Letting Go or Giving Up?


Dear brethren and friends,

Almost exactly a year ago, I was in the applications process for the seminary in my home Diocese. I had made great strides through the process and was expecting to go before the Bishop soon at that time. I underwent a psychological evaluation however and the results troubled my Bishop. These were due primarily to certain sins that I admitted to having committed as a teenager. Though I had no canonical impediments, my vocations director made clear to me that there were too many red-flags and my application was dropped. Though I was never outright told that I could never be a priest, the general implication seemed to me as such.

Naturally I was crushed (an understatement), but I have since grown and recovered to some degree.

Nevertheless, I still desire the priesthood (diocesan in particular). To be honest, it is the only thing I want to do with my life…it my highest hope and dream. I have many gifts which could be used to great effect in that vocation, as was made clear to me by many who discerned with me. Indeed, my spiritual director has encouraged me to continue being open to the priesthood despite my (and his) own Bishop’s decision.

But…lately I find myself fearful of pursuing my dream. I look at my life and those “red-flags” that appeared, and I doubt (contrary to the general opinion of my spiritual director) that these problems can be solved. I think more often about the hardships that priests endure, and the challenges of priestly life (both diocesan and religious). I guess to be blunt, I’m not sure I want to endure all that…I’m not sure my dream of serving God in the priesthood is worth daring to present myself to the Church again…even after growing and maturing.

It’s the worst feeling in the world! On the one hand, I pine for the seminary and the grace of being able to offer the Lord my whole life in service. But, at the same time, I fear (truly fear) my sins and my past mistakes. I fear daring to hope again and being crushed like I was before.

I have discussed this at length (hours!) with my spiritual director, but I can’t find peace with it. My SD has known me since I was a kid and he knows me better than anyone on this earth. He seems convinced that I have a vocation to the priesthood, but he like me is not sure how or in what way.

I’m tempted to just give up. I have no other dreams to pursue, but I’m not sure I want to go through everything…all that stringent vetting by the Church again.

But is that selfish of me? I have been enthralled of the priest’s laying down of his entire life for God and His People. By my lack of hope, my doubt, and by the possibility of just giving up on my dream…am I failing to love God?

I just feel so confused and I wanted some fresh advice from the knowledgeable people here. Many of you already know me to some degree.

I just want some guidance, even if it’s small. You guys have helped me out before, so I trust you all.


I truly don’t think you will get anything helpful here that you have not already heard from your spiritual director and in fact think it will be counterproductive to seek answers that contradict what he has told you, and negate the value of spiritual direction.

Take is advice. Be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to direct this and stop trying to make it happen. If that is where you are called the way will open up in God’s good time. Meantime live and act as a man who is a potential candidate for the priesthood.

Continue to combat sin and harmful habits and strengthen the spiritual defenses against them. Live in chastity, conduct your relationships as if you had already made the commitment to seminary. I don’t recal if you have said you are already associated with a monastery as a secular associate or oblate but that may help you order your time and prayerlife in “monastic” mode in prayer, conduct, keeping the hours, dedicating the work of the day to God etc. Sacramental life goes without saying.

Continue to read and study as you would if you were preparing for seminary. Attack any academic weaknesses, become familiar with the theologians and spiritual writers.

Most of all look to be of service in some committed apostolate so that you gradually order your life to service along with other obligations of your current state in life. this will be a great test also of what you are able to do and if after all that direction is truly your call.

Take a hard honest look at the feedback you got during the application process, particularly the so-called red flags. Take them to a professional counsellor if the concerns are psychological or to other appropriate people who can help you confront and overcome them (or determine if they in fact exist).
Take Fr. Solanas Casey as a patron.


I second Annie's advice. :thumbsup:


Well, I guess that means St. Augustine of Hippo would be shown the door in this day and age!


I don’t know how old you are, so obviously I don’t know the timescales involved in between your ‘impediment’ and your application.

For the purposes of my answer, I’m assuming you’re a relatively young man.

There can be some ‘impediments’ that may point to an unsettled character that would preclude admission of a candidate for seminary at a particular time. Now I’m not suggesting that you ARE, but IF you had engaged, for instance, in a considerable amount of homosexual behaviour in your teens, the Church would be keen to ensure that you had evolved away from that pressure in your own personal life to re-enact such behaviour as an adult. As I understand it, to admit a candidate to seminary who had engaged in homosexual desires, there have to be several years of settled behaviour where the candidate was NOT desiring such activities. The reasons are, I should have thought, obvious: semi-closed all male environment, the trials of living with SSA in the role of a seminarian in that environment, etc, all means that the Church wants to be satisfied - for your own good - that you won’t be damaged as a result of entering seminary and becoming a priest.

Now obviously there may be other impediments, such as drug use, alcohol dependence or repeated/habitual heterosexual fornication, or indeed there may be psychological illnesses that might present a problem: for instance a nervous breakdown, etc.

The impact of ALL of these may be reduced by the passage of time. You say it has only been a year since you were told that you couldn’t proceed. I would recommend giving it a substantial amount of time before you apply again. If God wants you as a priest, the door will not be completely closed.

Pray to St John Vianney. He struggled to be accepted too, and look at him now: he’s the patron saint of priests.

Above all though, be patient. As St Julian of Norwich said, “All will be well and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

God bless you.


I second puzzleannie’s comments, and add this: Be careful that your post on here is not an attempt to gain validation for your feelings or a possible fuel for resentment. You are in a difficult and very tempting position right now, something that you need to take time to process. It would be very easy to begin to somehow think that you are right, and “they” are wrong, and to vent your frustrations on this (very public) forum. Take plenty of time to process this, talk it over with your spiritual director, and humbly submit to the judgment whose job it is to make these decision. And remember that sometimes, it’s not so much that God hasn’t answered our prayers, but that, with his Fatherly kindness, love, and wisdom, he has said “Not yet, son.”



Just a thought. In your distress you might want to meditate on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was truly human and must have felt great distress at what He was facing in spite of His innocence. He was innocent, but we are all sinners. Whenever we are in pain, we can offer it to him in reparation for what he suffered and know that He deeply understands our condition. I don’t know if I made great sense there. I am just saying use the difficulty to bring you close to Christ - lay it at the foot of the Cross - He will guide you.


I'll be a third (or fourth or fifth) for Puzzle Annie's advice. If God wants it to happen, it will - in His time.


Sounds to me like you're blessed with a great spiritual director.



Actually, I’d like to give you my opinion, as through my discernment process I’ve been prone to studying dynamics of different groups (diocesan included).

If you are convinced you have a vocation, I highly suggest joining a society of apostolic life. Your first thought was diocesan, so perhaps religious isn’t the way to go… A society of apostolic life is essentially secular priests living in community. Though they are not required to profess vows, there are some congregations that do (the Congregation of the Mission, or Vincentians, coming to mind).

The reason why I suggest going this route is that you mention you have a fear of committing sins again which you had trouble with in the past, and (without more information) I’m going to assume that you feel living on your own may enable you to more easily fall into these habits again.

But that’s the beauty of community life! Not only do you have companions which function as your family on your life’s journey, but like a good family you share with each other the faults you’ve noticed in one another, to better help one another conform to God’s will and keep each other from sinning unnecessarily.

Granted, these aren’t the only benefits, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s always peaches and cream (perhaps PMing one of the religious brothers or Fr. Serpa might give you a better idea of community life), but I think that might be an avenue to pursue.


As was Thomas Merton by the Francisans who he tried to join and for the same reasons.

No place for true forgiveness, for the "Go and sin no more " of Jesus?


I have often thought the same. The priest scandal has, I believe, robbed the Church of any future St. Augustines…


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