Stuck in Discernment Rut


#1

It's been a while, but hello again!

So, I am still discerning the religious life and hope to go to a retreat with some sisters this summer. However, as I have been going through this second semester of college life, I noticed that one of my guy friends is starting to show romantic signs, and I don't really know what I should do at this point, given that I want to be open to all of my options.

However, this guy is a lapsed Catholic (although he seems to be more open to Church teaching than most and has a huge interest in Christian theology), and I really want to make sure that I'm making the right decision on what to do with my friend. (In fact, at this point, I'm hoping the retreat will clear things up and put my priorities in order.)

So, any advice?


#2

Ave Maria!

I would recommend safeguarding your discernment and giving exclusive access to God alone. This should be a time of deep prayer, meditation, building up of graces and virtues, and elimination of anything that distracts from these to the best of your ability.

Anything to do with your future spouse, which includes any relations with males, God will take care of in due time. Don’t worry about any “what if’s” with guys now - they are only a danger to your vocation. God will either lead you to religious life, or bring to you a patient, devout Catholic man who will be your spouse, all at the right time, in due order. Any man that is worthy of you will wait patiently and allow you to discern properly with all your heart for God. Such a man would easily give you to God than take you for his spouse because he knows how unworthy he is, just like St. Joseph. There are many men out there like this and God is preparing one for you, if you trust Him and surrender completely to Him.

Trust God. Trust Our Lady. Consecrate yourself to Her and place your vocation in Her hands, so that the Virgin of Virgins and Spouse of the Holy Spirit will guide you to follow in Her footsteps, whichever path it may be.

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Friar John Paul


#3

Okay, but then that still leaves the problem of trying to break the news to him.

Actually, it's kind of strange how this is working out because funnily enough, he's quite conservative towards romance and sexuality. Plus, we're connected not only in real life but on Facebook, so he already knows of my fervent faith life, given that I post stuff from First Things and other websites to the point that he sometimes reads what I put on my wall. So, I'm not really sure what to make of it or what to do if it comes up in a later conversation. I know we have similar interests, but now I know that I'll have to reject his advances while trying to maintain the friendship.

Oh well.

Continue to pray for both of us as we go down our separate paths, though! :D


#4

I’m going to voice a different opinion here.

Like you said, it’s important to be open in terms to all your options as far as a vocation goes. to close off all others in favour of the one you think God is calling you is unhealthy and risks trying to turn God’s will into your will. Even if your call is to religious life, you need to be able to maintain healthy relationships - especially with members of the opposite sex. With this in mind, and with respect to FFI Griswold, I think it would be wrong to see men as a “distraction”.

I find it interesting that this particular guy is a lapsed Catholic - it may be that God is calling you to help him to find his way back to the Church… In any event, I would suggest that you get to know him outside of Facebook (i.e. as a “real” person) and simply see where this goes. I know from experience that relationships aren’t an interference with a vocation - if anything they can actually help to strengthen that call and help you to understand it better.


#5

Oh, I know this friend of mine outside of Facebook - we go to the same college and are in the same philosophy club together. :)

But while I know that I'm going to get various types of advice (for example, my spiritual director leans more towards you, InThePew), I feel emotionally conflicted. So, I'd rather just go to a retreat and sort this out rather than have to deal with any possible emotional and spiritual drama.

Also, I'm not a fan of "flirty fishing" - I mean, if he wants to come back to the Church, I'm always happy to give advice and introduce him to my priest/friends. But I want to make sure he converts not out of love for me but out of love for God and the Truth, which is also why I'm starting to lean towards the friar's advice.

Either way, if he had to ask me right now, I guess I would have to say that I'm not ready. I just wish I could put this gently, since I really do value his friendship.... :shrug:


#6

Sometime, the hardest words to hear (or perhaps say) are "just friends"! That said, you have to be ready and I think that's just what you need to tell him. It doesn't mean you have to break off all contact with each other, or become some sort of hermit! It just means that you want things to stay as they are for now and, again, that's what you should tell him.

Can't say I'd heard the term 'flirty fishing" before but nonetheless, I agree that any conversion should be God-centred and not just to keep you happy. That said, you could still walk with him on the - like you say, introducing him to priests, but also encouraging him to come to mass and just living your faith round him.


#7

Ave Maria!

“Being open to all options”… keeping “healthy relationships”… men not a distraction? I can’t think of any saint that advises this. The saints seemed to live and wrote strongly against this.

I advise reading the lives and writings of the saints, especially any Doctors of the Church, on this matter. Offhand I know St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote entire volumes on the religious vocation. Here are some snippets that give you an idea of how he writes. I think it can be applied to the distractions and dangers of losing your vocation, and if you read more of his writings and those of the saints, you’ll see more principles that can be applied (emphasis mine).

II. The Vocation to the Religious State. How Important it is to follow it promptly.

  1. MISERY TO WHICH ONE EXPOSES ONE’S SELF BY NOT CORRESPONDING TO IT.
    The divine call to a more perfect life is undoubtedly a special grace, and a very great one, which God does not give to all; hence he has much reason to be indignant against those who despise it…
  1. WE MUST OBEY THE VOICE OF GOD WITHOUT DELAY.

Whenever God calls to a more perfect state, he who does not wish to expose his eternal salvation to great danger must then obey, and obey promptly…

The lights which God gives are transient, not permament, gifts. Whence St. Thomas says that the vocation of God to a more perfect life ought to be followed as promptly as possible. …

Therefore, St. John Chrysostom says that when the devil cannot bring one to give up his resolution of consecrating himself to God, he at least seeks to make him defer the execution of it, and esteems it a great gain if he can obtain the delay of one day only, or even of an hour. …

III. Means to be Employed for Preserving a Religious Vocation in the world.

He, then, who wishes to be faithful to the divine call ought not only to resolve to follow it, but to follow it promptly, if he does not wish to expose himself to the evident danger of losing his vocation; and in case he should by necessity be forced to wait, he ought to use all diligence to preserve it, as the most precious jewel he could have.

  1. PRAYER.

In the second place, it is necessary to know that these vocations are only preserved by prayer; he who gives up prayer will certainly give up his vocation. It is necessary to pray, and to pray much;

  1. RECOLLECTION.

In the third place, it is necessary that he be recollected, which will not be possible for him unless he withdraws from worldly conversations and amusements. **What, in short, as long as we are in the world, is enough to cause the loss of vocation? A mere nothing. One day of amusement, a word from a friend, a passion we do not mortify, a little attachment, a thought of fear, a resentment we do not overcome, suffices to bring to nought all our resolutions of retiring from the world, or of giving ourselves entirely to God. **

A quick search turned up links here, here, and the first few chapters on the religious life in True Spouse of Christ are very enlightening and absolutely inspiring.

Some of the chapter titles that may interest you,

CHAPTER I. - THE MERIT OF VIRGINS WHO HAVE CONSECRATED THEMSELVES TO GOD

  1. They become like the Angels, and are the Spouses of Jesus Christ.
  2. How much more Happy are Virgins than Married Women even in this Life.
  3. Excellence of Virginity

CHAPTER II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THE RELIGIOUS STATE. .
CHAPTER III THE RELIGIOUS SHOULD BELONG ENTIRELY TO GOD.
CHAPTER IV. THE DESIRE OF PERFECTION
CHAPTER V. THE DANGER TO WHICH AN IMPERFECT RELIGIOUS, WHO IS BUT LITTLE AFRAID OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF
HER IMPERFECTIONS, EXPOSES HER SALVATION.

Ave Maria!


#8

Wait a minute, Friar John Paul - now I'm confused.

For as it stands right now, I'm trying to figure out whether I'm called to the religious life, and I am aware that I should pursue the possibility of a higher calling first. However, even with the most fervent of prayers, I acknowledge that I can't read God's mind and that perhaps He may be calling me to marry a Catholic man instead. (So, while I may not be able to date this guy unless he reverts back to the Faith, there is still the possibility that I could end up marrying a devout husband in the future.)

Also, many of my best friends are guys (even since elementary school), and I have no romantic interest in them - so now I have to avoid male friends altogether? I think that's what InThePew meant by "healthy relationships": the ability to form friendships with guys without pursuing romance. And I do know that my spiritual director recommended gaining this ability to form normal friendships with males while discerning. (Also, I know that I'm leaning towards more active-contemplative orders as opposed to cloistered ones, so I have to work with other guys anyway as part of the daily work of the apostolate. Finally, I'm in college, so I can't just avoid the things of this world - I have to oppose evil instead.)

In either case, though, I do appreciate those works from St. Alphonsus Liguori. Thank you for those links.


#9

Ave Maria! Happy feast of St. Catherine of Sienna!

Today is my day of recollection, so I won't be able to answer your post directly until later, but I thought it was providential that today is the feast day of St. Catherine, who was not only a consecrated virgin, but a saint, and not only a saint, but a doctor of the Church! Let us look to one who, by her heroic virtues, has been raised to the altars by Holy Mother the Church, and by her teachings, a doctor of the Church.

ccel.org/b/butler_a/lives/lives-cather.html

As a child, prayer was her delight. She would say the "Hail Mary" on each step as she mounted the stairs, and was granted in reward a vision of Christ in glory. When but seven years old, she made a vow of virginity, and afterwards endured bitter persecution for refusing to marry. Our Lord gave her His Heart in exchange for her own, communicated her with His own hands, and stamped on her body the print of His wounds.

marypages.com/SienaEng.htm

Beginning when she was only about six years old, Catherine loved to go out to quiet places to pray and talk to God.

ewtn.com/library/mary/catsiena.htm

When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the household, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone. Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience Long afterwards, in , she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter.

Catherine's father at last came to the realization that further pressure was useless, and his daughter was permitted to do as she pleased. In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.

from the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena,

I am that Fire which purifies the soul, and the closer the soul is to Me, the purer she becomes, and the further she is from Me, the more does her purity leave her; which is the reason why men of the world fall into such iniquities, for they are separated from Me, while the soul, who, without any medium, unites herself directly to Me, participates in My Purity.

catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=9

St. Catherine of Sienna, Seraphic Virgin, pray for us! Ave Maria!

JMJ,

Friar John Paul


#10

There's nothing wrong with having friends who are guys, but remember that men who are single** and are not called to stay single **will sometimes get certain ideas. Romantic ideas. This is natural of course, dudes called be married will find themselves gravitating towards women and entertain thoughts of "hey, marriage!".

tl-dr; be careful.


#11

Not long ago I heard a priest say that one should discern whether or not they have a vocation to religious life before they ever consider marriage. That's a paraphrase of my own, but the point was, once you are involved, even platonically in a close friendship with a man, (or woman) it's very hard to hear anything else other than "I love them so much".

My advice, for what it is worth, would be to keep contact with this young man to a minimum until you know whether or not you are called to religious life. Be friendly when you see him, but don't hang out with him. Don't meet him for coffee or whatever. Limit your contact to the philosophy club meetings.

Sometimes the key to discernment is asking the right question. Instead of the question being marriage* or *religious life, perhaps, at this point, the question should be, "Is my vocation religious life?" Nothing more. Just a straight yes or no to that question.

Until you know whether or not your vocation is to reilgious life, the vocation of marriage should be off of the table for consideration. This is because if your vocation is not to religious life, even then your vocation might be to the single celibate life in the world, which means you still don't have a vocation to marriage.

If your vocation is to marriage, then be certain that you patiently wait for the man God has for you. Remember, the duty of a spouse within a vocation of marriage is to help our spouse get to heaven. Can the person you are considering as a potential mate do that? Are they in the position to do that now, not at some hypothetical point in the future? If not, then they are not the person God has for you as a spouse. Your future spouse should be someone who will help you grow in holiness now. Not just when you are married. Don't ever allow yourself to "settle". You are obviously a very devout young lady. Your potential spouse should be equally devout.

Like I said, before you hang out with any young men other than under the most casual of circumstances, you first need to discern if you have a vocation to the religious life. Even before you discern where, you need to discern if. If you allow circumstances - I must have a vocation to marriage because I met this guy... - to be part of the equation, you might miss hearing the "light silent sound" of God speaking. (See 1 Kings 19:11-12)
I am praying for you.
Kris


#12

I am confused. Is the problem that he is starting to have romantic ideas or that you are having them?

A good man would respect that you are discerning. Go for a coffe with him and tell him that one of your dreams is to become a sister and that you need to figure this one out before you date anyone. It will not only take away any speculation, it could also be a witness of faith.

I honestly do not believe discernment is rocket science. If God has put this idea in your head, it is meant to be explored and not ignored...

Pray much and remember to always adore the Holy Spirit, He is the One guiding you!

That would be my advice, for what it is worth...


#13

[quote="Nils, post:12, topic:324506"]
I am confused. Is the problem that he is starting to have romantic ideas or that you are having them?

A good man would respect that you are discerning. Go for a coffe with him and tell him that one of your dreams is to become a sister and that you need to figure this one out before you date anyone. It will not only take away any speculation, it could also be a witness of faith.

I honestly do not believe discernment is rocket science. If God has put this idea in your head, it is meant to be explored and not ignored...

Pray much and remember to always adore the Holy Spirit, He is the One guiding you!

That would be my advice, for what it is worth...

[/quote]

Okay - I admit that the feelings are mutual from both sides of the aisle. (He even lingered to stay with me in the cold without a jacket after going to Mass on his own initiative, but that's another story....)

However, I am fully aware that feelings aren't always meant to be acted upon, so I want to make sure that I don't have a religious vocation first before discerning marriage (and there would be heartbreak for both of us if I finalized my decision in the middle of dating). Also, the only reason why I haven't pursued discernment as fully in high school was because I didn't have too many opportunities to go to retreats.... I honestly feel like I should have done those earlier, but it's too late. (But I have a director, so at least that's good!)

Well, even if I can't date him, at least pray for his conversion! He's kind of lost drifting from Baptist thought to Judaism and back to Rome, so he has to settle somewhere! (I am happy to support his spiritual life, but dating might not be the best option....) :-)


#14

[quote="ParvaDei, post:1, topic:324506"]
It's been a while, but hello again!

So, I am still discerning the religious life and hope to go to a retreat with some sisters this summer. However, as I have been going through this second semester of college life, I noticed that one of my guy friends is starting to show romantic signs, and I don't really know what I should do at this point, given that I want to be open to all of my options.

However, this guy is a lapsed Catholic (although he seems to be more open to Church teaching than most and has a huge interest in Christian theology), and I really want to make sure that I'm making the right decision on what to do with my friend. (In fact, at this point, I'm hoping the retreat will clear things up and put my priorities in order.)

So, any advice?

[/quote]

Parva,

What have you done to rule out religious life? Have you talked to sisters/nuns, visited monasteries, taken a retreat? I think that this is the first thing to consider.

If you persist in having the slightest interest in religious life, you should try to postpone romantic relationships (Vs. the 'just friends' and dating in groups) until this question is resolved. It isn't fair to a guy to date him exclusively with an eye to a possible long-term commitment if you are still considering religious life.

And why are you interested in religious life?


#15

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