I have been discerning for a while (almost 3 years now). I have constantly sought out Gods will and it just doesn’t seem like anything is clicking. I’ve recently tried dating, but even that just doesn’t seem like its right and I can’t really see myself in a relationship or married (probably because I’ve never had a girlfriend). I spent the early part of my life in in ministry as a Protestant minister and I converted 2 years ago. Now being catholic feels almost like a drag because the thing that gave me purpose in life (preaching the Gospel to others) just isn’t there anymore. I’ve tried to start bible studies, I’ve tried to get moving with starting a ministry of some sort, but all fail. Every time I try to get involved with a teaching ministry at my parish, I get shot down and the door closes. I want to preach, I need to preach or teach others, yet it seems like God makes no doors available. I have no drive to sit and read scripture, I have no drive to do anything and constantly I am praying for God to give me something, just something small even, some manner of teaching others the faith and preaching the message of Christ. I have realized that the only way that I will find my own salvation is working for the salvation of others. I’m just not a selfish man and to do something for myself isn’t in me. I just don’t know what to do.
I have been discerning a Franciscan vocation for a while, and my spirituality is more Franciscan focused. I have looked at the friars in the Holy Land and now am looking at a possible US branch of OFM Conv., but how does one know if they are called to a specific order? I know when I was with the friars of the Holy Land it felt like home, but I don’t know if it’ll be the same in the Middle East? Furthermore, how do I find purpose in my life right now, how can I preach for the salvation of souls and thus my own?
This discerning business seems to be big in America. I would suggest that you speak to a Franciscan and discuss the lifestyle in reality. They may even allow you to try before you buy. Many orders encourage vocations this way. Full orders are not conferred until much ‘discernment’ on both sides. I believe that God does often speak through discontent. However I am a bit concerned that you have not attempted to start a relationship with a girl. I am sure the celibate cleric is a very lonely role at some time in a priest’s life. My advice for what it is worth, is to speak to the vocational director of the order that attracts you. I applaud your choice of the Franciscans. He will then guide you and possibly test your resolve in the light of significant experience. You show great common sense in your first choice to come to the Church; I am sure there is a role somewhere for a man of zeal. The doors closing in the Churches you have offered your services to, may not appreciate your evangelical zeal. Many of us are reticent to express our faith. Our Lord may be testing your determination. Don’t give up. If you want to love God, demand it of him. A loving Father will eventually clothe you in His cloak and ring. AMDG
To answer your question about your vocation is a different matter between you and God’s will. Even if you enter a religious order as a postulant, the struggle will be more intense. So I’ll be answering about the Franciscan Order. Each religious order have their own specific way to live the life of Christ. All I know about the Franciscan Order (Conventional & Capuchins) is their life of poverty and obedience. Read about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and you’ll know what I mean. Individualism of each applicant will be from time moulded to live a life in common. It is not you who will decide what you want but accordingly to the need of the religious community.
I totally agree that you should speak with a Franciscan friar. You are obviously trying your best to do God’s will–and that in itself is a wonderful thing. Be brave and take the next step–go talk to a friar–if you don’t, you’ll find yourself still treading spiritual water this time next year.
My own dad had a similar experience. He was a 1st generation German-American, born in 1901, one of 11 children who lived out of the 15 kids they had. My dad died in 1981. Anyway, when he was growing up, he began to feel that he had a vocation. He said that he was as sure as he knew how to be that he wanted to become a priest. Some of the things you said, almost made me feel like I was talking with my Dad again. Back then, large Catholic families often actually tried to get a son to become a priest or a daughter to become a nun. They considered this giving one child back to God. Since my Dad expressed an interest, they practically hog-tied him and dropped him off at the closest seminary.
Dad said that he was very happy and satisfied that he was following God’s plan for him–at first. Somewhere within the first couple of years, he slowly began to have doubts. He spoke many times with his superior and ultimately–and with his superior’s blessing–left the seminary. This devastated his parents–and even more so when shortly he met my mom and got married. Mama wasn’t even Catholic at the time.
Anyway, here’s the bottom line, Because of my Dad, my Mom converted (and she was the daughter of a full blown Baptist preacher!) My sister and I are the product of that union and would never have been here had Dad stayed in the seminary. The important lesson here, however is not that it is really hard to be sure that your calling is real. The point is, that as my Dad always said, if you follow your heart and with humility and innocence, take the giant step to do God’s will, He will give you the answer to your question. AND, even if you find out that it isn’t God’s plan for you to be a priest/friar, I really believe that God will bless you for caring enough for His to seriously find out! For my Dad, he loved children so very much and never regretted either his time in the seminary OR his decision to leave. The time in the seminary taught him many things about love and sacrifice and serving God which he blessed us with as his children. You might say that because he tried to do God’s will, he was blessed for his effort, but not with the gift he thought he wanted, rather the blessing of helping 3 souls–my mom, my sister and myself—on their way to heaven via our Catholic faith!
Above my bed hangs the crucifix that he once wore on tie around his habits waist. I look at it every day and thank God for a Dad who so wanted to do God’s will, that He took the time to find out what God’s will for him really was!
Discerning a vocation to a religious order is NOT a solitary exercise; it has to be done in conjunction with the Order itself. It’s not only up to you – you may feel that you have a vocation, and the Order may discern that you don’t.
IOW – start speaking with Franciscans. You can’t do this by yourself.
The key is to call the vocations directors at the different groups. Call the Franciscans of the Holy Land. Call the vocations director for OFM Conv. Go to a “Come and See Us” weekend. Visit them. Talk to them. When you are visiting, don’t just talk to the vocations director, talk to the cook, the person cleaning the floors, etc. You will be able to get a good idea of what life is like in that community. If you feel they aren’t the best fit try other Franciscan groups or even non-Franciscan ones (i.e. Benedictines since you feel called to preaching.) You will be able to tell what is the correct fit, it will fit like a glove. Of course there will always be feelings of “I’m not worthy” or “What if I am making a mistake,” but you will feel home if it is your calling.
Dear Adam, what a bundle of Spirit you are ! Follow this Spirit and never ever get discouraged even when the doors close. This happens to every saint and to all celibates/religious. Usually, that’s part of the dance of the Lord, …sort of helping you to really get focused and to test your desire. Very much like failing in love with a beaut of a person ! My only reservation for you would be that you have never had a girl friend…this could be seen as a problem…sort of …how to you know you want to be on this side of the vocational fence when you haven’t tasted life on the other side. But this is not always an issue for vocational directors but they will dwell on this for a while, as will any psychological testing by psychologists that now comes with the majority if not all, pre- entry to vocational life admission processes. Don’t be desperate to enter celibate life as an answer to preaching or teaching salvation as this may not be your calling - contact your local bishop and express discernment and be open to catechizing as a lay person, there are many many ways to do this. Contact your bishop and religious orders but make sure you find a good spiritual director, they will assist and pray with you. Please pray for me a sinner x
Other posters have given some wonderful information. I might add just a few more suggestions to the mix. (I am a Catholic convert of 38 years btw just to give you some background.)
You might contact Marcus Grodi’s group (chnetwork.org/media/ewtns-the-journey-home-hosted-by-marcus-grodi/) at least for some support. You may already be familiar with his ministry, if not his focus is to help (former) pastors who have joined the Church. It is only natural to want to preach and I think at the very least being able to connect with others who have experienced your journey to an extent might be helpful.
I would continue speaking to the Franciscans … as you know by now there are many different branches, in fact there is even a nice group in NY the grey-moor friars who originally came into the Church in the early 20th century from the Anglican tradition. Even if you are not called to religious life any Franciscan group might help you to find ways to apply both your talents and gifts to help the church out. (and perhaps you do have a vocation… as to that there are ways to discern that also…either with a vocations director, in your diocese or with the Franciscans. Speaking to either a parish priest or Franciscan might help you to clarify your journey. [Practical things such as are you called to be a diocesan priest, deacon, or join a religious order and if so which one? Much might depend on what you wish to do with your life such as teach, preach,work with the poor etc. Or perhaps remain a layman and find a way to use your talents in your diocese.]
I am sorry that you have not found (yet) a way to help out in your diocese/parish… there is a great need for Bible study groups, evangelism and many other programs…I will pray that a door opens for you in the meanwhile. (As a convert I recall my early days… it took a long while for me to find a place in my parish to help out…we Catholics are weak in the welcoming newbies I think… )
I hope this helps a little bit. If you should with to send me a private message with questions or asking for prayer support do feel free… prayer is a huge part of our ministry.
If you’re that much interested in preaching, you also might want to look at the Order of Preachers itself, the Dominican friars. They have quite a bit different spirituality than the Franciscans, but they build a mix of prayer, study and community life for their preaching. And it seems to have worked, as one of the biggest saints the Church has seemed to have throughout time were from this Order.
But as Lasting faith already told, you should get the final word as to wheter this is for you. Don’t bring your personal desires to the equation, as much as you want things to go a bit your way, even on the service to God. If you find that God is calling you in a certain direction, follow it and keep going until you find your destination, but don’t close doors. Being a priest might not even be what is going to make you happy. Only God can give you a clear answer, so pray and ask Him!
If your calling is preaching, that sounds like the Dominicans (Order of Preachers) area of expertise rather than the Franciscans, but I’m sure Franciscans do their fair share of preaching too in addition to their work for the poor.
Edit: Sorry, I didn’t realize the previous poster had just said this when I posted.
I would like to repeat what these posters have said. You should at least investigate the Dominican order; their charism seems like it would suit your interests and talents very well. Perhaps you have a vocation to them.