Is it possible to have a calling to the priesthood but get married instead

Are there some people who feel possibly called to the priesthood but end up getting married because they also feel a strong call to that and they go on to have happy marriages?

Perhaps they would rather be married than be a priest? Our vocations aren’t forced on us right, we have to accept them? So if someone didn’t want to be a priest they don’t have to be.

I’m just trying to understand how vocational callings work.

A vocation isn’t absolutely determinate, in the sense that it doesn’t interfere with our free will. You could be called to one vocation and pursue another.



I recall when I entered the aspirancy phase of the permanent diaconate, one of he priests who was teaching our class on spirituality had a class about vocations. He had placed a set of crucifix’s on a table, and each one was labeled with a different vacation (e.g. Religious Order, Priesthood, Diaconate, Married Life, Single Life) and he asked us to come up and examine them and to figure out which one of them was right/best. He made sure that we picked each one up and looked at it all over. We were all confused by this exercise, but then he said, in God’s eyes, each one is just as good as the other. Don’t fret it, whichever you choose, God will be okay with it. None of them are better than the other and we need all vacations or this world would not be complete.

I was called first to the married life, and have a wonderful wife, children and now grandchildren. I felt a calling a number of years back to the diaconate, and at first, I just kept pushing it aside. Eventually, God got my attention and I understood what was being asked of me. God willing, next spring I will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. But, maybe something interrupts that, and I will not be ordained, and I am okay with that too. I know the what I need to do is just be open and listen to what God asks of me and if that is to be a husband, father, grandfather AND deacon, that is great, but if it is to be a husband, father and grandfather like I am now, I am good with that too.


One of those “sitting around talking” conversations with some priests, religious, seminarians, a bishop, there was an idea brought up that our church has so many failed marriages because some of those people did not have a vocation to marriage. They had a vocation to priesthood/religious life but they either did not even know how to discern, did not ever give it any consideration, had families that would not hear of their child talking about a religious vocation. Because of that, the marriage always felt to be lacking something.

Neither my husband nor I grew up Catholic, we did not have any Catholics in our immediate family or circles. Both are adult converts. Over the years, after much counsel with priests during rough patches in our marriage, we each feel that our vocations were to religious life, however, we did not even have a concept of that as non-Catholic Christians. It is amazing how many of our marital issues went away once we both talked about this.


I think there is a hierarchy of vocations within the Church and the celibate vocation is generally considered superior to marriage. It is not to say that those who are called who are superior but the call itself is superior. So if someone feels attracted to both marriage and priesthood, he should choose the priesthood.

He is however free to marry as a call is no impediment to marriage and if he follows God’s will from then on, he could even become a saint.

But if we do sense a call, I think we should act on it not because it would be a sin to marry if we’re called to a celibate vocation, but because that’s the vocation we’ll be happiest in.

It is however possible to get married. It’s not the ideal choice but well, God accepts it.

And I’m no expert but think that if we have a call, we will also have a desire for it, even if this desire is only weak. The desire might grow once you’re in seminary. God doesn’t call us to vocations randomly. I think he has made us one way or the other. So if he wants us to be priest, he also gives us the desire.

Our duty is live a life of prayer and frequent the sacraments so as to be attentive to God. But if somebody’s strongly called to marriage and has no desire for priesthood whatsoever that would be a sign that he isn’t being called.

I have strong desire to be married, very strong. I feel called to it. But growing up I did play Priest and say mass in my house for years, and I felt very strongly called to it a couple years ago but determined it wasn’t for me. Then that desire went away like instantly and was replaced slowly with a call to marriage

I think that’s discernment well done.
If the desire for one vocation wanes and the other grows, then that’s God working in you. (assuming you have a regular life of prayer). He’s probably calling you to marriage.

However, only your spiritual director can confirm this. And remember you are not called to marriage per se but to marry somebody.

I felt equally called in both directions, so I discussed it with my spiritual director (at the time). He asked me what I thought was involved in being priest. I told him my thoughts. Then he asked me what I thought was involved in being married. I told him my thoughts. Then he sat back, crossed his arms and said, “Well it sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things.” That was the end of the “direction” that I got from him on that matter. :rofl:

In the end I ended up choosing to get married, even after nearly calling off the engagement to enter a monastery. My bride and I have been married for 12 years now, we have four beautiful children on earth (one of whom is severely mentally and physically handicapped) and one child in heaven. I love my bride. I love my vocation. And I’m very happy with the decision I made.

That being said, occasionally I do still feel a strong attraction to the monastic life, especially since my closest childhood friend went on to become a Benedictine monk. And, as an Eastern Catholic, the option of becoming a married priest is certainly also attractive.

Whenever I catch myself daydreaming about “what might have been” had I chosen the monastic life, I remind myself of Christ’s words from the Gospel of Luke (I believe): “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom.”

Personally, I believe God disposes us to a specific vocation, but then leaves the choice up to us. Once we make that choice, however, we have entered decisively into a specific spiritual combat, and it’s our duty to live our chosen vocation fully. That’s the only way we’ll be happy, fulfill God’s will, and reveal Christ’s face to the people around us.


I had vocation issues too, at some point, for some time. I got married, had a couple of children, and then had a strong conversion experience that still lasts. And after 6 years into marriage and then 3 kids, I started wondering “what if”. The more I read and prayed and went to Mass the more I longed for monastic life, but I still loved my family, and I didn’t mean to ever leave them, just wondered - what if’d converted before I met my husband.

And here’s what happened. The evening the conflict in me was the strongest, I lost my wedding ring. First time ever. And it never happened afterwards too, the ring just isn’t loose! But the funniest thing is I realized this exactly at the moment late in the evening, kids asleep, when I was in the middle of the pondering all this. And I think I talked to Jesus about this problem. And that when I got kind of moved to look at my right hand and noticed no wedding band (I usually don’t feel it all, like it’s not there, so there’s also no incentive to look if it’s gone for instance). I looked, and it wasn’t there. The answer however was not at all that the ring was gone. To the contrary! The answer was that I panicked that I lost it!
I immediately started praying to st Anthony to help me find it. I had absolutely no idea when and where, how long ago I lost it. Not even if at home. Yet, I found it very quickly, as if guided, behind an armchair in the living room.
And I was overjoyed! We now have four kids, fifth in Heaven and I just practice being a nun on the inside, in a way, meaning spiritual life.

Then I read about saint John Maria Vianney’s biography and his vocational conflicts (about being a trappist). I understood that sometimes that sort of other calling can be from God, but He doesn’t mean us to follow it - it’s simply about wanting to do what brings us closest to God.
But at the same time, it may be from the devil, who wants us to leave marriage/priesthood for the opposite vocation so that we abandon people we are responsible for, for example.

I guess it’s quite complicated, and requires a lot of prayer and discernment in some cases. Saint Alphonsus argues that we are where we are supposed to be and we should do the duties of the state the best we can. (I hope I remember all correctly here). And quite recently a priest I listened to said, that if the marriage is valid, both entered into it willingly - it’s that vocation end of story. And same with priests being ordained. I am only repeating what he said. Perhaps it’s not always so simple.
There are in history some saints who were married and then all the family entered the monastery (or, by agreement of the spouse - the other spouse decided to do so) - the first case is venerable Mary of Agreda, the other were more frequent once, but I don’t remember anyone specific.

There’s also an Italian priest, very old, who was long married, had a few sons (some are priests I think) and he felt the call, got ordained and he’s a priest now.

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Acutally, Catholic teaching is that you are called to marriage per se. We are then to seek a spouse. The idea that there is only one perfect spouse or that there are “soul mates” invalidates free will.

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That is definitely not what my spiritual director said to me when I asked him this question.
And this is the first time I’ve heard someone say that this is Catholic teaching.

Doesn’t mean that there is one person you’re supposed to marry. It means that you don’t discern marriage in vacuum. The sacrament of matrimony is between two people, how do you discern a vocation to this sacrament all alone?

Similarly, you don’t discern religious life, you discern to join a particular order
You don’t discern priesthood, you discern in which diocese you want to be priest for

Now I’ve only been a Catholic for two years, so I may be wrong.
But this is literally the first time, I’ve heard someone say that you are called to marriage per se.

How do I know that I’m called to marriage if I’m not discerning it with somebody?
We all have a natural vocation to marriage. It doesn’t mean we’re called to it.

What if I never find a spouse? Am I still called marriage and simply failing in my vocation because I haven’t found anybody?

Each Diocese has discernment resources available. I’ve hosted more Vocations events than I can count. The talks that are given to kids and young people speak of discerning which path. If after discernment is for a religious life, then the next step is discerning how that religious life is to be led (as a secular priest, as a religious brother, monk) then the next step is to discern if one has a vocation as a Franciscian or Dominican or Jesuit, etc.

It sounds as if your SD had a different POV.

Sorry if I sounded disrespectful.
I’m not doubting your expertise in matters related to vocations.

I think it’s probably case-by-case situation and my spiritual director is French, if that changes anything.

I have usually heard in vocation events that you’re called to specific vocation, not to a general vocation. This was probably because a lot of people get caught up in “I’m called to marriage. Now what?” without sufficient prayer or discernment.

I believe and this is where my SD was getting at is that you cannot be “sure” of your call to a particular vocation unless you’ve met somebody. I think there’s a slight misunderstanding. You can feel the call before but cannot discern it? Not sure if that makes sense .

I’m sorry I’m a bit overexcited about this as I’m still a young man (I’m 26) and I haven’t made up my mind one way or the other, so this isn’t simply all theory for me.

Yes they can do whatever they want. No God won’t ensure they are unhappy because they didn’t choose the vocation he wanted. BUT your best path to your best life is to follow God’s call to wherever that is. Also “happiness” is definitely something God calls us to, but not always in this life. “What do I think will make me happy?” Shouldn’t replace “What do I think I should do with my life?” They aren’t the same.

And if you’re relatively certain you are called to one vocation but choose another, is that sinful?

I think that would all depend upon the circumstances, to be honest. There could be many variables in play there. I don’t want to give an objective answer here, because I don’t think there is one. It would depend a lot on circumstances and motivations.

I would also be inclined as well to say that you have to be careful about dwelling on such a thought if you struggle with scrupulosity. I know of a lot of people for whom the idea of “I chose the wrong vocation” can be a trigger.


I do not know if it is a trigger or not, but indeed it can be related - when I had that problem, I also dealt with scruples.

I’ve always understood Catholic teaching to be that all vocations are equal. There is certainly no hierarchy. St. John Paul II wrote about this.

From Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, John Paul II (excerpt from, section “Vocation,” subsection, “Sacred Chrism,” page 37)…google it…it will take you right to google books and this section…

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