When to stop considering celibate vocations and begin dating?


I am especially interested in hearing from anyone who seriously discerned a call to the priesthood or religious life, but then determined they were called to marriage.

I have been a Catholic for almost 3 years, and just turned 30. For most of that time, I have considered/discerned the priesthood and (more seriously) religious life. I’ve met with several vocations directors and priests, and have made several retreats with different religious orders. None of them has really “clicked” but I’ve kept the door open and the “investigation” ongoing. I frequent the sacraments (especially the Eucharist, at daily Mass) and pray a good chunk of the LOTH every day.

Still, my interest in the celibate vocations has declined drastically over the past several months and has been replaced with a lot more thought of marriage and family. It’s not that I am suddenly repulsed by the idea of becoming a priest or religious, but rather that marriage just seems a lot more attractive. Maybe it’s that so many people around me have been getting married and having children; or that I finally have a stable, full time salaried job; or that I’ve read so much Catholic theology regarding marriage and have a better understanding of how wonderful and sacramental it is; or that there is a particular woman at my parish that I am interested in. Maybe my original interest in religious life was just the result of my conversion zeal.

I am at the point of trying to decide whether to pursue dating. Still, I don’t know whether you need to make a “clean break” with discernment of the celibate vocations. Do I need to be able to say, with a clear conscience, that I know I am not being called to a celibate life before I date? I certainly don’t want to attempt discernment of both at the same time!

One final note–although I do not have a formal spiritual director, the abbot at one of the monasteries I’ve visited several times has somewhat served in this capacity. After several in-depth conversations, he knows a lot more about me than my parish priest. I have raised this issue with him and after reminding me of the sacrifices of married life, he said I should go for it if I ultimately feel led in that direction. He plans to discuss it with me further in the near future.

Any insights would be appreciated!


IMO, and I’m sure other users will strongly disagree, your approach is wrong from the get go. One should never be discerning “celibate vocations”, nor should they be discerning the “married vocation”. They should only every be discerning their vocation, no restrictive descriptors added. And again, IMO, discernment should truly end when you take final vows, whether religious or at your wedding.

Most people won’t do it, and I don’t understand why, but I always felt that one should be open to visiting orders, talking to clergy, etc., while dating. (provided, of course, there’s someone to date. Don’t force it)

Being only willing to date biases one against the religious life, and being only willing to visit orders, biases one against the married life. One should have an even sampling of both, or you can’t really call it proper discernment. I have several friends who joined a convent or got married because it was the only choice they gave themselves where they clearly belonged elsewhere.


I’ll just point out the obvious. There are many who are called to the generous single life and they do not vow.

But yes, once one determines that they are called to the generous single life, discernment can end.



I suppose I think in terms of restrictions because, for instance, a seminarian is not allowed to date at all. Even though they have not taken any final vows or made any final promises to the bishop (and may be several years away from doing so), they are still expected to stay far away from the dating scene because it is considered a distraction. And yet, some seminarians do leave seminary to pursue married life, and I can only assume it’s because they’ve decided the priesthood wasn’t their calling and then “restricted” themselves to looking at other vocations (to me, that seems a legitimate way of progressing by the process of elimination). My question is: how do you know when you’ve reached that point? Or are you supposed to remain uncertain and uncommitted until you finally say “I do”?


Just focus on your primary vocation and living chaste. If God wants you to get married he will present you with the resources of getting married. If God wants you to become a priest he will present with the resources to become a priest. Live simply with no expectations or agendas other than to become a saint for the sake of God and he will make your will his will.

God bless,


Don't get married just because you're curious about it. Make sure you're not seeing it greener on the other side of the fence! :)


[quote="Farsight001, post:2, topic:268738"]
I have several friends who joined a convent or got married because it was the only choice they gave themselves where they clearly belonged elsewhere.


I have the same question as well regarding discernment of vocations. How do you know that they "belonged elsewhere"? Thanks! :p


[quote="LovePatience, post:7, topic:268738"]
I have the same question as well regarding discernment of vocations. How do you know that they "belonged elsewhere"? Thanks! :p


Farsight, this is a very interesting point -- one that Im having troubles seeing. Could you explain more on how you know they belonged elsewhere?

Did you mean that you *saw *them fit somewhere else? Either way, aren't all vocations are equal? I remember reading through thread on it, but it was a while back. I remember talking to a priest about this. He mentioned to just live life as holy as you can -- whatever vocation you choose.


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