What is the Catholic Church's deal with vocations/discernment to the priesthood or religious life?

I think this has been going on in the Church for quite some time now, but it constantly causes me a lot of confusion and frustration, even more so now what with me growing up and nearing college graduation. Every time I turn around, the issue of discerning religious life and calls to the priesthood pop up everywhere. We pray at Mass (which is fine) for an increase in vocations to religious life, and I encounter people who prattle on and on about becoming a nun, priest, or whatnot. Even my friends take it lightly and make jokes, making “bets” with each other that if XYZ happens, whats-her-face will become a nun. This past week, I vented on Facebook that a university I had applied to for graduate school had rejected me (which was unwise on my part anyhow) and a friend of mine who is the youth minister at my church, and is married himself, commented, “Seminary school!” I knew he meant it humorously, but I was so frustrated at the time I didn’t want to hear a word of it.

The worst part about all of this is that nobody really seems to understand where I’m coming from on all this. I have no intention of becoming a priest or monk or anything of the sort, which I believe I’ve established on a thread from several years ago here. I’ve always wished to be married and raise a family, but I can’t seem to get my foot in the door with women. I’ve never had anything remotely close to a relationship with a girl my whole life, and it’s taken a huge toll on my self-esteem. Last summer, at my cousin’s wedding, I cried almost the entire time because the priest read a passage from Genesis in which God says “it is not good for man to be alone.” So I wish people could understand how insecure I am with regards to discernment before the topic of single/religious life starts getting thrown around, let alone by someone who is married. I know that God gives us free will and that no person knows us better than we, or even God knows us, but being told constantly to discern makes me feel like I don’t have a choice or say. It also makes me feel guilty that I don’t want to live a single life or be a priest.

I’m not sure that I have a point to all this; I just needed to vent about it. And I also apologize if I seem too bitter because I don’t intend to speak against the Church or talk badly about the priesthood or religious life in general. It’s just something I’m struggling with and I’m not sure if I’m headed the right direction or if I’m misinterpreting it all.

We often enjoy an encouraging touch from friends. A pat on the back, a hug, a hand shake. What we don’t appreciate is being slapped on an open wound! ouch! For you this topic is an open wound, however your friends can’t see your wound because it is emotional, not visible to them. Cut your friends some slack, they don’t get it!

I think you should see a Christian counselor. If you are unable to get even one girl to go out with you by college there is a reason. Often times people put out body language that discourages the very situation they desire. A counselor versed in social anxiety can coach you on how to change body language, and negative self thoughts.

One important point. If you are not able to choose to be happy as a single, you probably won’t be happy in a relationship. Your primary relationship is with God! You can have this without a partner. Even the nicest person is unable to fulfill your fantasy or dream of how a relationship will be. It is your relationship with God that holds you up when every one else fails you.

These are just thoughts on the subject. I hope they help you. :slight_smile:

Clearly you are in need of human companionship and clearly a religious vocation isn’t for you. Just socialise with people. But don’t become desperate though, as potential ‘mates’ can smell it a mile off! It’s also quite off-putting. Become master of your own destiny. Seek social groups, activities, etc, that fit in with your hobbies and interests and don’t expect to meet the love of your life within five minutes. Instead just immerse yourself in the joys and wonder the world has to offer and sooner or later you’ll meet and hit it off with someone else who enjoys the same things. And that itself may not be the love of your life either, but you may build connections to new people through them, and so on and so on…

The biggest thing you need to do is RELAX and just take things as they come. Just be content with what you have now. A contented person is much more attractive than a depressed one. So count your blessings and look out to the world and not in to yourself.

Peace be with you.

I agree with your conclusion that you are not suited to the priesthood, at least at this time. So, get a membership on Ave Maria Singles, and Catholic Match. Make sure you use a good photo. You may not meet a girl, or you might. If you want to “get your foot in the door” it’s a safe way to start conversations and see what young ladies say they want in a relationship. They have forums too, so it isn’t just pressure to date. You must get out there if you are serious. A woman will not just show up at your door. Online dating, if done courteously and carefully, is now done by all sorts of decent people. It does not mean you are desperate. It’s cheap too, so worth a try.

We don’t have to be called to those vocations in order to hope that people will called, respond to that call, and find joy in their vocations. I didn’t have to want religious life for myself in order to be happy for my roommate who did.

You don’t have to become a priest or brother if you don’t want to. Discerning doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice, it means you do have a choice. :slight_smile:

Unless you’ve made some vows I don’t know about, you don’t have anything to feel guilty about. :slight_smile:

I have considered joining dating sites before, but the main issue is the cost. Ave Maria isn’t free, and Catholic Match is only free up until you decide to communicate with potential matches. My mom got mad at me a few months ago over a charge on my credit card bill from Zoosk, which I had tried years ago, but I never once supplied my credit card info; I don’t know how Zoosk got it, and Zoosk is shady anyhow. Plus, I grew up moving a lot, and it’s hard for me to tell how long I’ll live somewhere, at least long enough to meet somebody.

I see what you mean when you say my friends can’t see my open wound. However, I think you were sort of vague when you said “there is a reason”; maybe I’m misinterpreting this also, but it seems to suggest that I’m doing something wrong. I have seen counselors before for both depression and social anxiety, but none so far have been helping me a whole lot. My last counselor specialized in Asperger syndrome, but she needed very specific examples of what I struggled with and I found it difficult to come up with any.

One question I have is what “God’s call” to something really is. I’ve gotten the idea before that God wouldn’t use guilt or negative feelings to compel you to do something, but at other times, my emotions interfere so much that I get suspicious that I’m even right about this. I get mixed messages and I don’t know which ones are coming from God.

Work on eradicating sin and attachment to sin, acquiring virtue, prayer, understanding and doing God’s will. As you are doing these things, pay attention to the good gifts, talents, and desires* you have been given. Ask people who know you about what your gifts and talents are, and toward what good actions they see you gravitating, and take their answers into consideration.

You could also try to devise some “practical testing” regarding the kind of life you’re drawn to. I once had a friend who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to join a religious order, for example. I encouraged him to try doing some of the things a brother would need to do that he could also do as a layperson, such as keeping a daily schedule, attending daily Mass, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. When he expressed a desire to have children, I encouraged him to spend more time with his friends’ families, and especially helping them care for their children.

I’m sure others may have even better advice. :slight_smile:

  • When I speak of desires here, I’m obviously excluding desires to do wrong, such as a temptation to steal. But I would also exclude desires that are fleeting, such as a sudden obsession with some hobby that fizzles or fades away not long thereafter. I’m talking about desires that are good in themselves and which seem persistent, at least frequently recurring, and maybe even grow over the course of your life. Pay attention to those. If you’ve always had a passion for physics or music, you should probably be seeking a vocation in which you can use that gift. :slight_smile:
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