Drawn to marriage and the priesthood? HELP!


#1

I’m new to this website so greetings to all!

So…in case the title wasn’t straight foward enough, I have a dilemma. I feel drawn to both marriage and the priesthood. This seems a somewhat common problem. I found this website through googling this dilemma, and read about other men having the same problem (and women being drawn to the monestary and marriage), but I didn’t find one that really answered my specific question so I’m adding a new one! :smiley:

Basically, I’m 18 years old, graduating soon, and I am completely, 100% in love with this girl…who lives 600 miles away. I know what you’re thinking. “How do you know you really love her”. You’re right in thinking that. Honestly, if I was looking at this relationship from the outside, I would ask the same thing. But deep down, after long deep thought and contemplation, I cannot see it any other way. I love her. I’d do anything for her. This isn’t a crush, or a lustful relationship. To put it bruntly, if all I wanted was sex, I wouldn’t bother with the difficulties of a long distance relationship.

And recently, I’ve felt a very strong urge to become a priest. Think about being in love. Think about how strong you feel for that relationship, and how you couldn’t turn your back on that person, even if you wanted to, and how badly you feel this has to work. Well, that’s how I feel for her, Mariah. But, if it seems possible, I have an even stronger feeling for my possible call to the priesthood.

What worries me (not in a bad way, but in a “I need to take this very seriously” kind of way), is that, when previously asked, I’ve brushed off the idea of becoming a priest, because I never thought I’d be good enough, or that I’d make it as a priest. And now, not only am I considering it, I feel an urge stronger than I’ve ever felt to at least take the first step in becoming a priest, and see what’s required to enter a seminary. I feel that, since this urge came up, completely unexpectedly, out of the blue, there must be a reason for that.

I haven’t brought it up to Mariah, because I don’t want to scare her. This is a very difficult situation, because, on the one hand, I feel this terribley strong urge to join, and I don’t want to lead her on till the last possible moment, and break up with her. At the same time, I don’t want to give up what I see as true love. People like her don’t come around often. On top of that, she’s coming off a relationship that devestated her. I don’t want to leave her when she needs me most.

So I don’t know what to do, other than pray, but I need some input. I see my only other option as, becoming a Deacon, which I cannot do until I’m 35, but if I feel like I should, I’ll work towards it. I know in the Eastern Orthodox married men can sometimes get ordained, but I’m not going to switch my rite for a selfish reason. No offense to the Eastern Orthodox Brothers and Sisters out there, but I am 100% devoted to the Latin rite. There are parts I like about the Eastern Orthodox, but not enough for me to switch.

With each passing day, it becomes clearer to me I can’t simply break things off with Mariah. On top of her previous relationship, her parents really aren’t the greatest people (I am understating it, I don’t want to say what I really think of them), she has experimented with cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and she has cut herself twice. She feels horrible about it, but she was desperate, and she has been getting better since we met. I cannot simply put her on hold or break up with her. I love her so much, and this would just make things horrible for her.

Sorry this is so long, but I have no where else to go. I…can’t really open up to my parents. Just never have been able to. I can’t meet with a priest due to transportation reasons, but I am going to email one. I haven’t seen him in 4-5 years, but I trust him a lot, and was lucky enough to find is email. Anyway, thanks for reading my novel of a post, and giving any input or advice you have. It really means a lot. Obviously I’ll keep praying. I have time. But this is reeeeeally stressful. :sad_yes:

Thanks again and God Bless!


#2

Have you considered that you are perhaps being called to both marriage and the diaconate?


#3

I live in Northern Illinois. I was discerning the Priesthood for the better part of three or four years. I was going to (at the discretion of my spiritual director) meet with a vocations director and speak with my Bishop about attending the seminary but I cancelled last minute. I wasn’t able to commit to a life of not having my own children. I felt that I was simply too weak to give up the comfort of a wife and the joy of children, but I see now that that line of thinking was wrong. God is calling me to build up His Kingdom. It has been some time now and while I still greatly admire the Priesthood and can see myself being a Priest, it is different now. It feels so vague and distant. I am content “not” feeling called to the Priesthood anymore. I still feel called to serve in a more official capacity so I am going to discern the Permanent Diaconate when I turn 35 (I’m 24 now). In the meantime I am focusing on my girlfriend (who lives in Southern California). So I am in the same boat as you. My advice, go for it. Pursue the Priesthood. If it “is” your calling then you will flourish. If not, then you will find out very quickly that it is “not” for you. Just keep in touch with a vocations director and keep praying. Spend as much time before the Blessed Sacrament as you can and you can’t go wrong :thumbsup:


#4

A "feeling" and a vocation are not the same, although God can use our feelings.

It is natural for a young guy to feel that he has a "call to marriage". But, especially if he already has a girlfriend, that might not be a vocation (from God) at all, but just his young self talking.

Maybe God is using this instance, of your lady being far away, to enable you to search out your true vocation. Find a spiritual director.

ICXC NIKA


#5

My only comment is that there is no rush to make a decision. At 18 years old, you are young.

In addition, it sounds like you have not dated your girlfriend for very long, since you say she is just coming off of a relationship. You need time for your relationship with her to mature a bit. You also need time to let the idea of priesthood percolate in you. Sure, look into it, but there is no rush to make a decision either way. In fact, I would say that if you feel pulled both ways, this is not the time to make this decision.

I also want to point out that the diaconate is not fallback plan for the priesthood. It is a calling all its own.

Are you planning to go to college after graduation? The college years are a time of great personal growth and change. You may find that your experiences will lead you in one direction or another (priesthood or marriage).

I agree that you should find a spiritual director to talk this through with. Good luck and God bless.


#6

Can you not go to college now, and then decide after graduating if you two should be married? If not, you can then enroll in a seminary, no?

Even if you decide to get married, you still probably want to finish college first.

Also, that gives you time to see if this girl is going to recover from her upbringing. There is not much more important than choosing the mother of your children. Trust me. That can turn into a right disaster.

One of the biggest pieces of wisdom I could have used earlier in life is that one should not choose a spouse based simply upon attraction and love. You ought to consider stability, mental health, loyalty, morals, responsibility, and even her general outlook on things. Consider you are joining your life with this woman and you two will raise children into this world. Being attracted or even in love with a person does not really by itself carry the day.

Sometimes it is best for people to not marry the person they have fallen in love with because that person for lots of other reasons does not present a suitable spouse. If after four years she is still cutting on herself, then..


#7

I was reading your post, following your words, thinking how it all sounded good between you and the girlfriend and then....you mentioned her family and her mental and emotional health--the cutting, etc. and I immediately saw the bigger picture.

I have no doubt you love her and she loves you but this is absolutely NOT the kind of love to give up your future to. I can't tell you to be a priest or not. That takes time to figure out, but I do see that you get very deeply involved with caring for someone--THAT could be a sign of a caring heart but it's not necessarily true love.

It would also be very hard to pull away from someone and something that intense but I strongly recommend you do just that. Step back, take a break, tell her you have to do some focussing on your future. You don't have to tell her the details about discerning the priesthood yet. This is your life and you must think about your future.

If she can't tolerate your stepping back, if she gets too intense and needy, that will be a sign that she is not for you. BECAUSE you can't marry someone who will not let you find your own future. What kind of marriage would that be? How would you pay the bills? Feed the family?

The stress and desperation of such a relationship can "up the stakes" so high that it feels like love, and I'm sure there is some genuine affection, but it has too many instabilities on both of your parts. Grow a little. Study. Get a career. If the world needs you as a priest, you will have some sense of the responsibilities of the laity. If she somehow is the right person for you, you (and she) will be more ready for marriage in five or six years.

I hope this doesn't sound too cold but I know that you need to step back if there is any chance at happiness. She needs professional help and some further education (You could marry and start a family, hopefully in that order, and, God forbid, you could die young and she will be left with children to raise and no way of supporting them. This happened to my sister. It was awful!) You need to go try on some possibilities: visit a monastery, volunteer at a church, be a lector or Eucharistic Minister or chaplain, look at other careers. Many good priests have careers, often from before the seminary: psychologists, carpenters, business and sales, teaching, accounting....parish priests need these skills. So do married and single men.

Be brave and smart. Time is on your side.


#8

[quote="EvanK, post:1, topic:322516"]

And recently, I've felt a very strong urge to become a priest. Think about being in love. Think about how strong you feel for that relationship, and how you couldn't turn your back on that person, even if you wanted to, and how badly you feel this has to work. Well, that's how I feel for her, Mariah. But, if it seems possible, I have an even stronger feeling for my possible call to the priesthood.

I haven't brought it up to Mariah, because I don't want to scare her. This is a very difficult situation, because, on the one hand, I feel this terribley strong urge to join, and I don't want to lead her on till the last possible moment, and break up with her. At the same time, I don't want to give up what I see as true love. People like her don't come around often. On top of that, she's coming off a relationship that devestated her. I don't want to leave her when she needs me most.

[/quote]

Hi Evan

As you've noted, situations like your aren't unusual. I'm currently a seminarian but there was a time early in my discernment when I was torn between the desire to be a priest and my feelings for a girl.

From what you've said, it's obvious that your a very caring person and you're also doing a lot for Mariah but perhaps too much. Remember that there's a limit to what you can do yourself and I would agree with Auntie A that professional help would be a very good idea for her.

I do think that you need to be up front with her and tell her that your thinking about priesthood. You can of course tell her that your not certain but she needs to understand that this is something that your are seriously considering. It doesn't mean that you need to break off the relationship or that you'll not be a part of her life. You do however need to ensure that you make time to pray about it and give yourself some "me" time.

As others have already said, you're still young and shouldn't feel rushed into making a decision. Take time to pray and live life and trust that God will show you the way you should go.


#9

We have been dating for several weeks. It’s moved a lot faster than I expected or intended. I agree that I shouldn’t make any haste decisions yet, but I feel the time needs to be sooner, rather than later.

As far as college goes, I can’t afford it. I was planning on attending community college, to get my EMT certificate and join the fire department. I understand I have time to discern and need to pray and talk to a priest, but it seems like I need to decide soon, for both mine and Mariah’s sakes. Thanks for the input.


#10

You sound like you think you are in a hurry; but this is the ONE aspect of your life that cannot be hurried. Step back and breathe, before you rush into the wrong decision.

Weeks into a dating relationship is not nearly enough to discern an entire life. Better no relationship at all than a bad one, so slow down!

ICXC NIKA


#11

[quote="Rete, post:6, topic:322516"]
Can you not go to college now, and then decide after graduating if you two should be married? If not, you can then enroll in a seminary, no?

Even if you decide to get married, you still probably want to finish college first.

Also, that gives you time to see if this girl is going to recover from her upbringing. There is not much more important than choosing the mother of your children. Trust me. That can turn into a right disaster.

One of the biggest pieces of wisdom I could have used earlier in life is that one should not choose a spouse based simply upon attraction and love. You ought to consider stability, mental health, loyalty, morals, responsibility, and even her general outlook on things. Consider you are joining your life with this woman and you two will raise children into this world. Being attracted or even in love with a person does not really by itself carry the day.

Sometimes it is best for people to not marry the person they have fallen in love with because that person for lots of other reasons does not present a suitable spouse. If after four years she is still cutting on herself, then..

[/quote]

College isn't an option at the moment due to financial reasons. I was planning on attending a community college to get an EMT certification and join the local fire department.

I agree that I can't get married that soon, but I'd be lying to say it hasn't crossed my mind. I suppose my problem with this relationship is, as you said, I need a stable wife to raise my children (if that's indeed what's in store) but...I just can't seem to want to get rid of her. Not just because I'm in love, but because I care for her. That's part of loving someone, right? And if I broke up with her, it would leave her worse than when I got there. I'm just not to sure how to proceed from here. Thanks for your advice. It's much appreciated!


#12

[quote="GEddie, post:10, topic:322516"]
You sound like you think you are in a hurry; but this is the ONE aspect of your life that cannot be hurried. Step back and breathe, before you rush into the wrong decision.

Weeks into a dating relationship is not nearly enough to discern an entire life. Better no relationship at all than a bad one, so slow down!

ICXC NIKA

[/quote]

I agree. It's just a...weird situation. At the slightest mention of slowing down, she takes it as me having doubts. Which, I don't know, I suppose I am, but I think everyone does. And I agree, weeks is way to early to decide, I just am not sure how to proceed. With ever passing day, my love seems to grow for her (and for the priesthood) but it also becomes clearer to me that she is emotionally unstable. And that worries me, because I don't want her to hurt herself, especially if it's over our breaking up.


#13

[quote="EvanK, post:12, topic:322516"]
I agree. It's just a...weird situation. At the slightest mention of slowing down, she takes it as me having doubts. Which, I don't know, I suppose I am, but I think everyone does. And I agree, weeks is way to early to decide, I just am not sure how to proceed. With ever passing day, my love seems to grow for her (and for the priesthood) but it also becomes clearer to me that she is emotionally unstable. And that worries me, because I don't want her to hurt herself, especially if it's over our breaking up.

[/quote]

All the more reason to slow down. A lasting love does not happen in a hurry, nor under pressure.

ICXC NIKA


#14

I'm 49 and married with a family.

At your age I had no desire whatever to be a priest or much interest at all in religious things. In fact, I took a Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory which even quantified my lack of interest in religion.

The priest at our parish was a negative factor: just a cranky and mean guy. Very offputting.

I was curious about sex, but had minimal interest in marriage. I was very different from what I am now.

I married at 35 (awfully late; negative consequences to this). I dated a lot before then.

Now I am very much interested in religion and am in a lay order. If I were 18, I'd be a friar in a heartbeat.

Your best bet is to listen to whatever input you're getting from God. If it's His will, then I respectfully suggest that's the way to go.


#15

Her mental health doesn’t worry me as much as her emotional health does. She’s stopped cutting for quite some time (not sure when she last did, but it was before I showed up, and even then she said she only did it twice) after her friend was admitted to a mental institute for the same thing.

I know I need to take a step back, and I’m sure she’ll take it the wrong way, which isn’t a good sign, but I just don’t want to be the cause of her pain. I’m trying to keep her from hurting any more than she already has been. But when I mentioned to her that if we don’t work out, I’ll still be there if she wants me to be. And she kinda freaked out, saying we will, and have to work out. It seems for her, there’ll be one of two extremes. Either deep love, or nothing. I don’t think I’ll get that step back I need. Which, like you said, is a bad sign, a very bad sign. But I just don’t want to hurt her.

And no, I don’t think it’s too cold. I think it’s some good, sobering advice. Something I needed. I’m just unsure of what to do, because her emotional instability becomes clearer with each passing day. But I still love and care for her, and don’t want to hurt her. But I cannot deny my urge to join the priesthood.

Thanks for the advice.


#16

[quote="Captain_America, post:14, topic:322516"]
I'm 49 and married with a family.

At your age I had no desire whatever to be a priest or much interest at all in religious things. In fact, I took a Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory which even quantified my lack of interest in religion.

The priest at our parish was a negative factor: just a cranky and mean guy. Very offputting.

I was curious about sex, but had minimal interest in marriage. I was very different from what I am now.

I married at 35 (awfully late; negative consequences to this). I dated a lot before then.

Now I am very much interested in religion and am in a lay order. If I were 18, I'd be a friar in a heartbeat.

Your best bet is to listen to whatever input you're getting from God. If it's His will, then I respectfully suggest that's the way to go.

[/quote]

Yeah, I wasn't interested at all in becoming a priest until recently, which leads me to think there's a reason for that. Specifically I'm drawn to be a parish priest.

I know people change throughout their lives, and I still have maturing to do, but I cannot turn my back on either of these things, even if I wanted to.

Thanks for the input!


#17

[quote="InThePew, post:8, topic:322516"]
Hi Evan

As you've noted, situations like your aren't unusual. I'm currently a seminarian but there was a time early in my discernment when I was torn between the desire to be a priest and my feelings for a girl.

From what you've said, it's obvious that your a very caring person and you're also doing a lot for Mariah but perhaps too much. Remember that there's a limit to what you can do yourself and I would agree with Auntie A that professional help would be a very good idea for her.

I do think that you need to be up front with her and tell her that your thinking about priesthood. You can of course tell her that your not certain but she needs to understand that this is something that your are seriously considering. It doesn't mean that you need to break off the relationship or that you'll not be a part of her life. You do however need to ensure that you make time to pray about it and give yourself some "me" time.

As others have already said, you're still young and shouldn't feel rushed into making a decision. Take time to pray and live life and trust that God will show you the way you should go.

[/quote]

Well, the first problem I suppose, is she isn't Catholic and admits not knowing anything about the Church. When I tried to explain some basics, she said she wasn't real interested. So I don't know if I can get her to understand the feeling that comes with being drawn to the priesthood. Heck, I couldn't understand it until I got it! :D

But the thing with her is, if I tell her we need to slow down or take a step back, I'm 95% sure she'll take it the wrong way. I don't want to break up just yet, and even if I do, I don't want her out of my life, but it seems like the only options, with her is continue on as usual or risk breaking up and devastating her. And I don't want either of those. I agree, it's too soon to choose, but deep down it seems like I'm going to have to choose soon.

Thanks for the advice!


#18

Try something. I read about this recently in "To Save a Thousand Souls", a book about discerning priesthood.
Spend like 20 minutes fantasizing about becoming a priest. Imagine time in seminary, then being ordained. Think about the awesomeness of performing the sacraments. Daily Mass. Doing homily's. Funerals. Marriage. Anointing of the Sick. Being there with people during the greatest moments of their life. Think about your life as a priest. A life filled with prayer. Sacrifice. Being Gods instrument. Consecrating bread and wine into Jesus Body and Blood. Think about growing old and being a priest. etc.
Then think about getting Married. Falling in love. Going on dates. Courting. Then the beauty of actually getting married. Conceiving your marriage. Having your first child. Seeing him/her grow up. Imagine being a parent. Imagine going to daily mass with your family. Seeing your children getting baptized etc. Imagine growing old together etc.

This fantasy is yours. Try to make it as good as possible.

When you're finished both fantasies, having seen the awesomeness in each vocation, which one could you not live without?


#19

[quote="SaintFrancis333, post:3, topic:322516"]
I live in Northern Illinois. I was discerning the Priesthood for the better part of three or four years. I was going to (at the discretion of my spiritual director) meet with a vocations director and speak with my Bishop about attending the seminary but I cancelled last minute. I wasn't able to commit to a life of not having my own children. I felt that I was simply too weak to give up the comfort of a wife and the joy of children, but I see now that that line of thinking was wrong. God is calling me to build up His Kingdom. It has been some time now and while I still greatly admire the Priesthood and can see myself being a Priest, it is different now. It feels so vague and distant. I am content "not" feeling called to the Priesthood anymore. I still feel called to serve in a more official capacity so I am going to discern the Permanent Diaconate when I turn 35 (I'm 24 now). In the meantime I am focusing on my girlfriend (who lives in Southern California). So I am in the same boat as you. My advice, go for it. Pursue the Priesthood. If it "is" your calling then you will flourish. If not, then you will find out very quickly that it is "not" for you. Just keep in touch with a vocations director and keep praying. Spend as much time before the Blessed Sacrament as you can and you can't go wrong :thumbsup:

[/quote]

Thanks for the input! It helps a lot! :thumbsup:


#20

[quote="abon12, post:18, topic:322516"]
Try something. I read about this recently in "To Save a Thousand Souls", a book about discerning priesthood.
Spend like 20 minutes fantasizing about becoming a priest. Imagine time in seminary, then being ordained. Think about the awesomeness of performing the sacraments. Daily Mass. Doing homily's. Funerals. Marriage. Anointing of the Sick. Being there with people during the greatest moments of their life. Think about your life as a priest. A life filled with prayer. Sacrifice. Being Gods instrument. Consecrating bread and wine into Jesus Body and Blood. Think about growing old and being a priest. etc.
Then think about getting Married. Falling in love. Going on dates. Courting. Then the beauty of actually getting married. Conceiving your marriage. Having your first child. Seeing him/her grow up. Imagine being a parent. Imagine going to daily mass with your family. Seeing your children getting baptized etc. Imagine growing old together etc.

This fantasy is yours. Try to make it as good as possible.

When you're finished both fantasies, having seen the awesomeness in each vocation, which one could you not live without?

[/quote]

I've actually done that. A lot to be honest lol! Honestly, right now, it would be terribly hard to not have children, and to see them grow up and to do all the things fathers do with their kids, and to have a wife.

But the awesomeness (in the truest meaning of the word) of being a priest, and what you can do for the world, and the extreme devotion to God, all that and much more, are even harder to imagine a life without, at this time.

Obviously I still have time.

Thanks a lot for the input!


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.