Vocation To Secular Institution


Hello people,

I’m fifteen, almost sixteen. Right now I am trying to discern whether I have a calling to a secular institution. I thought about “regular” priesthood but that does not fit with my view of the world, you know…I like the idea of being out there and active, making a difference in the world, but being religious at the same time…in short, I think God MIGHT be calling me to this type of vocation. I don’t know.

Writing this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Frankly, the prospect terrifies me. I know its not supposed to, but my family…well, they say they’re Catholic, but they’re closer to agnostic. They have no idea that I’m truly considering something as serious as the priesthood. There would be a major argument, and they would look at it as me “throwing my life away”. Plus, I don’t even KNOW if this is my vocation. In fact, I’m leaning toward not, but only ever so slightly. The fact that there’s a pretty good chance this can be my vocation terrifies me. This would be such a radical change from the currect direction my life is heading (Historian and then eventually starting a business) that I really think that people who know me would be shocked. I think the reaction would be negative. But I can’t shake the fact that this may be the way I’m supposed to make the world a better place.

Please, advice and prayer! I’m confused and scared. My hands are shaking as I finally admkt this to SOMEBODY.


I should also add, I’m not particularly holy. I struggle mightily with masturbation and impure thoughts. Although I completely understand and accept the necessity of Mass, I find it very boring…in fact, I fell asleep during the Bishop’s homily! (Completely unintentional…I had had practically no sleep the night before and tried very hard to stay awake, but even so…)


I got back from Rome a few months ago. I'm not a seminarian, but I lived with fourteen of them for four months. Greatest bunch of men I've ever known. They got up every morning at 5:30 for holy hour. They went to Mass every day at 7:00 or 8:00 AM. They did the liturgy of the hours and very often threw in a rosary. They are full of the love of the Lord, loved prayer (a lot more than I did), and were happy with their state in life and their daily routine.

And they all slept through some of it. Mostly it was the 6:00 AM holy hour, but a number of them also had priests whose homilies put them to sleep. For a lot of us, it was Fr. C, a wonderful man with a lot of good thoughts in his homilies who just happened to have the most incredibly soothing voice you've ever heard. For my best friend out there, it was good old Fr. K. For one of the guys, Matt, it was the bishop from back home, who came out to check up on his seminarians. But for a good number of us, the most deadly homilist of them all was the local bishop.

The local bishop, of course, was Pope Benedict XVI.

Man, I slept through more of the Pope's homilies than I did through philosophy classes this semester.

So don't worry about sleeping in Mass. As long as you're do your best to stay awake, you're doing your duty. It was St. Theresa of Avila, I believe, who used to say that falling asleep in the Perpetual Adoration chapel was one of her favorite things, because she was falling asleep right there with the Lord. And to stop seeing the Mass as boring, to start to embrace it as a worthy object of love, comes with age, and repetition, and patience, and prayer. Do your duty, and God will give you the grace of loving His sacrifice in the Mass in his own time. (And then, being God, He might very well take it away from you again, so that you might come to love Him even more. Graces are like that most times.)

As for your vocation: first, take a deep breath and relax. You're fifteen. The earliest time you could possibly become a priest is a good ten years off. You can't even enter a minor seminary until college, and you can't really get rolling -- in a major seminary -- until you have your undergraduate degree in philosophy (NOT theology, mind you: seminaries require philosophy degrees).

Alright, now that you're a little more relaxed, let's take a look at things. You think you might have a vocation to the priesthood. That's fantastic. It's a very high calling. It's a special calling. And I don't mean that in the sense that "every vocation is special, and priesthood is another kind of special." No; the priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass. That is probably the greatest thing a human being can do, and, if God made you to do it, you're very fortunate. Of course, the priesthood is not easy, but no vocation is.

Also, you're at least open to the vocation, despite what sounds like an obstacle in your family. That's also fantastic.


Here's what you should do now: cultivate your prayer life. Receive the sacraments frequently. Continue thinking about this, and then still your heart and, in the silence, listen to God. That may seem obvious, but it is the most vital part of discerning a vocation. Second, contact your diocesan director of vocations -- every diocese has one. Meet with him; talk to him. He will have guidance for you. And, trust me: diocesan directors of vocation give enormous attention to everyone who comes to them. It's not their job to recruit you to the priesthood, either. Their job is to help you discern your vocation. Of course, they want priests, but they don't want any priests who aren't called to the priesthood, and so they will help you figure it out.

If you can, and if your vocations director advises it, find a college seminary. I particularly recommend the one I'm nearest to, which is called -- and here I go blowing my identity and location -- the St. John Vianney seminary, attached to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. It happens to be the largest (and best!) college seminary in the country, rebounding in the last ten years after long dry decades of bad formation and small classes based on a simple formula of prayer and the cultivation of masculine virtue. Its website is vianney.net/ ; UST's is www.stthomas.edu . Your vocations director may have other ideas -- assuming you are even still discerning when you get to college age, which maybe you won't be.

Now, I'm saying you should enter a seminary, and you're probably thinking, "Whoa, Nellie! I'm not even close to that, yet! Didn't you hear me? I'm leaning against this vocation!" And that's because most people think that minor seminaries are all about taking in college freshmen and outputting priests. That's not at all the case. Like the vocations director, the role of a college seminary is to help young, college-aged men discern their vocations while cultivating their virtues and their love of God, in community with other men. SJV, which, as I said, is the best in the country, sees most of its students "discern out" eventually -- they lose half in the first year, half of the remaining in the next three years, and a quarter of the remainder then drop out of the major seminary. And SJV is happy about this. A year or three in the seminary hurts no one -- everyone who comes out of there is a better man for it, and whether they become better priests or better dads (or better historians!) doesn't really matter as long as they're doing what God wills for them. Many of my good friends are ex-seminarians, and they are all holier than they were when they went in (even the business majors). So, if you think there's even a 10% that you could be called to the priesthood, get in there.

The time to discern whether you are going to be a diocescan priest or some other sort of priest has not come yet, so don't start to worry about it... yet.

Purity is a challenge which every man faces around your age. Keep struggling. Try to excise it from your life, as you have been, because impurity separates you from God and makes it harder for you to hear His voice (because you are listening to your own pleasures instead of Him). But, if you aren't able to win that battle right now, don't let your discouragement at your failure discourage you from following your true vocation, whatever it may be. Doing God's will for you, finding your true vocation, can only help you defeat masturbation -- especially in these dark days of easy pornography and the insane common doctrine that masturbation is something we should be celebrating. It's something even many seminarians struggle with when they are just starting out. Hopefully, their time in the seminary makes it easier for them to turn away from their passions and towards God.

I really hope that helps. It's not all the advice in the world, but... you'll find out a lot of things for yourself when you stumble along the path of vocation. And remember: we're all stumbling around in the dark, just like you. So chin up and look forward to whatever future God has planned for you.

God bless.


Other than perhaps some reformation of your current spiritual life, I would not agonize too much over this right now. You are still very young (I am in my early twenties and feel old saying that!).


Thank you all very much for your support and advice. I will take all of it into account and feel much better about the situation now.

God bless you!


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