For a long while, I have been having much difficulty discerning my vocation in life.
When I was young (i.e. in High School!), I was always seen as being one of the most religious kids. My family always brought me up to be strong in the faith and I spent many a happy time as an altar boy, and I remember serving under one young priest in particular and wishing that one day, I may be able to preach like him (the fact he had a fancy car, was tall and broad and an aggressive sportsman also probably create this image of masculine perfection!). But as I got older, I gradually lost this naive and idealistic vision of what the priesthood is about, particularly when my brother applied to join seminary, and I could then see the rigorous training, the doubt and sacrifices entailed in taking Holy Orders. And naturally as I got older, I could see the role of the local priest in ministering to all, from families blighted by suicide and tragedy. Needless to say, a vocation to the priesthood became less appealing!
As I went to university, I started really to engage with the allegedly fairer sex for the first proper time And a more mature vocation began to form in my head - to enjoy a deep and loving relationship with another Catholic girl, where we could share each other’s dreams, doubts, joys, fears, successes and disappointments, and ultimately start a family who would all live together and grow with the golden gift of faith. As a student, a life of debonair nihilism and student excess, living from one pleasure to the next was not for me. I was no living saint, but my student days were lived out in contrast to the vast majority of my contemporaries, spending summers working with the sick in Lourdes, and attending mass during the week.
While at university, I took an opportunity to study abroad for a year, and I met a wonderful Italian girl. We were part of a wider group of Christian friends, and as the year wore on, I realised that she may be the one for me. We eventually we got together, and stayed in a long-distance relationship, only seeing each other once every 3 months for the best part of 2 years.
This was a particularly beautiful time for me, as we both put the faith at the centre of our relationship, and although we had the natural rows that happen in all relationships, I felt this girl was particularly sent by God as a special gift to me. That is, until we both came to live in the same country for the first time, and suddenly for some reason, the silences and the arguments began to mount, almost without warning. It was a very turbulent time and we ended up splitting up soon after, with both of us as shocked as the other as to how it deteriorated so fast.
In the aftermath, I entered a very dark period for my faith. I was living abroad in a town where Mass was not celebrated in a language I could understand, and my attendance and prayer life started to go by the wayside. It was like a pack of cards had suddenly collapsed, and all the retreats and prayers of all the years, suddenly seemed as far and distant as possible. I suddenly began to embrace the very student life that hitherto I had rejected. Alcohol and nights out began to fill the void. I never started sleeping around or taking drugs or doing anything really stupid. But it was still a very sad and tremendously unfulfilling time.
When I got my first real job last summer, the student life had to end, and one day I read a text, exhorting us to take personal responsbility for our faith. For if we don’t ourselves, who will? I reflected on the emptyness I felt without my daily and weekly Catholic rituals. Yet at the same time, I understood that if they were only rituals for me - if they did not light a fire within me, then my faith was like the salt that was no longer salty. With great effort, I have thrown myself back into a Christian life these last few months. From participating with a local Christian social action project, to spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, to finding time for mass at lunchtime during my working week. It’s almost been as if I’ve been thrashing around in the dark, simply searching once again for truth. The road is hard, and there will be many twists along the way, but I have tried to abandon my life to Him each day, and let Him come into me and change my heart and mind every day.
From here, I have been reflecting on my future. I have been very blessed in life with a good education and to have secured a comfortable employment. Yet now, I wonder whether God is calling me to go one step further and consider that vocation to be His priest, particularly as I cannot seem to find a Catholic girl here who would stay with me and with whom I would like to settle. Just as I once naively conceived in childhood, but now matured by reasoned faith, the question of a special calling has arisen again. I cannot be sure that this is what God may want me to do, as to be honest, the thought of it frightens me greatly. I feel totally unprepared for it, and yet I look around the society in which I live, and, at the risk of sounding overly self-righteous, I do not see many other young men who consider so deeply the greatest and gravest matters of salvation and sinfulness. The call to a religious life should surely fill one with joy. And yet the ideal of finding a Catholic partner with whom I can construct something beautiful for God’s glory still burns extremely strongly inside me.
So I am actively considering my future, and seeing the question of vocation as a cross to bear. Could God really desire this for me? Or do I just need to be patient and wait for the Catholic partner with whom I can attempt to build a holy and loving relationship? My apologies if a subject like this should not be discussed here, but I am earnestly seeking answers to the questions that so trouble my heart.