Religious life and celibacy

Recently, I’ve felt that I MAY have a calling as a sister. Not 100% sure (for reasons I will
explain), but when I fought against the possibility, I would only cause myself to suffer
emotionally. Now, I’m starting to accept that this may be what God desires…and what I desire. I gave up pushing away, swimming against the tide, and now my soul feels rested, more peaceful now. Despite this, however, there are still question I have inside. I can’t help but feel that, whenever I look at a picture of Jesus, I feel a little sad that I wont be able to love Him the same way I would a husband in marriage. Touch Him, embrace Him, kiss Him. Ok, I am able to touch Him, in the Eucharist, but you know what I’m getting at right?
It’s a strange conflict. On one end, I’m not sure if the idea of marrying a man in matrimony satisfies me or not, yet there’s still a longing for something very physical.

Which leads me to my question: Do you think that a person who is truly called to religious life would first accept the call to celibate life then religious life or do you think the latter can happen first?

I also don’t believe in pushing away the possibility of another vocation even if you feel strongly for one. I have a great aunt and uncle, one who was working to become a priest and one who was preparing to make final vows as a nun. Then, they found each other, fell in love, and got married! You never know right? Haha


thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Hi Roseproject,

WOW! Your post really gets to the heart of a lot of discernment about religious life and celibacy. First, I don’t think there is a right way to discern religious life and celibacy in a certain order. For some people, the call to celibacy may be the first one they hear and then the call to religious life. For others, the call may be to religious life which entails celibacy and they further discern that aspect of the vocation.

Celibacy has to be a main focus of discernment of the religious life because it is probably one of the most difficult aspects of religious life. When one becomes a sister, she doesn’t lose any of the normal human attractions and desires. It is natural and good to have the physical longing that finds its completion in marriage, but some are called to give up that physical fulfillment to follow the poor, chaste, and obedient Christ. The gift of chastity enables the person to belong to all and not to one and to give herself completely to Jesus and His Kingdom. It is one way to give oneself completely to God. True discernment is directed towards asking God’s will for the way in which you will be able to be the holiest. For each person this is different.

No one can answer your questions because they are questions that must be answered in prayer and spiritual direction but I’m glad you asked them because they are so important for good discernment.


St. Thomas Aquinas writes (ST IIB, Q189, a1):

Objection 1: It would seem that none should enter religion but those who are practiced in the observance of the commandments. For our Lord gave the counsel of perfection to the young man who said that he had kept the commandments “from his youth.” . . .

On the contrary, Matthew the publican who was not practiced in the observance of the commandments was called by our Lord to the observance of the counsels. For it is stated (Luke 5:28) that “leaving all things he . . . followed Him.” Therefore it is not necessary for a person to be practiced in the observance of the commandments before passing to the perfection of the counsels.

  1. Get a spiritual director

  2. The Holy Ghost works on attraction. You’re recognizing the attraction to the religious life, but there are many aspects to the life–contemplative; apostolic; etc.

  3. As one cloistered nun told me, “Any nun could have a man.” I would suggest you keep track of your cycle so you will know when to be mentally prepared for temptations during ovulation. This is the main time you would not only be attracted to men, but vice versa. Nuns didn’t use to know about such things and this is why we read about dead infants being found in convent wells. In short, know your cycle!

  4. Adoration and rosary. Concentrate on Jesus and let Him guide you. Don’t forget Our Lady and your Angel Guardian.



Which leads me to my question: Do you think that a person who is truly called to religious life would first accept the call to celibate life then religious life or do you think the latter can happen first?

I like this question on several levels, first I would say I am an applicant for seminary formation,

and the question of celibacy really has not been an issue for me personally, for a couple of reasons, being single for a long time now is a factor, but the other factor is im not looking at a possible calling in a manner of; can I personally accept being celibate. To look at it in another light, everyone who is Catholic is called to be celibate ie : no premarital sex. So in theory, celibacy is something all of us should be practicing, i think possibly celibacy can be an issue for someone man or woman, who is sexually active and or has a question of what if i want children of my own one day. or what am i going to do if i have sexual urges.

So to accept a call to celibacy before a religious life or vise versus, maybe it goes at the same time for some people, maybe for some it is one before the other, no one can honestly say for certain as we are all individual beings.

At some point we have to be honest with ourselves and with what God is trying to tell us.

just one guys’ perspective, we face this issue just as women do, and our hormones factor into discerning as well, so we have to learn to think with our big brain and not our little brain sometimes.

Dear John,

Just a clarification, but celibacy and chastity are two different things. Chastity should be practiced by all - married, single, religious, and priests- according to their state in life. Celibacy specifically refers to not being married.

This really is a question that all discerners have to wrestle with and find peace in. Celibacy is a great gift to the one to whom it has been given but it WILL be challenging at times in the life of every religious. It’s important to remember that every state in life has its challenges and joys and we have to discern which of those is meant to bring us and as many others as possible to Heaven. It’s the vocation that will give us the most joy and peace throughout our lives.

Chastity / Celibacy , Potatoe / Potato

Religious are called to Marrage, a woman can choose to become the bride of Christ and a man can choose to take the Church as his bride.

Though i suppose one is only focusing on the literal interpretation of not being married to one of the opposite sex, so then one has to choose to be chaste as well.

what are we really choosing then ? Why look at the choice as choosing to give up a physical secular marrage ?

Why reduce a religious life to such an idea alone ?

in priesthood and religious life you discern celibacy first then religious life. I can’t cite any sources right now but this has been taught by many wise priests and teachers of the Catholic Faith. It would make no sense to discern religious life where celibacy is part of it and not discern if you are called to live a celibate life before discerning if God is calling you to religious life. If someone isn’t certain if they should be a celibate they should decide that first before making any commitment to religious life or priesthood.

BTW if you were to enter religious life the people there will guide you in the way you need to go. If you are uncertain about celibacy they will help you become certain about that calling. Most good religious communities have been doing this for a long time and they know what they are doing. I would say discern if God is calling you to religious life, go visit communities, talk to other religious and see what kinda of life they live. If you think you are called to the religious life go and see what living the religious life is all about. That is the ONLY way you can know what God is calling you to. Of course have a spiritual director, of course be connected to Christ in prayer, but if you think you want to be a sister look into orders and if there is one out there that attracts you go visit it and see where it takes you. While it could happen I doubt God drop you a hint to tell you where to go. God will use your natural process of figuring this out to work out his will.

So again look into religious communities, if you find one that attracts you go visit it, and go from there. Trust me if God is calling you to a certain religious order you will know what it is and God will open the doors for you to get into that religious order, you just have to go looking.

God bless.

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