Dear sister in Christ.
When I read your post, I felt a great connection. I am by no means an expert - actually, I’m only a couple of years older than you. But at the moment I’m going through my own discernment process and have experienced and am experiencing many similar things.
I think it’s okay to be scared. The future can be a scary thing to think about, regardless of where one’s vocation lies. I don’t think we can ever really be sure of where we are meant to be. There’s a lot of talk about being “certain” or “knowing” what our true vocations are, but in truth I don’t think we can ever be certain or ever truly know. There’s no guidebook or answer. When I first began considering my vocation, I really just wanted to know straight away where I was destined. I needed to be certain. And that caused problems for me, because we can never have this certainty. All we can have is patience and tolerance.
So, if we can’t be certain, how do we discern? I only recently began my own discernment, and the following things have helped me most:
- Attending Mass, Adoration, Sacraments more regularly to form a closer relationship with Christ and the Church.
- Taking some time to pray each day, read Scripture or meditate to deepen contemplation and to guide the heart.
- Speaking to trusted people about your thoughts to get support and guidance. Family, friends, a priest, a sister, whoever.
- Researching religious orders to get some more guidance and to form a better idea of personal preference. Contact any that interest you.
- If things get serious for you in regards to discernment, try and form a regular contact with someone from the order or orders that most attract you.
- Probably the most important and necessary - be patient with yourself and with Our Lord.
The priesthood certainly is attractive. I’m also female, and I think serving God and Christ in that way is an amazing thing, but clearly it’s not possible for us I get what you say about religious women not being able to give as much as religious men. I believe that’s true to an extent, but there are many proactive, inspirational, world-changing nuns and sisters out there, whether they be contemplative, active or both.
Feelings of unworthiness are not uncommon. When I first felt drawn to religious life, I was taken aback. I kept thinking, “Who, me? I’m so unworthy! God can’t possibly be calling me to serve Him like this!” God calls and elevates His lowliest servants. You have the power - as a single, married or religious person - to make a difference in our world. Even Our Blessed Mother spoke about her lowliness, but she accepted her future wholeheartedly even though she didn’t understand it completely.
A relationship with God comes from somewhere deep inside. From the heart. That is what God sees - He does not look at the exterior. My relationship with God is different to that of any other person, and that’s okay. Just work to nourish your personal understanding of and friendship with the Lord. Trust that he will guide and strengthen you.
See, that’s what really gets me. A lot of people talk about doing “God’s will” and worrying that they aren’t doing it. I think all that God wants for us is happiness and goodness. I believe He wants us to bring Christ and His Spirit into the world, through a life of happiness, service and mercy. God can’t make the choices for us. It’s up to us! We need to discern and act responsibly. To work out how best we can fulfil the above, and to work out whether it is what we want. God wants what is good for us. He does not want our unhappiness. If we are not happy, we cannot make others happy.
Accept that your vocation is something that will take time to discern. I felt lost for a while, but talking to people (particularly priests) and praying helped me most. I pray to know my vocation in time, and I ask God to guide me and reveal Himself when He sees fit. I pray for my future spouse, if marriage ends up being the end to which I am called, and I also pray for any possible future as a religious or single woman. But ultimately, I just ask to be open to and hear my personal call when it comes.
I hope I could help you. As I said, your post resonated with me a lot. Wishing you much happiness and strength in this time. You will be in my prayers, as will the friend you mentioned. One of my closest friends recently learnt to walk again also, so that’s another issue close to my heart. May God bless you, sister in Christ. Feel free to contact me at any time if you wish.
P.S. You may find this site interesting. I came across it recently and even though it focuses on discerning the priesthood, there is some quite useful stuff there: franciscanbrothersminor.com/FBM/Discernment_1.html