Familial Responsibilities and Discernment of Priesthood

Background: I am the oldest of three (20, 18 – senior, 16 – sophomore) and I am currently a junior in college. My father passed away when I was 16 years old, leaving me with a lot of responsibilities around the house as well as the responsibility of being my mother’s support system. Within the last year, my mother has especially struggled, but I have known since the time that my father passed away (especially because, unfortunately, he was not able to get great insurance) that it would fall on me to help support my mother financially and to help get my siblings through college. For this reason, I have done everything in my power to put myself in a position where I will be able to carry the financial load. (Side note: my brother (18) has felt a very strong call to the priesthood for a very long time and I have a feeling that he is very much called to the priesthood – and I absolutely want him to go for it.)

Present Situation: My friend has been seriously discerning the priesthood for almost a year now and we are both of the opinion that all Catholic men should spend a significant time discerning the priesthood. I strongly agree with this position, but it has been very difficult to pour myself into this discernment because (a) in the back of my mind, I feel a great responsibility to my mother (and so that my brother does not have to worry about this, too) and (b) I have always been a romantic and I am finding it difficult to let go of this in order to properly discern the priesthood. (Part of me believes, though, that I have a duty to 100% contemplate the priesthood, as in completely unfocusing on the romantic desires. In an attempt to do this, I have not had a relationship for two years.)

Question: Are my familial responsibilities a legitimate reason for not completely putting myself into discernment of the priesthood? Are these familial responsibilities, perhaps, a legitimate source of guidance towards the married life?

Thank you for your time and willingness to help,

Brother, my commendations on the care you’ve shown for your family. I would clarify for you that you have a duty to discern your vocation, and as part of that be open to the priesthood, marriage, religious life. I would recommend seking out a spiritual director who can guide you through the process with the full story rather than asking here.

That being said, do you feel called? From what you’ve written, it does not appear that you are interested in the priesthood yourself. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s the first step in determining if that’s the life for you. God does not call us to be something that we don’t want to be.

Secondly, if you do feel called, do not let financial issues prevent you from fully exploring that call. My father always says, “God provides!”. I’ve seen it again and again in my life. My wife and I are about to leave are financially secure lifestyle so that she can earn a PhD in Theology because we’ve discerned this is what God is calling her to. We have a lot of questions and concerns about how it will all work, but we have to trust that He will take care of us. If you discern that God is truly calling you to priesthood (or religious life, or whatever life - even if you get married, you willhave to let go of your responsibilities to your mother and brothers so that you can freely and totally give yourself to your spouse) you have to trust that God will provide.

Blessings brother.

I agree with McDale, and in your particular situation I think it’s especially important that you discuss this with a spiritual director.

jpjd and McDale721,

I greatly appreciate your advice. I think that it is very good and it reminds me, especially, how much we are loved by God and how much we should trust in him. “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

I have actually be looking into spiritual direction for a few months now. I have been discerning over whom I might ask for direction. I will be sure to scour these boards for advice on the topic (as I am sure there is much).

Thank you again,

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