My vocation to priesthood is being slightly blocked. Need insights on this matter


#1

Hi CAF

I have posted on here a few times before, asking for prayers and wishes on my discernment into priesthood. I’ve been through a lot since then, and the Holy Spirit has truly revealed itself in me, I feel and ever-stronger desire to serve Jesus and give everything up in His name. Praise God!

So, in the last week or so, I’ve taken the first steps into entering the seminary and beginning my study (or preparation for it). I spoke to my priest/spiritual director, and he’s quite happy with everything. He says there will be someone coming from my home country in the next month or so who can organize and analyze my candidacy.

But the main problem is that my priest strongly keeps suggesting that I finish my current (unrelated) studies first (I’m nearing the end towards a degree in Business). I’ve gone from hinting to insisting that I have no desire to do so; discerning my priesthood has been something which has developed me in such a way that I want to only work for Jesus, and focus completely on serving Him, nothing more. He says that it’d be beneficial, at least just for discipline and “bling” purposes if I finished it seeing as I’m so close to the end (he makes a strong point, citing his own life as someone who finished a degree and then subsequently went into the seminary). He says it’s always good to have background in something else, which is understandable I guess. However, to finish my degree would require a lot of effort; I’d need to complete engagement courses which require working with other businesses on their projects. I just find this sort of stuff to be unnecessary and distracting; I’ve just got a constant burning desire in me to begin my course to priesthood. I know myself and how I react to certain situations, and I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t be happy undertaking said stuff. It is irrelevant and contrary to what I want to be doing and learning, and I feel I can better use the time to perhaps prepare better for my priest life in the future (perhaps starting to learn Latin or something). I’m currently in the process of also practicing with living under vows of chastity, poverty and humility (I want to go into the Franciscan religious order), which again I find very difficult and spiritually demanding to follow, thus my studies would only distract and further me from my spiritual call.

Of course, finishing my course is not a requirement, however my priest said that it’s more than likely that anyone I talk to (including my candidacy judges) will tell me to do the same thing. He says it’s more of a matter of discipline that I shouldn’t just give up on something because I don’t enjoy it anymore etc. I will probably be able to find a way around it, no doubt (if worst comes I’d just find a new order or diocese to go through), however it really annoys and worries me for the time being.

Is anyone able to give me some advice on this matter? Should I forget about my spiritual discernment and preparation for the time being and complete an unrelated course, or should I just go straight ahead with my desire and begin my journey? The choice seems obvious, but as I said my priest strongly insists that I look into completing my degree. It’s really starting to become a factor in my desire and path to serving God.

O God, please make my paths straight!


#2

Have you asked God what you should do, and actually wait in silence to hear His voice?

You post is filled with a lot “I want”, “I think” , remember the prayer says “Thy will” not my will! :wink: And why either/or and not both/and? Yes, it will be difficult, and anything worth having is worth working hard for. :wink:

I think you have already been given some wise advice. Finish your degree. I know many priests who wished they had a business degree. It would make running a parish much easier if they had some businees knowledge! Use some of your free time to study Latin, or the Franciscan way of life, or whatever peaks your spiritual intrests. Get a spiritual director, and develop a prayer routine that can be done around your school life.

The formation process is just that- FORMATION. It is meant to help you to become the man God wants you to be. The discipline required for finishing your degree in business is nothing compared to the discipline requied to be a priest, let alone a Franciscan.

Just some thoughts to ponder, peace be with you on your journey! :slight_smile:


#3

Take this as a moment to practice obedience. Your spiritual director is somewhat your Superior right now, and he is trying to do what is best for you. You may not see it, but he is full of wisdom, and he is much older and wiser than you. I would listen to him. If all else, going against what everyone says won’t impress the seminary all that much.


#4

Wax on, wax off.

Don’t tell the formators and spiritual directors what you want to do, as if you have any idea what is needed to be formed as a priest. Do what they tell you to do. It’s not even really an unrelated degree - any pastor will tell you that business skills are necessary to function as a priest in today’s world. In my diocese I know of more than one priest who was sent back to school to study business. Get your degree, keep up your prayer life, and stay in contact with the formators and with other like-minded men. Your vocation will be strengthened because you learned obedience and patience.


#5

This.

I think you should listen to them. Especially considering they’re the ones with all the experience - and you’re just a young guy. We think we know everything when we’re this age, bro! Just finish it, get the degree, stay the course. They know what they’re doing.

I can’t begin to tell you how hard it’s been for me to finish my degree and wait to enter the seminary. It really is a matter of discipline. Agh…three months and I’ll have my degree, six months I’ll be in the seminary, but till then… :banghead:

Oh, and you know there will be plenty of time for preparing and studying and getting ready. You’ll be doing this your whole life. There’s no rush. My SD tells me over and over, “There’s no timeline! Don’t think about time!”


#6

Thank you brothers for your helpful responses.

In response, I will clarify further; I have prayed strongly and constantly for my vocation and God's will to be done, and this is where my burning passion and desire to become a priest comes from. It is by this passion that I feel a real sense of urgency; that God has a glorious plan for me (as he does for everyone) to save souls and repent the world. Nowhere in my prayer and listening did any idea of completing my degree or becoming a better qualified businessmen come in; in fact, it was the opposite; that I should give up what I have stored on earth (education, glory, means to money, knowledge of business etc) and focus completely on storing things up in Heaven instead.

I understand that a background in business will indeed help me run a Church or think in a way which is positive (after all, in a way, I am a marketer, or agent, of Christ). However, overseeing finances and organizing operations is obviously not as important as spiritually guiding people to Christ. I'm sure Jesus will be happier with the person who found lost sinners and preached His word than with the one who made His church nice and fancy. I know both of these are essential to the role, however this is a matter of priority. Furthermore, these skills can be acquired and learned "as you go" or "on the job"; something which I have seen in other priests already. My spiritual director never completed any sort of business training, yet is now able to ensure the church runs smoothly. It doesn't require a degree to do so, and neither is a degree required to be able to practice and appreciate these skills. My course has run for 4 years now, I believe I have indeed learned to think strategically form a business point of view, and any experience I can get from the whole thing would have already been attained in that time; there is nothing new to learn. Most people, even professors included, have acknowledged that the official completion of a degree by undertaking the final engagement units is 99% based around two things:

  1. preparation for working in the field and looking for a job, and
  2. simply to attain the written certificate of completion which makes one eligible for a job in the field.

As I said, my vocation to priesthood requires none of these things. An alternative way to look at it would be this; had I never started the degree in the first place, and went in to my spiritual directors office and mentioned nothing about being in the process of a course, would he still stress the importance of it? Would he tell me to go and do a business course before entering the seminary, because business knowledge is essential for running the Church? I doubt it. As I said, I acknowledge that he is speaking in view of what he thinks is best for me, but without actually knowing me that well (we are not that close on a personal level, yet).


#7

Take the advice/suggestion of your spiritual director.
There have been many men who start at seminary and for whatever reason do not end up being ordained as a priest. Your education is important in either case, whether you become a priest or not.


#8

You can't tell the world what your vocation requires. The world will tell you what it requires of your vocation.

I agree with your Vocations Director.

Finish your degree. If, for no other reason, than to prove that you're a capable and conscientious person who fulfils his commitments. What will the vocations discernment team think of a candidate for seminary who simply gives up when something new comes along? Will they trust you to complete Seminary training? It is 6 years after all. They might overlook it if you were still at the beginning of your degree, but after having done most of it, they will be rightly concerned that you can't finish what you start.

As others have said, being well versed in business practises and law will be of use in the management of an organisation such as the Church. Like it or not, the Church has to deal with the world and organise people in order to further its mission. Priests' duties involve far more than just celebrating Mass and writing homilies to teach people the faith. In any case, it is highly likely that you would not start your seminary training until the beginning of the 2014 academic year - assuming your academic year starts, as it is for most, in September then the chances of getting through the pre-assessment stages, the interviews, the psychological assessments, etc in time for September this year are not necessarily good. You have almost certainly got 18 months before you start training, on the assumption you're accepted in the first place.

Don't give up what you have now, but stick with it and finish it. It will only be to your benefit.


#9

I completely understand what you are saying. I am also in the same situation (though I’m a girl). I feel like I’ll be helping God more if I started right now rather than letting years to pass by without serving Him the way I feel He wants me to. Just know that your question is the same one in my mind. Yet, I like to ask myself, does that mean that I am doing nothing for Our Lord right now? I would like to imagine that God might be speaking to me through my spiritual director. Who knows maybe as you KILL yourself at your degree and trying to do it really well and yet you still intend to become a priest, there might be someone in your class who will come to know their vocation to the priesthood by watching you do this. How? I don’t know but God works in mysterious ways. Then also It is lent. He might be asking this great sacrifice of you. You are burning with passion to do His Will! Yet He looks at you calmly and says,‘Wait a little longer’ And you’re reaction is,‘WHAT?’ I’ll do anything for you!’ Then this is His reply,‘Then Wait a little longer…and finish your degree.’ Just do what your spiritual director is saying. In fact, you should thank God, you have a spiritual director. May I ask a favour, you are free to chose what you want but as you offer up this sacrifice, pray for me and ask Our Lord for me if He can grant me a good spiritual director and to be patient. Please.


#10

Spiritual directors are human beings, not infallible in judgement. I would go with your gut feeling. You are under no requirement of obedience ( you haven't even started your seminary studies yet). Stick up for your prudent judgement! Theres a huge shortage of priests in this country. I highly doubt that you will be denied entrance into the seminary because you refused to complete one last business course


#11

www.dictionary.com/petulant


#12

I can’t help but think of the comment of a former pastor of mine. He moved from our parish to a position with his religious order where he wasn’t in a parish from day to day. I asked whether he liked it or missed the parish. He said, “I miss the people. I miss being able to meet their needs. But frankly, I don’t miss hearing ‘Father, Father, the toilet in the ladies’ room is overflowing.’”

Guiding people to Christ is wonderful…but you’re also going to run into financial issues, plumbing problems, and all sorts of other practical things in running a parish. Business skills, handyman skills, teaching skills, etc. are all useful.


#13

Obedience! Do not be too practical and logical about this. You have been given advice by your superior that you do not like, which makes it a great opportunity to practice obedience. If God wants you to become His Priest, you will spend your entire life following advice by people who are not as holy, intelligent and wise as you… Of course the temptation to “work your way around it” will come, but following such thoughts will only make you self centered and less holy.

Finish your degree and use that time of studies to pray your breviary, your rosary and go to daily Mass. If it helps, why not give temporal private vows of celibacy during this time in order not to get distracted? Of course that is also something you should discuss with your spiritual director…

In Communion,
Nils


#14

[quote="Domiy, post:6, topic:316384"]
However, overseeing finances and organizing operations is obviously not as important as spiritually guiding people to Christ.

[/quote]

Equally obvious is the fact that STARTINGRIGHTNOW is not as important as learning obedience. A delay of a few months is nothing in the long-term plan of the rest of your life.


#15

Patience is a virtue my friend, don't I know it!

I'm 15, I have been certain I want to be a Priest for a year now. I've even taken to studying personally: Latin, Theology, Philosophy, Liturgy and Italian (as I hope to study in Rome). The Archbishop of our Province asked me if I would like to leave for Rome before I finished High School. It was a tempting offer. I did not do it. Obviously my situation is quite different; High School Education is a bit more of a necessity in life. I do know how you feel though, I shall pray for you.

Patience and Prayer is the only thing that is holding me back from the Archbishop's offer.

God be with you, my friend.


#16

Thanks for your words. Just to point out (whether it makes a difference or not in your judgement), things like not being able to go to Daily Mass or be as consistent in prayer are one of the very things that lead me towards deciding not to finish my degree. I know how I am during exam time and in needing to complete assessments, I get into a stressful groove where (sadly) I obviously can’t find as much time and effort to pray as much as I usually do or read the Bible, simply due to the overwhelming amount of other books I need to be. This is why I fear it will further me from my spiritual closeness.

I’m also factoring in the costs of all of it; travelling costs, textbooks (which are crazy expensive), notebooks, resources, parking permits. For the time I have remaining this can easily add up to over thousands of dollars. The money isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that I’d be spending it on something which is more of a fancy luxury which I probably won’t even use as much when it can much easier go to the poor or even towards the Church. I’m trying to adopt the words and mindset of St Francis himself, ie a total vow of poverty and dedication to the poor.

The time I’d take to finish would be at least another full year, and that’s a best-case scenario provided everything goes on schedule and I pass everything first-time, which may very well not be so. Even at best, I think a year is a long time to put off seminary in order to be chasing another (opposite) lifestyle. I fear that I may get used to it again and be pulled in by the desire to work, earn money, find material desires etc.


#17

[quote="Domiy, post:16, topic:316384"]
Thanks for your words. Just to point out (whether it makes a difference or not in your judgement), things like not being able to go to Daily Mass or be as consistent in prayer are one of the very things that lead me towards deciding not to finish my degree. I know how I am during exam time and in needing to complete assessments, I get into a stressful groove where (sadly) I obviously can't find as much time and effort to pray as much as I usually do or read the Bible, simply due to the overwhelming amount of other books I need to be. This is why I fear it will further me from my spiritual closeness.

[/quote]

So much more the reason to finish your degree and work toward more consistency in prayer! In seminary, they'll make sure that you pray and go to Mass: there won't be any opportunities to practice discipline in prayer! If you're finding it difficult to make prayer a part of your daily life, then you're beginning to understand the pressures that parish priests have, too! Strengthening your spiritual life now will pay dividends when you're a seminarian and beyond...! ;)

I'd be spending it on something which is more of a fancy luxury which I probably won't even use as much when it can much easier go to the poor or even towards the Church.

Taking that to its logical extreme, you might as well skip seminary and just go live a life of poverty now. ;)

However, overseeing finances and organizing operations is obviously not as important as spiritually guiding people to Christ. I'm sure Jesus will be happier with the person who found lost sinners and preached His word than with the one who made His church nice and fancy.

(from your previous post.) 'overseeing finances' and 'organizing operations' so that there's a parish church in which you can guide people to Christ seems a pretty important thing. ;)

In any case, these past two posts of yours seem to say that you're certain that you're destined to be a parish priest only. Who's to say that, with a degree in business and experience as a pastor, your bishop won't utilize that education to the fullest and put you in a position of responsibility in the diocese? Why throw away the possibility of a degree now, that may be of great value to your diocese and the people of God later?

I fear that I may get used to it again and be pulled in by the desire to work, earn money, find material desires etc.

Hmm. This seems to be an important consideration. Tell me -- looking forward, beyond seminary and into priestly life: do you think that you won't be tempted by desires then? You won't be tempted to adopt the lifestyle that your parishioners have -- money, material goods, etc? It might not even take that long -- seminary isn't a cakewalk; don't you understand that you'll be tempted, while in seminary, to just walk away in favor of starting a family, getting a job, and having material possessions? The fact that temptations exist isn't a determining factor in this decision, I think. Moreover, if you finish your degree, you'll have been demonstrating to the seminary admissions board that you can resist these temptations, and therefore, will be a stronger candidate... ;)


#18

Finish your degree, especially when you're at the very end.

It shouldn't really take you any more then a cost-benefit analysis to figure that one out (my degree was in engineering, we have to learn how to speak business). Studying for priesthood will require you to possess a Bachelors degree before you are allowed to study theology at the graduate level (usually a MDiv). Normally, this is done through a BA degree, which is normally 4 years. If you already have a degree (but don't possess the required philosophy and sometimes theology), then it's usually 1-2 years of pre-theology (largely to make up any philosophy that is missing).

Now, if you do you cost-benefit analysis, you are going to have to look at that reality. If you don't have a degree, you'll have to do a BA. How much of your coursework is going to transfer over, especially if you are transferring universities (which are, frankly, pretty infamous for not accepting credits from other institutions if they can help it)? I assume that as a Business major you have no sciences or language or fine arts, which are all normal requirements of a BA. You could probably pull off a major/minor in business with transfer credits, but that will still leave the minor/major to finish. Based on this, you can see that the amount of time you will spend in school before theology is starting to rack up if you don't have a degree, and it will be in more things that you are not interested in (like sciences). 1-2 years of pre-theology is basically all philosophy and undergraduate theology (I believe).

There's also one big thing that factored into my decision to finish my degree (which, as I said, was in engineering) before applying. Are you running towards priesthood or away from business? In my case, I wanted to finish my degree to prove to myself that I could do it, and that my attraction to priesthood was not because I couldn't do something else. I could have chosen not to enter Seminary and gotten a job (and, no fooling, I nearly had one too), but I chose to enter Seminary anyways because it was what I wanted to do, not because I couldn't be an engineer.

And this is just the question of the degree you're currently working on. If you want to enter a religious order, then you better starting working on the Evangelical Councils: Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. You may be asked to take advanced studies in a topic you're not that interested in for the good of the community, and your answer should be yes even if you find it the most boring thing in the world.

You are interested in the religious life. How are you going to handle a Novitiate? A year and a day of spiritual studies is not a cakewalk.

There's also this:

[quote="Domiy, post:1, topic:316384"]
I will probably be able to find a way around it, no doubt (if worst comes I'd just find a new order or diocese to go through), however it really annoys and worries me for the time being.

[/quote]

You're not even in formation yet, and you're already trying to get around what's being asked of you. Not only that, but you've also said that if you don't get your way, then you're going to find another diocese or group that will allow you to get your own way. That's not a good start, nor is that what a bishop or Superior is looking for in a candidate.

[quote="Domiy, post:16, topic:316384"]
Thanks for your words. Just to point out (whether it makes a difference or not in your judgement), things like not being able to go to Daily Mass or be as consistent in prayer are one of the very things that lead me towards deciding not to finish my degree. I know how I am during exam time and in needing to complete assessments, I get into a stressful groove where (sadly) I obviously can't find as much time and effort to pray as much as I usually do or read the Bible, simply due to the overwhelming amount of other books I need to be. This is why I fear it will further me from my spiritual closeness.

[/quote]

Do you anticipate that it is going to be different when you are in the Seminary or in Formation?

Doing theology is going to put you in the same situation where you are going to feel overwhelmed by work. It occupies a lot of your time. There will be Mass and probably Morning and Evening Prayer in common, but where do you think you're going to find time for personal prayer, or scriptural reading? The same way you do now: you make time for it because it is important. That's not something that's done for you in formation, you have to do it yourself the same way you have to now.

[quote="Domiy, post:16, topic:316384"]
Even at best, I think a year is a long time to put off seminary in order to be chasing another (opposite) lifestyle. I fear that I may get used to it again and be pulled in by the desire to work, earn money, find material desires etc.

[/quote]

Nobody can avoid all temptations, not even in a monastery. Entering seminary or formation is not magic, you do not loose all temptation just because you're living a different life.

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm being little harsh here, but you're not giving reasons. You're making rationalizations. You have a spiritual director and he's given you advice. Frankly, there are two options for you: follow the advice or get a different spiritual director. If you're not going to follow the advice of your spiritual director, then really why do you have one at all?


#19

There’s also one big thing that factored into my decision to finish my degree (which, as I said, was in engineering) before applying. Are you running towards priesthood or away from business? In my case, I wanted to finish my degree to prove to myself that I could do it, and that my attraction to priesthood was not because I couldn’t do something else. I could have chosen not to enter Seminary and gotten a job (and, no fooling, I nearly had one too), but I chose to enter Seminary anyways because it was what I wanted to do, not because I couldn’t be an engineer.

I think you can find many priests who you can ask a similar question; were they running towards priesthood or running away from the pressures of modern life that they weren’t able to live up to, mainly relationships and women? I wouldn’t put it far off. I’ve been in a long-term relationship before, it ended mainly due to the feelings of discernment I had (I wasn’t happy and neither was she, and my spirituality had a lot to do with it) I was in relationships before that as well, didn’t work out. I’ve had jobs before as well, they didn’t work out because I didn’t feel right about what was being asked of me. My spirituality has been a factor in me living a ‘normal’ life. I believe this is the way God has created me, an “eunuch from the womb” like Jesus would put it. I’m not suited to working and dating. The chemistry is just not there, because God has made me such in a way that I am destined to work for Him. I believe it is through my inability to date and work happily that my call to priesthood has been revealed. It is not something that I even ‘want’ to do all of the time. Sometimes I feel that it would be a massive burden, and that perhaps it’s not for me, but I can feel God shouting at my arrogance like He did to Moses: “Who made mans mouth?, the death? the mute? the seeing? the blind? the dumb? Did not I? I surely know what I am doing”.

Thus, I am not doing my own will, I am doing “that will of my Father in Heaven”.

*And this is just the question of the degree you’re currently working on. If you want to enter a religious order, then you better starting working on the Evangelical Councils: Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. You may be asked to take advanced studies in a topic you’re not that interested in for the good of the community, and your answer should be yes even if you find it the most boring thing in the world.

You are interested in the religious life. How are you going to handle a Novitiate? A year and a day of spiritual studies is not a cakewalk. *

I am well prepared for that, seeing as whatever they ask me to study will likely be something relative to God and spirituality, ie something I have a calling and will for. That I’d gladly take on, as opposed to learning how to evaluate the value of a property taking into account interest rates and a depreciation of 13% of the original amount and the property being split into 4 quarters with 3 quarters depreciating by an extra 1% and the remaining quarter appreciating by 2.4% in a year where the value of properties depreciated by 1.4%. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with the latter; it’s Chinese compared to my priesthood vocation. I don’t want to do it because it doesn’t help my vocation in the slightest, only the appearance of my application. If they asked me to take an extra course in a specific field because they thought it was relevant to the kind of priest I’d be, then I’d be happy with that.

And in the words of my spiritual director (the same one), the studies you undertake in the field of theology etc are quite arbitrary. A lot of them can be easily brushed aside as long as you attend class, and the majority of it you forget about just ordinary studies.

*Do you anticipate that it is going to be different when you are in the Seminary or in Formation?

Doing theology is going to put you in the same situation where you are going to feel overwhelmed by work. It occupies a lot of your time. There will be Mass and probably Morning and Evening Prayer in common, but where do you think you’re going to find time for personal prayer, or scriptural reading? The same way you do now: you make time for it because it is important. That’s not something that’s done for you in formation, you have to do it yourself the same way you have to now.*

Yes, I do anticipate a difference seeing as I’d be in the seminary and I’d be aware that praying and scripture would only benefit my studies, and perhaps even overlap them (as opposed to studying something completely opposite). And with prayers and daily mass scheduled in, I’d have a burning passion to further strengthen my relationship with God and read scripture, as I do nowadays after attending mass.


#20

Nobody can avoid all temptations, not even in a monastery. Entering seminary or formation is not magic, you do not loose all temptation just because you’re living a different life.

I believe that the loss of temptations comes from the absence of pursuing them. If you’re not around women, you wont be tempted by lust. This is something my priest and the saints themselves have stressed. Likewise as Jesus tells us, it’s nearly impossible for a rich man to enter Heaven, because he’s spending all his time around material items and money, thus he will almost certainly be tempted.

But living a simple life in the seminary, focused around praying and pursuing an understanding of God, and (as my spiritual director said as well) being so close to the altar so often, temptations are actually harder to come by. So yes, I do anticipate a difference. Moreover, if I have a degree and a decent-paying job waiting for me, I can only imagine it’d add to my temptations when things get tough and I start to miss the concept of nice things. However, lacking that degree and prospect of easily getting a job, I feel I’d be motivated not to give up in the seminary, because in a way, it’s all I have, thus I’d dedicate my entire life to it.

As St Francis’ autobiography itself says: “because he and his brothers had nothing, they feared nothing, they had nothing to lose or tempt them, and their absence of other pleasures caused them to fill that hole by more deeply loving Christ Crucified”.


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