Doubting during Discernment


#1

Hi Guys.
A little over a year ago, while I was a junior in high school, I posted about my discernment for the priesthood.
Now, I’m in my freshmen year of college and I’m still discerning. However, I think that there is a strong call from God for me to become a priest. I love the Mass, I love the idea of bringing Christ to others, I love Catholicism. Yet I doubt. There are some days where I ask God to send me a sign that he wants me as a priest and almost every time I get one.
Once, I was praying about this on the way to school, I looked up at the sky, and a light shot across, I was amazed. Other times, in more simpler ways, I ask for a sign and it just so happens that at Mass, or someone mentions that we need more priest, or someone singles me out and says I’d be a good one.

My doubts:
1.) I am an only child, my mom and grandmom would love for me to have a family.
2.) My mom and grandmom are Catholics. My Grandmom devout, yet neither really would want me to become a priest. They frown upon it when others tell me I’d make a good priest.
3.)I hope this isn’t wrong, but in a way, I’d like to experience a true relationship with a girl
.

What do you think?


#2

I am a seminarian, a deacon who is halfway through his last year of seminary, so I might be able to answer your questions, at least a little bit.

  1. That was a concern my mother had, and I’m not an only child–I have one younger brother. But I told her at some point that this was something I felt drawn to, and that I had to work it out, that it was between me and God. I told her I appreciated her support and her prayers and her input, but ultimately it came down to what God was calling me to do. And once she saw that I was serious about it and it wasn’t just a phase (or rebounding from a breakup, which was a plausible theory at the time), she became very supportive. You don’t have to be ugly about it, but just make it known that this is important to you and you’d at least like to consider it. And mothers and grandmothers get to share in the vocation of their priest sons in special ways, adopting the priest’s spiritual children as their own as well. My mother always prays for people in my parish assignments, and has promised to knit caps and booties for babies I baptize.

  2. Again, this may go back to their other reservation, about wanting you to start a family. It may be other things as well, or at least there will be stated reasons for it. But I asked my mother one time why it was she had reservations about me going into seminary, and she said it came down to something that was on an Army recruitment commercial once, where a man asks his mom why she didn’t want him to join up. She said it wasn’t that she didn’t want him to, she was just being a mom. It’s a mom thing. They want to make sure their sons are doing what’s best for them. The more you explain it to them and explain how important it is to you to at least give it some prayer and consideration, the more open they may be. It is possible that they won’t be, but it’s also possible that if they understood the vocation better–both in general and as it pertains to you–they might come around.

  3. Not wrong at all. I had a couple of dating relationships before I entered seminary, one of which was very influential in my own discernment of the priestly vocation. Relationships, because they are a form of discernment in themselves (discerning whether one should be married to this person) are a very good means of self-discovery, and you may learn things about yourself and your vocation that will surprise you. I’m not saying to date a girl to see if you’re called to be a priest–you should date a girl for the reasons that most people do, at least most people with decent intentions, namely because you like spending time with her or you feel drawn to her to some degree. But you’re discerning. You’re not in the seminary. You’re certainly not ordained yet. Dating is okay at this point and could even be good for you. I know some men who come through here who have never dated a girl and didn’t have a lot of contact with girls growing up, and so aren’t really sure how to behave around women.

This is just what I could offer, I hope it is of some help. Feel free to PM me with any other questions.

-ACEGC


#3

Discernment for a vocation requires a spiritual director. Please make an appointment to discuss this with your priest.


#4

Discernment to me, like my mission of
“a Church for the Poor” is a PROCESS,
you take it step by step, and the more
steps you take, the more confident you
are that you are in the Center of God’s
will for you.


#5

The observations of the transitional deacon in the first response are quite solid. I concur with what he writes.

I will add that the formal process to discern a vocation is a very long process. Should you decide to try a vocation, as opposed to think about or consider one, it does not mean you are on a fixed path by any means.

All of us who are priests have classmates, some who remain dear friends in spite of many years, who decided along the way that they wanted to follow a different path. You have years of college that would be followed by pre-theology and years of seminary and pastoral experience before you make any commitment. Why not explore the options? It can only be enriching.

A vocation to priesthood is not monolithic. You will have to think about the secular priesthood or the religious priesthood…and perhaps consider both. If you choose the latter, do you wish to be more active, such as the Franciscans, more of an academic or teacher, such as the Dominicans, or more monastic, such as the Cistercians?

A good place to start is with a priest you know and with the vocation director of either your diocese or of any religious community to which you feel an attraction.

God’s blessing be upon you. May He guide to what He is calling you to. My prayers for your mother and grandmother, too.


#6

I think you need a good spiritual advisor and to focus more on what God wants from you, not your relatives. Giving up marriage and raising a family will be a sacrifice and it is something you must think about carefully and prayerfully.


#7

Even though I’m not Catholic, I’d like to offer you some spiritual advice Chris. The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to serve God first or the Church. You can do both of course, but there is an order. God already has a specific purpose for you and a destiny. Now the bible says to" delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" . In other words, He will put the right desires in your heart. The first thing in the life of the saint is to know God, (and i will assume that you are a saint) . After salvation, the most important verse in the bible is Mt6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things will be added unto you” . You ministry comes under “all these things” . You see, everything in the saint’s life is just an overflow of knowing God. With all seriousness Chris, if you get anything from this, please understand that what God desires first,is an intimate relationship with you. Everything else will easily follow from this. It is God who opens the doors.
So your first job is to know God.

That is, if you want to receive God’s best. :slight_smile:

Jerry


#8

Email your vocations director too. And talk with a priest you trust.


#9

Firstly, thank you for your courage, opens, and desire to go where the Lord calls. That is not always an easy thing to do, as you are finding out. There is some very valuable and insightful advice here, and I think you should certainly consider what everyone has said. As someone pointed out, discernment is about figuring out where God wants you, and that’s not an easy discernment, and for most of us, it can be a real struggle to figure that out. I’m currently in the early stages of formation with a religious order, and can definitely identify with everything you’re experiencing.

Someone recommended a spiritual director. And that’s a phenomenal recommendation. A spiritual director can really help you to sort through your fears, emotions, desires, and help you figure out where God is moving in your life. A good place to start is with your Parish priest…talk to him about your discernment, see if he recommends good books to help, ask about seminary or formation. Listen to his vocation story. And see if he has any recommendations for a spiritual director. He may offer to be your spiritual director, or he may know of some other good leads. Many pastors are too busy to take on a spiritual direction commitment, but not all, so don’t be put off if he can’t personally do that. I see a semi-retired nun as my spiritual director, for example.

Also do some research on religious orders and communities, you may be surprised by the results. Personally, I felt a “call” or desire to seek the priesthood, and discerned at various levels with the archdiocese and about 5 religious orders, 3 pretty seriously. I found that once I found the community that was right for me, a lot of my doubts and fear lessened significantly. I won’t say the disappeared, but I felt much more at ease, and was able to narrow down my “search” pretty quickly that way. Listen to your heart.

I found my parents to be supportive. They were both raised Catholic, but really couldn’t be further away from the faith now. I pray often they’ll make their way back. Despite that, they were still supportive, although I don’t think they really understand it. When I explained it, they knew it was something I really wanted to do, and that I had done my research and wasn’t just jumping into something. I think that helped put them at ease.

Your desire to date a girl is not wrong at all. It’s a very natural, biological desire. You’re young, and there are certainly a lot of great lessons to be had in a good (or bad) relationship that will help wherever God is calling you to. Priests deal with families all the time, and it’s good to have some insight relationship dynamics, although certainly not necessary. Also as far as I’m concerned, just because you want to enter the priesthood or religious life does not necessarily mean that you wouldn’t like to be married and have a family. Personally, I see it as something beautiful I’m giving up for God. It’s not easy. I ended a serious 5-year relationship in order to join my community. It was painful, and I’m sure I may always wonder “what if…”, but I have to say I am very happy where I am now, and wouldn’t change it.

Reach out and contact your pastor first, or a priest that you know or feel comfortable with. Reach out at contact the vocation director for your diocese and perhaps some religious communities. It takes courage to do that, because it feels like a huge step, and is a lot of ways it is. But at the same time it’s not THAT huge of a step, you’re making no commitment. At that state it’s just like “dating” and all good vocation directors know that. you’re seeing if they might be right for you, and they are also trying to figure out if you might be right for them. There’s really nothing to be afraid of there. Do on discernment retreats or weekends if you can. It’s a great way to see things a bit more in depth. My favorite part of these retreats (also called “come and see weekends”) is getting to know others, who usually are of similar age, discerning and facing the same doubts, fears, struggles, and have the same questions as everyone else.

Discernment is a process, and a journey in itself. It’s daunting, but its also fun, and I learned a lot, and continue to learn a lot about myself in the process. Theres nothing to to be afraid of, Christ and the Blessed Mother are watching over you. Enjoy it! PAX!


#10

Thank you all so much for your advice and help.
I greatly appreciate it.

I have one more question, what if I graduate college and decide then that the priesthood is my calling?
I have some loans and I don’t want to build on them and make it impossible for me to enter.


#11

You certainly can go to college, then apply to the priesthood. I graduated college before I took any sort of calling seriously. That being said, if you really think it could be your calling now, I don’t see a reason to wait. You’ll be happiest when you are following God’s will in your life the best you can, whatever that calling happens to be. As we’ve noted before…a spiritual director can help you with that.

As for student loan debt, contact your vocation director about that. Every diocese and every religious order will handle it a little differently. I believe with my local archdiocese, there is no cap on debt per-se, but you are responsible for paying it off yourself. based on the priest salary, they do have a recommended cap that it would be wise not to exceed if you want to be able to pay it off responsibly and not fall delinquent. I know with some religious orders, they have a cap, like a maximum or $5,000, $10,000, $20000, etc. A couple will take you with however much debt you come with with no limit. They will generally take responsibility for that debt, paying your monthly payments for you, and if you leave formation before final vows or before it is paid off, you will owe the remainder. Some may just have you pick up payments where they left off, some may make you repay them what they covered during your time in formation. Some orders do not want you to have any student debt. College debt is certainly something to consider, but keep in mind, if the Lord wants you as a priest or religious there will be a way. It may not be what you expect or like, but there will be a way. You should also know, while some communities can be a little forgiving with student loans, most do not accept any other kind of debt, such as credit card debt.

There are also organization that can help you reduce your student loans or provide some sort of financial assistance to seminarians. Here are a couple I know of:

  1. Laboure Society: labouresociety.org
  2. Mater Ecclesiae: fundforvocations.org
  3. Knights of Columbus (contact your local council)

Again, I urge you to contact your vocation director. He can answer many of these questions more accurately about your specific diocese or religious community. There’s no commitment when you talk to them, it’s just to get information and learn a bit, it’s not like you’re signing your life away just contacting him. He’ll want to know about you, and you’ll learn more about formation, the application process, debt and loans, maybe a tour of the seminary, etc.


#12

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and advice. Pray for me I ask.

Question: How many years of seminary would I go for if I go after I graduate college?
Would I still need to do another 8 years?


#13

in general, you will need Master of Divinity degree which will usually take 4 years. But you also need a certain amount of philosophy/theology prerequisites. So, it will depend on what your diocese/community accept, and also what you study in college. If you study science or something unrelated to to philosophy/theology you will generally need 1-2 years of philosophy courses (totaling 5-6 years of seminary). If you have a degree in philosophy, some of those courses may be waived. But again, it will depend. The USCCB has specific minimum requirements for philosophy credits, but a diocese, community, or even seminary may have additional requirements on top of that. But I’d say 5-6 years is pretty normal if you go after college.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.