Where do I go from here?


#1

I realize that this question cannot, strictly speaking, be answered by anyone on this forum. Where exactly I "go from here" is entirely up to God and His plan, though perhaps some of you can offer advice to put my feet on the right path... I apologize ahead of time. I have a degree in philosophy and tend to be correspondingly long-winded:

Ever since I was a young boy I can remember being inordinately interested in the Catholic faith. I love my faith. I have always cherished it. I can recall with picture-perfect clarity my first reception of every Sacrament save Baptism. And when I was in the 6th-9th grades I felt a possible calling to the priesthood. Let me be clear: my "calling" was, at the time, motivated by a number of factors that have all but disappeared. I loved Catholic theology and history better than any subject I studied (I was home schooled at the time), and didn't seem to be any good at anything else. Except swimming. But I'm not good enough to pursue that professionally. More on that later. I also had no particular desire to be married. Sure, I always liked girls well enough, but at that age I thought the concept of having the power to Transubstantiate was far cooler than the power to produce offspring. But I digress.

High school was something of a change. I went to a public school. Found out that I was much smarter than I thought I was in middle school (it turns out that your grades get remarkably better when you start trying in your various classes... who knew?), somewhat more socially adept than I had been, and became FAR more interested in the young women around me. While I never completely forgot about that calling, I began to consider that it was possible God was calling me to marriage after all.

College was, of course, another change for me. Throughout HS and college I was constantly told to pursue careers of high earning, that if I wasn't making 6 figures within a few years of graduation I had done something wrong. My teachers all had great faith in me. Furthermore, I did what they recommended and pursued a degree that I really enjoyed. Finally, Philosophy is an excellent path of formation to one strongly considering law, as I had for most of my college career.

Fast forward to this year. I began dating a girl who was a member of my college swim team. It was an explosive romance and got going very quickly. While I am still a virgin, she was not when she met me and we quickly wandered down a path where I struggled daily with chastity. I was not without remorse. Beginning January, I began making biweekly trips to Confession to get my head back in line. It was about then that our relationship started to tumble. I watched a study on JP2's Theology of the Body and read some books by Jason and Crystalina Evert. Combined with the fact that I slowly began to realize I could not date a girl who was not emphatically against abortion, same-sex unions, etc (i.e. a girl who did not accept the full authority of the Church on moral matters) and the end of our relationship was inevitable.

(To be continued...)


#2

Now that you have my life story... I've graduated from college. As a result of the dangerous relationship and the books I read to get my life back in line, I began to reevaluate my spirituality. I pray far more (all 20 decades of the Rosary daily, Divine Mercy Chaplet, numerous other spontaneous discussions with the Big Guy) and am devouring books concerning theological issues. As of a few weeks ago, I realized that I don't really feel called to study law anymore, unless it is in the realm of canon law. I want to pursue a degree in theology. I love it. I know I would never regret it. I am willing to do whatever is necessary (financially speaking) to do it.

HOWEVER... I cannot shake the feeling that all of this is in some way indicative of a potential calling. I realize that the failure of every relationship I've ever had is in no way indicative of the fact that I may not be called to marriage. I also recognize that my abiding love for the Church could just as easily stem from a recognition of our innate call to Holiness. But I want to talk to someone.

Obviously the recommendation is my diocesan priest/vocations director, but as a college student I don't really belong to the Archdiocese of Louisville. I go to a nearby church every Sunday, holy day, and biweekly confession trip, but I don't personally know or speak to the priests at this church. The priest who knows me best is back home, and he is one that I don't entirely trust. Without sharing all of the details, I happen to know that he doesn't agree with the Church's teachings on a number of important issues, most particularly homosexuality. He's one of those whose "inner-faith lives" is missing, to borrow from Keating's "No Apology from the New Apologists." So I wouldn't feel comfortable talking to him about this.

Finally (yes, I promise this is it) I'm still swimming. I'm staying in Louisville for the next year at least, and part of the reason is because I will be competing at the Olympic Trials at the end of June, and if I do well enough will probably go to US Open at the end of the summer to try for a chance to make the World University Games team. Which would require me to stay here until August 2013. So I need a job on top of all of this. I guess more than anything else I wonder if there's anything in particular that I should be doing NOW, bearing in mind that I will be here for another year? Is it enough that I continue to frequent the Sacraments, pray often, swim, and coach for a living? Should I be trying to cultivate more of a relationship with the priests here so that I can come to them with my questions?

I have always felt that I could be used by God in lay ministry, always felt that my desire for holiness, if fulfilled, could be better used if people felt they could relate to me better as they surely would a married man with a wife and kids... I know my love for the faith can express itself through teaching, writing, youth ministry, missionary work, etc. and that all of these things can be wonderfully and beautifully done in the lay life. But what if my passion for my faith is needed more in a nation where the interior faith lives of her priests is failing? Can I not do more good for a parish like my own that is starving for a shepherd to lead them with a passion that they can't see in the one they have now?

How do I know the difference? Where do I go from here?


#3

I actually read your whole 2-part original post!

I read it pretty quickly though. So I hope I can remember everything.

My reactions:

(1) Just because you enjoy reading theology more than reading law does NOT, in my opinion, mean that you should not study law. Even if you frame it in terms of finding more meaning in theology, that still doesn’t answer what you should be doing.

(2) I’ve seen lots of well-intentioned people try to find a career in the Church without being a priest, monk or nun. Most of time, this leads to disaster and hardship. There are few jobs for such people by which they could ever support a family with kids. Guys like Karl Keating create the impression that there are tons of ways for people to earn a living in apologetics, or in Catholic radio, and so forth. NOT TRUE!

(3) My view is this: “Make up your mind.” Either become a priest, or get married and find a career that will enable you to earn enough money to support a wife and kids.

(4) Just because you’ve gotten involved with liberal women in the past doesn’t mean you don’t have a vocation to marriage. I would say the reverse is true. You seem to have a pretty strong sex drive. That is a sign. Just go to CatholicMatch.com and find a conservative Catholic woman. Simple! Problem solved! Well, I jest. It may or may not be that simple.

Was that of any help to you? I meant it to be helpful. Hope it was. If not, I hope someone wiser than I chimes in!


#4

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