I am in a bit of a crisis right now with regard to my spiritual life and vocation. Any insight you could provide would be wonderful.
I am a 24 year old American male living and studying in Europe. Baptised in the Church as an infant and educated at a Catholic school, I ended up losing my faith in my early teens. I was never confirmed, and proceeded to live as an agnostic for the next decade, until this past year when I underwent a major conversion experience and ended up, thank God, back in the arms of Mother Church, my soul in the hands of Jesus Christ. I am finally going to be confirmed next weekend, on Pentecost, by the Archbishop of the city I live in.
I have reached a major, major crossroads in my life, and am finding it very hard to make any sort of decision as to my future. Adding to this is the fact that it is hard for me to find a spiritual director in a foreign country where I am a non-native speaker. I am beginning to despair of finding the right solution. I have been praying and thinking day after day and I have come to no conclusions.
Here are the aspects of my crisis:
(a) I was, at the time of my unexpected conversion, and still am, in a long-term relationship with a young woman whom I love. One of the main reasons I returned to Europe was for her. She was raised Catholic, although she has drifted (much like I had) into the standard form of Western European agnosticism. Because I had lost my moral compass for so long, we fell into the kinds of sins tha are common among young people outside of the Church today. She is, luckily, relatively supportive of my new faith, and she has been becoming more open to God, although she tends not to want to talk too much about it. We do not live presently in the same city, so this has made it easier for me to avoid falling back into the sin of fornication and to attend near-daily mass. She completely rejects, however, the Church's teaching on contraception and on fornication, and does not believe that sex before marriage, especially since we have already done it, is a sin.
(b) I believe I may be experiencing a call to at least discern the priesthood. Some days this call is incredibly strong; some days it hardly exists. I am not sure what to make of it. It may very well be the zealousness of a new convert, or it may be authentic. I have no idea. I am in contact with a discernment program in Italy, but I have been procrastinating booking my flight for a retreat there because I feel I cannot discern properly if I am still in a relationship with the same woman.
(c) My family has become very slack in their faith, and would be incredibly shocked and almost certainly opposed to my joining the priesthood.
So far as I see it, I have three choices: (a) stay in Europe and marry my girlfriend; (b) stay in Europe and participate in the year-long discernment program; or (c) return home to my family and, like St Paul, discern on my own for several years as a single man.
I am despairing because with (a) I will make my family unhappy and say good-bye to my homeland, at least for a while, and to the possibility of religious life forever, and also will very likely have to focus less on my faith; with (b) I will have to say good-bye to this woman whom I really do love, even if we do not see eye-to-eye on matters of faith, as well as spending another year away from family; and with (c) I will say good-bye to my girlfriend, and to the unique opportunity of discerning in Italy, and will likely be very alone in my faith.
I have to make this decision so soon. If I were in America, I could sit back and give prayer and thought more time to work; but here my scholarship will end during the summer and my visa shortly after that, and so I have to make a rapid decision.
Any advice would be so, so appreciated. Again, finding a spiritual director here will be tough for me. (Also, I am not sure who to trust: my catechist is a super-liberal Jesuit who believes that contraception is fine and who criticized March for Life, whereas the priest at my usual parish is exactly the opposite and is a very stern fire-and-brimstone type.) Right now any insights you could give would be much appreciated.