Vocation Trouble


#1

Hi, I have recently had some stress over whether or not to become a priest or some other religious vocation these past couple months. This may be a long story so please hang with me. My story begins about three years ago when i was suffering from (i think it was depression) depression, i was empty inside and had anxiety and very negative thoughts, one night i just broke down cause i couldnt take it anymore. That night i took out my old bible and read a couple of chapters i think it was some of the gospel of matthew. I went to bed and when i woke up it was as if a boulder had been lifted up off my chest, my mind was clear and it was one of the best days of my life. After that i started going to mass and living a better life, overtime i sort of started living a sinful life though. then one day about 7 months ago the depression, negative thoughts came back, i started praying more and trying to ask god to please take this depression away again. During this time a thought came to me, i thought that since this depression will not go away maybe God is calling me to become a priest and i might feel better. this thought was all i could think about. I was about to graduate college and always had my eyes set on doing something in the medical field. my life then turned to more anxiety and negative thoughts, i viewed the priesthood as a prison sentence. This became so bad that i stopped praying all together, i went back to drinking gambling lust etc. It became so bad that i would go to mass and not look at the priest, i would avoid any contact with a priest or seminarian.
At my happiest times when i thought i was closest to God during those three years (during a novena btw) i felt that my life was in order, i felt that i was doing Gods will such as the profession i was choosing and maybe one day getting married,
Now im slowly getting back to praying but im just worried that the anxiety will come back, it has come back a little, Whenever these thoughts and feelings come up i cant do anything and keep my mind on it, i can be watching television and ill have this thought and anxious feeling in my chest that i shouldnt be doing this and i should be becoming a priest and ill jump up and just pace back and forth talking it out, during this time i am a very irritable person (I have not had a good day since december), i envy others because i feel they are called to be married etc and i am forced to become a priest and i will only be ''happy'' if i do. I fear that if I don’t become a priest I will not be truly “happy,” During these two depression cycles I had no hope for the future as in would never get married or be happy. And only during the second one did I have the idea of becoming a priest or brother since i felt that obviously i was not going to get married. Could this feeling of becoming a priest just be a result of these stressful times in my life? I have heard other priest's stories of discernment and they all have had times of great peace and joy over the calling, and that God sort of made it to where it was totally evident that He was calling him to become a priest, such as people telling them they would make a great priest. At times i feel peace about the possibility of becoming a priest but these are rare and I think it may just be me getting confused with these feelings.

On top of this i am currently dating a girl and she meets every aspect i would love to see in a lady, and now i look at her and think i can't pursue a relationship with her because i am feeling this way and this further adds to the frustration and disappointment
I am afraid and don’t want to feel like this,
Sorry for the long story and im sorry if it is a little jumbled and hard to follow, if anybody has any advice it would be greatly appreciated


#2

First of all, if you haven't already, seek medical help for your depression. Depressed people don't always make good decisions (rational or spiritual).

I also started dating someone after I felt a calling to the religious life. I know very well the emotional turmoil and confusion you're going through. But I felt I needed to experience both, and that in the end, the right choice would be obvious--and whichever I chose would be all the more precious and meaningful, realizing what I had to give up to obtain it.

Miz


#3

I think there are psychological examinations in order to be accepted for seminary, so you need to seek help for the depression issue first. Also, depression seems to sometimes go hand in hand with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) which is suggested to me by your description of how you are very anxious about it and will jump up and worry whenever thoughts of it pop into your head. So I think you should stop thinking about it and address the depression. Counseling really can help (I've been). You should also talk to a priest about it. He should have some good advice for your discernment (he's not going to automatically tell you to enter the priesthood. Just tell him what you've told us here about the anxiety).


#4

I am so sorry that you are suffering from depression. I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life and medication makes a world of difference for me.

It is very difficult to make rational decisions when depressed. So, before making any decisions, seek out a medical professional. He or she will be able to find a way to treat your depression, either with therapy, medication, or both.

Discernment happens when you are in a peaceful, prayerful place. I know that when my depression has reared its ugly head, I go into a tailspin. It is difficult to be calm and listen to God in the midst of anxiety.

There is no rush to make a decision. If the priesthood is where God wants you to be, He will make sure that you get there. Remember, it's always God's timeline. (I often forget that!)

I will pray for you and I know that God will heal you.

Peace and blessings,
Karen


#5

I can relate very much to your story. My thoughts and prayers are with you and I hope that you will find an answer.


#6

I will pray that God helps you obtain treatment for your depression and then that you are clear minded enough to know in your heart…which God is already a part of, and pulls you in the direction He wants you to go. Keep us posted as to your care and update us on how you are doing. We care about you!:slight_smile:

God Bless
Magdelaine1173


#7

Depression is not an uncommon medical condition in today's society. The good news is that it can be effectively treated and sometimes it can be cured, depending on the type of depression.

Most religious communities and many diocesan seminaries do accept men who suffer from this condition provided that it is under control. This is determined by psychological and medical evaluations. Some forms of depression are very handicapping. Men with this form of depression would suffer in religious life or even as secular priests.

Often, people with depression do not tolerate changes well. Nor do they tolerate solitude. Some may go the other way and seek solitude and avoid the company of others. As a dicoesan priest, these men would not be able to function. Diocesan priests often live alone. They need to build a social support network around them to continue. Religious, ordained or not, are meant to live in community, not in isolation. In both cases, the person who tends to isolate himself, because of his depression, will only become more sick.

Therefore, it's important to have condition evaluated, under control and if possible cured.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)


#8

[quote="Miserys_Fence, post:2, topic:206775"]
First of all, if you haven't already, seek medical help for your depression. Depressed people don't always make good decisions (rational or spiritual).

I also started dating someone after I felt a calling to the religious life. I know very well the emotional turmoil and confusion you're going through. But I felt I needed to experience both, and that in the end, the right choice would be obvious--and whichever I chose would be all the more precious and meaningful, realizing what I had to give up to obtain it.

Miz

[/quote]

While I agree that it is nice to "experience both" you need to be careful about how your decision would affect that someone you are dating. Giving up that relationship for God can make it more "precious and meaningful" for you, but you must also keep in mind how this will negatively affect them! I was in a similar situation and when I talked to my priest about it he shared some great advice. You should treat discerning a religious life like dating the Church. It's only fair to the girl you are dating if she knows there is another "significant other" in your life and if you are completely honest with her throughout this entire process.


#9

I have one thing to say about the girl, which I can relate to from personal experience. I myself am going to go to seminary soon, and I too had a girl. The problem was, that we had grown extremely close. When I told her what my plans were, it hurt her. A lot. It was a fantastic relationship, so normally it would not have ended. She had known that I was considering priesthood, but when I finally told her what I had decided...well it was not something that made her happy. So consider this. If you continue to date this girl while you discern, you will get closer to her. If you discern that you should become a priest, then you will cause her a lot of sadness. It seems to me that you still need a lot of time to discern, so there is likely a large amount of time for your relationship to grow with her. But the more it grows, the more you may hurt her in the future. My recommendation is to end it, peacefully and kindly. Tell her that you simply need to be able to sort out many things in your life, and a relationship will just not be very good at this moment.

Another thing I recommend is handling this depression that you have. It clearly is messing with how you make your decisions, and could lead you to do some extremely unwise things. You should not look at priesthood as something that simply will make you happy. You do not know that it will. This may be your depression talking, not God. So before you make a big decision, first get through your depression. This may take time, but it will be worth it. God is patient, and wishes for you to do what he wants. He will not be angry with you for taking your time with this, because it is clearly necessary in your case.

I recommend reading a couple books by Father Tim Gallagher. Primarily, Discerning the Will of God and Discernment of Spirits. I have read the first one, and have heard that the second one is very good. They provide a good way of figuring out what God wants with your life.


#10

Hey bro don't feel alone in this, I'm goin through basically the same thing. Look at the Meet and Greet 59 thread page 32, you'll see a post (my first post) I left. I swear I had no knowledge of this thread you started, but it's just kind of cool how similarly we described basically the same problem. I don't mean to make light of you plight, so to speak, I definately feel your pain and can relate to most of the dimensions of your situation, save ambitions for the medical feild ( mine is an ambition for music, although if I do go to school I do plan to consider the medical feild as it has always iseemed to be a very practical way of helping people.) Sometimes I feel that if I am called to be a preist or religious then all the countless hours I've put in towards my music have just been wasted. Other times I know better, that God sees and knows what a sacrifice it would be to me. I have heard that the call is an invitation, and that those who are called to be priests or religious are called to something greater than marriage. Now if you were on a plane and you got invited from coach to first class, I know I'd be halfway down the aisle before the announcement was over. But, throw in that you can't be married and that this flight will last you the rest of your life,plus all the other sacrifices that this analogy doesn't accurately represent, then it can be easy to think you've just been called from first class to coach, which is enough to make you think about straight up jumping off the plane entirely. But we shouldn't jump off planes, and we shouldn't stress out about where on the plane to heaven we are going to sit. I know that one of the causes of my anxiety about this is simply because I can get pretty impatient, especially after a time when I reverted to my old ways, and I just want the answer and be done with it. But I know that the the answer just might not be something I want to hear or something I am just not willing to accept, and that's why it hasn't been screamed in my ear. But I do know that God is calling me in a whisper, the trick is to be quiet and listen to what's being said. I hope I've helped out at all, I know it feels good for me to get out a few of my thoughts on the matter, seeing as I don't have any Catholic friends who could relate. Get back to me. I'll pray for you bro.


#11

[quote="CTuck, post:10, topic:206775"]
Hey bro don't feel alone in this, I'm goin through basically the same thing. Look at the Meet and Greet 59 thread page 32, you'll see a post (my first post) I left. I swear I had no knowledge of this thread you started, but it's just kind of cool how similarly we described basically the same problem. I don't mean to make light of you plight, so to speak, I definately feel your pain and can relate to most of the dimensions of your situation, save ambitions for the medical feild ( mine is an ambition for music, although if I do go to school I do plan to consider the medical feild as it has always iseemed to be a very practical way of helping people.) Sometimes I feel that if I am called to be a preist or religious then all the countless hours I've put in towards my music have just been wasted. Other times I know better, that God sees and knows what a sacrifice it would be to me. I have heard that the call is an invitation, and that those who are called to be priests or religious are called to something greater than marriage. Now if you were on a plane and you got invited from coach to first class, I know I'd be halfway down the aisle before the announcement was over. But, throw in that you can't be married and that this flight will last you the rest of your life,plus all the other sacrifices that this analogy doesn't accurately represent, then it can be easy to think you've just been called from first class to coach, which is enough to make you think about straight up jumping off the plane entirely. But we shouldn't jump off planes, and we shouldn't stress out about where on the plane to heaven we are going to sit. I know that one of the causes of my anxiety about this is simply because I can get pretty impatient, especially after a time when I reverted to my old ways, and I just want the answer and be done with it. But I know that the the answer just might not be something I want to hear or something I am just not willing to accept, and that's why it hasn't been screamed in my ear. But I do know that God is calling me in a whisper, the trick is to be quiet and listen to what's being said. I hope I've helped out at all, I know it feels good for me to get out a few of my thoughts on the matter, seeing as I don't have any Catholic friends who could relate. Get back to me. I'll pray for you bro.

[/quote]

I'm going to respectfully disagree with this assessment. I was married. We had three children. My wife and one son died. I was a widower with two kids to raise and I was a physician. When my kids reached adulthood, I entered religious life. This meant going back to school for three years of philosophy and seven years of theology. When you've been through med schooll and fellowship, this feels kind of harsh. It also meant giving up teaching medicine, which I loved. It means not seeing my son and daughter except for 10 days every five years. I love them very much, but that's the rule. My daughter graduated from grad school and I was not there. She was recently engaged to be married and I was not thee. She has had to plan her wedding around the time that I can go. My son graduated from grad school and I was not there, I was in Europe studying theology.

I was very sick last month and I had to ask my superior's permission to invite my kids to visit. The permission was granted and the brothers were great to them. The brothers are always very good to them.

The conclusion, I got the best seat in the plane and would not change it for the world.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)


#12

Many men with very different background are called to be priests.

Some fall into it as though they had been designed for it from birth. Others spend time questioning it and eventually come to the conclusion that's what they're called to do. Others actively resist it for years and become excellent priests despite their objections. Some just go for it, in at the deep end, sink or swim. It all depends on the type of person you are.

However, from the short description you have written (and it is very short compared to the complex person that you surely are) leads me to at least question whether you're viewing the priesthood as an escape for the problems you suffer now rather than as a calling for you generally.

Having been through the vocation discernment process myself (and having been accepted for Seminary a few years ago, although I subsequently decided to postpone) I can tell you that any vocations director would want to be sure that you're not treating the idea as a refuge from a problem. They will want to see you as answering a call, not running away.

Now obviously 6 years of seminary is designed to help you find out whether your calling is true: it's not just a case of study the courses, pass the exams and bam, that's it you're qualified. It's much more a process of discovery, both for you and the Church authorities who are assessing you.

By all means explore the concept of priestly vocation, but you must come to a settled conclusion on the matter. You certainly can't formally apply if you're in the midst of a relationship with a girl!

I'd say that you need more time to reflect. Get involved with your parish community beyond just turning up for Mass. It's very easy to get obsessed with the 'cultic' side of the priesthood - the image of the priest as the centre of everything, the man with the power to consecrate, the celebration of liturgical rights. Liturgy is, in actual fact, a very small part of the life of a priest, certainly by quantity of time he spends doing it.

If you want to examine life as a priest, get involved in pastoral work. Volunteer to become an EMHC and offer to take Communion to the Sick. It'll be more than just in-and-out: it'll be sitting with sick, elderly and often very lonely people and listening to their stories and letting them speak about the things that trouble them, very often nothing to do with God. It's the art of making yourself available as an act of charity to others.

You will grow from the experience and, even if nothing else ever happens on your personal journey of vocation, you will find it very life-affirming for you, in the sense that it helps you put your own life into perspective, you'll learn to see the world through other people's eyes, and you'll even be able to put your own suffering into perspective.

I hope you find answers to your questions. Good luck and God bless.


#13

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