Vocational Turmoil—Next steps?


I am seeking some charitable outside perspectives on the patterns in my life with regards to vocational discernment. While I am not looking for opinions on whether I should further discern marriage, religious life, single celibacy, etc., what I am looking for are thoughts and ideas on next steps in discernment. Here is what I have so far:

  • Convert—about five years in. Age: early thirties. Have met with two different spiritual directors (only changed due to a move), but not recently. Prayerfully considering whether or not to meet again;
  • Dated before conversion but nothing moving towards marriage. Am somewhat traumatized as patterns in my life involve dating men who somehow considered me not marriageable (mainly due to cultural and religious differences, but before I had an in-depth understanding of how this was not so much a judgment of me but rather a result of them adhering to their own faiths), and I have internalized this rejection (which also includes one man who I later found out was married and ceased talking to immediately, of course, but it was pretty painful as faith played a large part of the situation). Dating has also slowed to nothing past casual getting-to-know-you since conversion;
  • Very isolated—I have a handful of acquaintances and that’s it. That being said, while it would be nice to have a decent friend or two, I’m actually quite comfortable spending time on my own. I am most relaxed when I can just move at my own pace, and this is reflected in my prayer life (e.g.- Adoration);
  • Marriage: I have the attraction to marriage, but have recently been grappling with the reality that, due to my age, even if I marry I may never become a mother. Marriage would be the most difficult for me to let go of for another vocation. But, alas, I also have the biggest impediment to marriage of all: no potential spouse;
  • Religious Life: I have stayed with a religious community for a weekend and considered the life…but of the three (marriage, single, religious), this is the one that I struggle the most with on the ‘attraction to the life’ front. I also have a couple of major impediments: student loan debt which will require me to work at least part-time for several more years (we’re likely talking decades) and a strong aversion to communal living;
  • Secular Institutes: This is a recent discovery, but I am prayerfully pursuing it. Something about uplifting others in prayer and associating with other faithful Catholics in an inconspicuous manner strongly attracts me to this vocation. To be continued…

I know that I really need to get over my “hurt feelings” when it comes to feeling isolated, rejected, and left out of marriage. It’s very painful to have a background where you have been treated like less than a full person, only to be left completely alone for almost a decade and possibly the remainder of one’s life. I don’t want to pursue a vocation with such feelings lying just below the surface…but I also know that if I wait until I’m perfect, I’ll be beyond the grave before I get there (if I’m lucky!)…how can those in waiting practice being good for others when they are so broken down inside?


Just some questions I’m tossing out … please note that these are rhetorical, there’s no need to answer, and if the questions are unhelpful to your particular situation, you’re definitely welcome to disregard them.

  1. How are you serving God currently with your time, talent, and treasure?
  2. How do you see yourself in the future serving God, as your best self?
  3. You have asked Jesus what to do during Adoration?
  4. You have asked your guardian angel for guidance?
  5. You have made a novena to St. Raphael, who guided Tobias? (I made up my own novena of saying several common prayers to St. Raphael over nine days (prayer for healing, prayer asking God for His blessing in sending angelic help, prayer for travel, prayer for Happy Meetings).


And of course there’s the standard advice of talking to your priest and/or a spiritual director.

Question: The Secular Institutes you mention sound interesting … are you able to explain any more, here or in a Private Message?



I think you should definitely return to spiritual direction. Given that you mentioned emotional trauma and all that, perhaps a Catholic ptherapist would be of benefit, too, to deal with the psychological aspect of past hurts? That sort of thing can interfere with your ability to make good decisions, when you have to decide on something that is too close to the type of event or person that caused the trauma. I also recommend working on developing the characteristics that make for a good wife and mother, to make yourself more attractive to men looking for wives/mothers. Even if you are not able to conceive your own genetic offspring, you could certainly adopt.


Thank you both for your kind replies. I am somewhat hesitant to return to spiritual direction, as my director was collecting donations from me and my finances are now more limited than they were at the time, but I may be able to find someone who doesn’t require fees (as my prior director did not). As far as counseling is concerned…been there, done that. In short, I don’t think I’m going to be more healed or cured from these experiences than I am now.

There’s also just so much pressure and weight on your shoulders if you’re seeking a spouse with someone that you don’t know at all in your early to mid thirties…I don’t know if I can deal with the pressure to become more “wife-like”/"motherly (whatever that means) to attract a man at this age. Maybe I should just wait it out until my forties…


I’ve also been praying a lot lately on how to reconcile pain and suffering from the past, and came across this on my desktop last night:

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

I looked up the full chapter, and here is it:

Tending the Flock of God (1 Peter 5)

5 Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2 to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight,[a] not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it**—not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3 Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. 5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders.[c] And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”

**6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert.[d] Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters[e] in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. **10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our approaches to pain and suffering in the faith versus in our culture. Will all due respect to anyone who has suggested counseling to me or anyone else here on CAF, I don’t think that it’s always the case that having traumatic or difficult experiences in one’s past require some sort of medical intervention…yes, sometimes that’s the case but I think more often than not we jump on anyone who appears less than hunky dory and label them as “needs help” or “has issues” because they speak openly about their suffering…but suffering is part of life and, in fact, part of God’s plan…I know I struggle to embrace it rather than try and get it “fixed” but at this point, I don’t think there’s any other way.**


I would concentrate on making my relationship with God and myself better. Past criticisms are hard to put aside, but consider the source, as they say. If they’re that critical, they will be even worse in marriage.

Google the Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales. That’s a gentle way to start in on a devout life. SDs should not charge for their services. When our Dominican friars are asked to be SDs, they ask what the person is used to, as OPs are very hands-off. They suggest the spiritual classics/doctors of the church and checking in if there is a problem.

Here is a daily meditations group in which you may have interest:

I keep telling my sons that they need to concentrate on being holy gentlemen and good providers. By doing so, they learn the selflessness required in a relationship. Or as hubby puts it, “Execute the fundamentals!”




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