until I do, I will keep discerning and weighing the options.

Thanks for posting- needed to read this today.


That is good advice. At one point I thought that I was called to the religious life but then I realized that because of my mental illnesses, and now because of my other health conditions, I am not called to the religious life. I hope to get married someday but I am open to God’s will. I might remain single for the rest of my life.


Praying to the Holy Spirit to give guidance & direction to all in discernment.


How very true! I recall when I first felt the call to the diaconate some years ago, and then the renewed call a few months back. At one point in there I recall reaching out to one of the deacons that I know and telling him that I didn’t feel “good enough” to be a deacon and didn’t understand why I was having these thoughts. My deacon friend said to me, none of us are worthy or hood enough. That is why God wants us.

The subject from the OP really caught my eye though. Why would anything as good or worthy as God cause us anxiety? It shouldn’t…but I know it does for some. Maybe they fear that they will make a mistake. Relax… trust in God and He will guide you.

For me, as I work my way through the diaconate process, I was stressed at first, but now I am just relaxing and trusting in God to help me along the way. If in the end, He feels that I should not be a deacon, then so be it, that’s God’s choice and not mine. All I know is I will learn a good deal about myself and God in this whole process and whatever the outcome, I will grow closer to Him.

God bless and my prayers are with all of you who are discerning your calls.



While discerning a vocation, it should bring you peace and a feeling of joy. If not, what you are discerning is probably not your vocation.
This is what I was told in Spiritual Direction.


I didn’t mean with my title that if you have anxiety about religious life, you’re not called. That’s just going back to the emotionalism that I’m trying to help people steer clear of.

The anxiety is too often induced by the very vocations directors and spiritual directors who are trying to help you, but they have lost a proper theology of “religious vocations.” They have too often bought into the idea that the religious life is something special (it isn’t - literally everyone is called to holiness and the best way of getting there is religious life) or that you have to have some sort of interior confirmation from God (you don’t - He’s already told you it’s better). St. Thomas covers this in the Summa Theologiae in the Secunda Secundae, q. 189, a. 10. He talks about whether one ought to deliberate for a long time over entering a religious order - the answer is, of course, no. Deliberation is only required for matters about which there is some doubt, but there’s simply no doubt about whether religious life is better. It is. Unless you have some sort of impediment which cannot be overcome, you ought to enter into a religious order. I know this is a stark contrast from what a lot of vocations material says, but it’s simply the truth and it’s easier, to my mind, to understand. You no longer have to fret over whether God is calling you in a personal way. You’re no longer forced into tracking your emotions over a month or something and seeing how you feel about religious life afterwards.

I’m also not speaking about becoming a secular priest or a deacon. These aren’t things Thomas talks about. I’m speaking strictly about entering into religious life.

For anyone interested, you can (and ought to) read ST. II-II, qq. 184-189.

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