I want to do what's right


#1

I’m having trouble discerning between the religious life and marriage. I know that I am called to a life of holiness and love of God, that all Catholics are, and I also feel like I must be as close to God and as holy as I can be.

I’ve heard from a lot of people, at least implicitly, often explicitly as well, that you’ll be closer to God and holier if you are a priest or religious, that you’ll accomplish more in God’s plan and He will see you as a more favored member of His people. What I’ve heard from so many sources is that the closest and holiest way to God is religious life or the priesthood. If you get married, then you just won’t be able to achieve that depth of a relationship with God. (A side question which has been bothering me: Does that mean all married people are less holy than religious? What about married saints, and Our Lady?)

So it seems that if I want to fulfill my Christian vocation of love of God and holiness, there is no choice but to become a religious, and that if I really loved God and was able to make this choice then I would do it. But I’ve read so many beautiful things about marriage from the saints, the Catechism, and especially John Paul II, and I would love to be married and have children and serve God in that way.

If dedicating oneself entirely to Him makes God more pleased and makes the soul more holy, then how do I have a choice? Can I be just as holy in married life? Or am I obligated to become a religious if I want to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and please Him the most I possibly can?

It just doesn’t seem fair that if I want to become the very holiest person I can be, the soul God created me to be, I have to leave a path He’s left open to me. I’ve also heard that if you are called to be a religious, then you will feel at peace–and this confusion has left me very much not at peace right now. Whatever God wants, I’ll do it, but is it even possible that He could want me to be married?


#2

Holiness comes through loving and embracing God's Will. If God extends an invitation to religious life, usually there is some attraction to the life.
The heights on earth of holiness can be achieved in any way of life and God certainly grants the Graces to do so; however, in religious life the whole way of life is structured to achieve holiness. In marriage and in the secular or lay state there are probably more distractions than in religious life. Be that as it may, there are distractions from holiness in religious life also.
I think you would really benefit from spiritual direction. You can make enquiries of your parish priest and if he is not in a position to direct you, then he should be able to advise you how to contact a spritual director. You could phone your diocesan office as well as contact religious orders of brothers and/or priests and make enquiries of them. Any of these should be able to advise you re spiritual direction if they cannot assist of themselves. Sometimes too religious orders of sisters and nuns may undertake spiritual direction.

TS


#3

It is possible that God wants you to get married. Do not worry about not achieving holiness through marriage - matrimony is a Sacrament! It instills Grace!

Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. The only way you can know what God wants for you is to spend time with Him.

The only reason there are more religious saints than married saints is this: the typical saint has displayed extraordinary and visible courage. A good parent displays extraordinary courage invisibly, so rarely receive the credit they are due. I think some of the best saints in Heaven might possibly also be the best parents.

I remember one example, specifically, of a married canonized saint: St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. Other than Mary, St. Monica is perhaps the best example of motherhood in Christendom and probably the world. She prayed fervently, constantly, for the conversion of her son. She gave herself so that he might live. And convert he did. After years of prayer from St. Monica, St. Augustine abandoned his hedonistic lifestyle and became one of the greatest saints since the Apostles. Frequently, Sts. Augustine and Monica are depicted together.


#4

[quote="Filia_Mariae, post:1, topic:245766"]
I'm having trouble discerning between the religious life and marriage. I know that I am called to a life of holiness and love of God, that all Catholics are, and I also feel like I must be as close to God and as holy as I can be.

I've heard from a lot of people, at least implicitly, often explicitly as well, that you'll be closer to God and holier if you are a priest or religious, that you'll accomplish more in God's plan and He will see you as a more favored member of His people. What I've heard from so many sources is that the closest and holiest way to God is religious life or the priesthood. If you get married, then you just won't be able to achieve that depth of a relationship with God. (A side question which has been bothering me: Does that mean all married people are less holy than religious? What about married saints, and Our Lady?)

So it seems that if I want to fulfill my Christian vocation of love of God and holiness, there is no choice but to become a religious, and that if I really loved God and was able to make this choice then I would do it. But I've read so many beautiful things about marriage from the saints, the Catechism, and especially John Paul II, and I would love to be married and have children and serve God in that way.

If dedicating oneself entirely to Him makes God more pleased and makes the soul more holy, then how do I have a choice? Can I be just as holy in married life? Or am I obligated to become a religious if I want to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and please Him the most I possibly can?

It just doesn't seem fair that if I want to become the very holiest person I can be, the soul God created me to be, I have to leave a path He's left open to me. I've also heard that if you are called to be a religious, then you will feel at peace--and this confusion has left me very much not at peace right now. Whatever God wants, I'll do it, but is it even possible that He could want me to be married?

[/quote]

I am not Catholic (yet, anyway) but I was in training for ministry in my Protestant Church for a while so I know something about feeling drawn to a life of ministry and dedication to God. However, a decision like the one you are considering is a potentially life altering one that will require deep committment on your part (not to mention a calling from God). The best advice I can give is similar to what the previous poster stated: Seek guidance from your local priest and others within your parish you feel you can trust to provide you with the direction you need right now. Of course, prayer and fasting could help as well.

Hope this helps...


#5

As others have suggested, don't think so much about what vocation is "better" in the abstract. God calls different people to different states of life, some higher, some lower. What is important is what God desires for you in particular.


#6

We serve God best when we do his will. For some that is religious life, and for some it is marriage.

The smart thing is if marriage is what we are called to and we want to serve the Lord well, then pray for a marriage partner who puts the Lord first, as we should all do, and you will go through marriage together knowing where your strength comes from.

I like to recall the title of a book Bishop Sheen wrote: “It Takes Three to Get Married”.


#7

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful replies. I'm trying to keep this thread alive for awhile so I can get as much advice as I can.
I've also been thinking--would it ever be possible to do a kind of evangelization in married life that wouldn't be possible in religious life? For example, I really think writing Catholic fiction is something that I really should do for God.
I will look into getting a spiritual director. (Hold me to that--I've said I'd do it before!)
Any suggested reading besides the book that Dorothy mentioned? I'm already reading the Catechism, the Bible, and I've read other books like JPII's Crossing the Threshold of Hope, C.S. Lewis' Four Loves, and St. Augustine's Confessions.


#8

Holiness comes from God. It is living in union with Him, married or not. Perhaps the choice is not to be made right now. Doors will open, and one must be at peace to make the right choice based on the union of the three powers of the soul, the will, the intellect, and the passions. A passionate desire that drives the will contrary to the reasoning power of the intellect perhaps would lead one to make a wrong choice. Hope and trust.

St. Gianna Molla and Blessed Chiara Badano are both lay Catholics.


#9

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