How can a person tell the difference between a calling and simple ambition?
I ask this because it’s something that I’ve kicked around in my head from time to time. I’ve always had as sort of a (probably unrealistic) goal to someday be a priest working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
I’m not sure how I could know if it’s an actual calling, so to speak, or simple blind ambition to fulfill a little dream.
If it were the latter, would that not be considered an immoral reason to enter the priesthood, to become a priest with the express intention of being assigned to a certain part of the priesthood?
my question is more for if it ever became something more serious than that. If I just dove into it now of course the reasoning would be obvious to me, but it might be hard to separate the two if I become more dedicated to the idea.
I know kind of what you mean. I have been wondering about a call to the diaconate (I’m married with 5 kids so the priesthood is kinda out ;)). In my case its less ambition as it is expectation. I have had numerous people ask when I am going to enter formation as a permanent deacon. I have thought about it to a greater or lessor extent for 5 years, but I have a hard time telling if its a calling from God or merely wishful thinking brought on by the suggestions of others.
That being said, since you mention a specific desire you need to ask yourself if you would feel the calling if you were assigned to small rural parishes for all of your life. In other words is the motivation to work in the CDF primary or secondary? If you became a priest with a hope to be assigned to the CDF that is different from becoming a priest with the primary goal of being assigned to a specific post. Put another way would assignment to the CDF be a bonus to being a priest, or is it rather being a priest is the price you would pay to work in the CDF?
In your case the you could probably ask yourself what would you do if you didn’t get to the CDF? Would you chuck it in if you became a ‘simple’ parish priest/pastor? Would you consider yourself a failure in that case? Do you want to become a priest at the CDF come hell or high water, or do you want to follow Gods plan for you? (which may indeed include a stint at the CDF). As mentioned before it is best to speak to someone about this in a face to face setting, ideally a solid priest that you know, or a vocations director. The Church doesn’t ask us to discern things like this in isolation but helps us to do so.
In addition, sometimes that which initially calls us to follow a particular vocation is not what keeps us there. We sometimes realise after a while that it is what we are called to but not for the reasons we initially thought.
PS, A true call to the priesthood doesn’t end in ordination, any more than the call to be a husband ends on your wedding day, It’s a call that remains constant throughout this life.
I think the ambition helps you to move forward and motivates you to discern the call. Hopefully a priest will have the ambition to become a holy priest, a saint, every day of his life. The flame must be stoked continuously until the end, else lukewarmness creeps in.
In these days even the slightest inspiration is a great gift from God, so don’t take it for granted. Trust God and run with it. “Do not be afraid”!. If you hesitate, the world will snatch this gift from you. If God is not calling you to religious life, He will reveal this to you in due time and order things properly. If called to marriage, a devout Catholic wife He will be preparing for you, but only if you trust and have patience.
St. Alphonsus writes,
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. How greatly would not a prince think himself offended if he should call one of his vassals to serve him near his person, and this vassal should refuse to obey the call!
Ambition to higher positions, even in the Church, are not humble inspirations and should be avoided. However, for example, in humility you could acknowledge a special talent God has given for preaching, and aspire to enter a community that focuses on preaching, but not to be on the council or to be the superior!
Many saints initially had all sorts of inspirations, including ones that weren’t the holiest, but God uses them all to call us, and eventually they become purified. Whether it’s a child wanting to be Pope, or a girl who likes the pretty habit, God can use them. St. Pio wanted to be a Capuchin Franciscan because he liked the pointy hood when he was young, but as he matured he learned the joy of the Order of Penance, and the rest of course is history.
Frequent the Sacraments. Read the lives of the saints (maybe those known for their priestly sanctity, like St. John Vianney). Consecrate yourself to Our Lady, and put your vocation in Her most loving hands. She, who raised our great High Priest, can certainly form you into Him, to become “alter Christus” (another Christ).
Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us! St. John Vianney, pray for us! Ave Maria!
In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Friar John Paul
P.S. I’ll be the 4th person to advise a spiritual director, in order to emphasis how critical it is to not only discern your vocation, but to grow in holiness, both of which every Catholic should do.
Hi Friar (not sure about the proper salutatory address) John Paul, I came across your reply to this thread, which was written around 3 years ago, yesterday, and it just gives me so much solace!
I’m also having the same question as the OP in mind. In short my desire for priesthood grew gradually when I was envious of my spiritual director (a pious newly ordained priest). I tried to banish the idea away in August and September but the desire to give everything to Jesus, making Him the ‘lover’ (uncertain about the correct wording) whom I’ll completely unite with, and to lead more souls to Heaven remained in my heart. I met my spiritual director in mid-October and he encouraged me to pray for priesthood, but I always feel God has not really ‘called’ me and it’s simply my pride and wishful thinking to even pray for a religious Vocation…
Sorry for ‘hikacking’ and ‘resurrecting’ this old thread.