Vocation Crisis


Hello all,

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.


Congratulations on your new found faith!

I'll address your possible calling. Get a spiritual Director! It'll help you immensely. Normally I think it takes two years after convertion before one can enter seminary. I don't know if that applies in Europe. If your spiritual director deems your call may be true, you ought to tell your girlfriend. Calling her one day and saying "I'm going to be a priest, so...." is a bit of a shock. It'd be prudent to at least give her the warning that it MAY happen.

Second, You need to talk out with your girlfriend(IF you stay together) That accoding to Chruch law, the children must be raised Cathoilc. You must also discuss contraception. If she absolutely will not budge...Well...It isn't sinful if you try to get her to stop using contraception if it's on her part (Pill, Implant...ETC) Tell her about Natural family planning too. She may be open to that.

Last, you know your family better than we. So, you should decide if you want to tell them now, or wait.

The best course of action is to chat with a priest about RCIA. You'll have to do that anyway...and maybe he can direct you to a spiritual director!


A few stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

You honestly should give no consideration to how your family will feel about whatever vocation you choose. You're a grown man and you are responsible to God for your decisions.

As far as your girlfriend goes, love isn't always enough. Marriage is a vocation just like the priesthood, a calling from God. Have you thought about whether God wants you to marry this woman? Odds aren't good when you marry somebody counting on the fact that they will "come around" on a fundamental issue. Only you can discern whether your faith and moral differences (which stand to get bigger as you grow deeper in the Faith) are a dealbreaker or whether you feel that you're called to her nonetheless.

Have you discussed the possibility of her coming to America with you?


You need to make a choice between being a Christian and contemplating marriage to a non-believer. The two should be mutually exclusive. I know that this sounds harsh, but no woman is worth risking your salvation and that of your children over. (I know that the Church allows such marriages, but that does not make them wise.)

The issue of a vocation can be discerned here or there, later, assuming that you choose the Christian life.


Another few thoughts:

I agree, your family should not determine you course of action. You are grown.
And seeing you as an example can only help them return themselves. Being a priest won't mean that you put away your family. You still get to be human, just a better version:) besides you might be surprised. They love you.

Speaking as someone who has been a victim of this cliche more than once....
Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

I would advise you to follow the call to the priesthood to its natural conclusion. Yea or nay.
The discernment program might be exactly what you need. The fact that you still struggle with the language could be blessing in that you will have to pay attention every moment.
Paying attention and doing the program would give you the space you need to actually listen to what God is saying to you. It sounds like something you will not find again. Perhaps God has put this opportunity in you path for a reason.

If its yea the priesthood, you have already networked so at you can make a good decision and call in favours to get you to the seminary that is best for you. If you are studying in Europe I can only presume that you are a high achiever and your scholarship would be welcomed in the Church. There are higher positions available than a a parish priest.

If its nay, you KNOW the truth of it and you won't revisit it again when you are older, scared and/ fed up with life. The grass won't be greener, in other words. But you think so and spend a lot of your life with regrets and longing.

If you return to the States, you are a practically new Catholic and have no contacts or network to get where you need to be. I wonder how many vocations go astray because one just doesn't know how to make it happen.(ask me how I know....)
Ad you won't be around you girlfriend there anyway. Someone else will show up in your life, and whoops! There goes the honest discernment. Not to mAke light, but sex and relationships are a very difficult thing to avoid. You are wired for it.

What does you girlfriend think of the idea? She might have some insight into your personalitly that you don't. Does she know? She ought to. If she has any inkling that this relationship might form a marriage she will be hoping for a proposal. If its not going to happen soon, she needs to know. Whatever happens she needs to make a decision too. To wait until you figure out the vocation, or to leave now. Not giving her all the facts is a "very bad thing".

Man! This forum is great. I still get to give advice even after my son has left home....:D

Oh, and read Seven Story Mountain...Thomas Merton


I think the first thing you need to do, if you haven't done so already is make a good, contrite, and thorough Confession, then get confirmed. Once you're confirmed, you will have the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the infused virtues infused into your soul. Having this will help your discernment more than anything else.


[quote="Deo_Gratias42, post:6, topic:325924"]
I think the first thing you need to do, if you haven't done so already is make a good, contrite, and thorough Confession, then get confirmed. Once you're confirmed, you will have the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the infused virtues infused into your soul. Having this will help your discernment more than anything else.




Thank you everyone for the helpful answers!

Jitterbug: there is absolutely no question that if/when I have children, they will be raised in the faith. I do understand the complications of contraception when the two parties disagree...one question I would have is "how hard should I push?" At what point do I accept the decision of her conscience?

aempcpa: You're right, I am grown and responsible for myself now. (Sometimes it's easy to forget that as a student.) But family is important to me, and to Christ, too, I think. How much thought should I give to supporting my mother when she is older? (My father is deceased.) She is not poor by any means, and I am not the only child, but I am the oldest.

PaulfromIowa: maybe I made it sound worse than it is. She was immersed in the Church as a young person (regular mass, serving as an altar girl, etc.). Her mother is the bookkeeper at the local parish and her father was a theology teacher, and presently she is herself a student teacher at a Catholic school, so she's obviously not a rabid atheist. I'm not sure if "agnostic" is the right word—she is just not a very spiritual or philosophical person, more focused on concrete daily realities.

Deltadeliquent: thanks for the great message! I do realize that discerning in the heart of Rome footsteps away from the Vatican is an experience I will almost certainly never have access to again. I am also aware that there are "higher up" positions in the Church, and that with my educational background and knowledge of languages they might be possibilities, but I also try to avoid ambition and pride (which were two of my major vices before my conversion...although they did get me good grades and scholarships :p) and I am trying to keep my focus on loving God and loving my neighbor and doing what is good and what is God's will. This is why I feel so much pressure right now: Rome is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but so is this woman. But you are right, I think...I need to be more up front with her. Maybe we should take a "break" while I go for the "come and see" weekend?

Deo Gratias42: I go to weekly confession, and I will be confirmed on Pentecost! That has sort of been my working deadline for a while...I am really praying for some wisdom and insight!

Thank you!


It is everyone’s universal vocation to grow in holiness and to become holy. Working from that you can further discern what you are to do. For example, you can ask yourself questions such as, “will a non-practicing unfaithful Catholic who disagrees on the fundamentals of the morals help me to grow in holiness?” and “What effect will this person’s immoral lifestyle have my children when I try to raise them in the faith?” (children learn more from what they see than what they’re formally taught. Something to think about.)


Using the gifts God gave you for His glory and the goodness of His people is not pride.
Not many of us has the intellect, nor the discipline, especially when young, to use our gifts to their potential.
Now if I could only get MY son off his duff and use his talents... :(


[quote="InTeConfidoIesu, post:8, topic:325924"]
aempcpa: You're right, I am grown and responsible for myself now. (Sometimes it's easy to forget that as a student.) But family is important to me, and to Christ, too, I think. How much thought should I give to supporting my mother when she is older? (My father is deceased.) She is not poor by any means, and I am not the only child, but I am the oldest.


if God is calling you to the priesthood, your mother won't starve because you said yes.


I read something in a discernment booklet... a young man is discerning the priesthood. When he's at Adoration, for example, praying, and only focusing on Christ, he feels peace and feels drawn to the priesthood. Then when later he thinks of all the obstacles, sacrifices, difficulties that are involved - he starts to doubt and gets worried. The key is to focus on the time when you're calm and close to God - and then work out the difficulties. How do you feel about all this when you feel closer to God? when you have peace? Is there a spiritual director or a vocations director you can speak to? the difficulties don't necessarily mean that you don't have a vocation - many Saints had to leave their families, face opposition, give up their will, etc. It's only if there's a real obstacle, which is something that I don't know and something to speak to a priest about. But - if you feel drawn to the priesthood at all, it could be good to discern it, just in case, because God prepares graces for us in our vocation and it's important to find it :) try to approach it without too much anxiety though.. I'm discerning my vocation too and it's hard sometimes to not have anxiety... but try to focus on Christ, not on all these difficulties. If He wants you to be a priest, He would help you overcome or resolve all that. Rely on His strength, not on yours... be simple with Him. Just focus on Jesus and ask Him what He would like you to do. If He wants you to be a priest, He'll give you the grace to do it. Adoration can help... and frequent Sacraments.... the Rosary...

God bless you :)


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