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A Hard Decision

A vocation is something extra God asks of us and we give God, and its alternative is not something bad.
by Father Anthony Bannon, LC | Source:
Q. Dear Fr. Anthony,

I am certain that I have a vocation to the religious life. I am 17 years old and in my last year of high school. My mother has always told me that if I were to become a nun, she would be fully supportive of that...if I complete college first. Since I told her of my certainty in my religious calling, she said I would not have her blessing to enter the convent if I did not finish college first.

I have always wanted to go to college and have always seen myself as going. But more and more, I think God may be asking me to enter the religious life right out of high school. Just the fact that I started to consider this is a big thing, so I think God is moving in me.

At this age and time of life, how seriously do I need to take my mother's admonition to graduate from college first? I don't want to start a life of obedience by being disobedient to my mother, but I also think that if God is calling me to join an order rather than go to college, that is something I need to heed.

I'm not sure how to balance this. Could you offer any words of wisdom?

Thank you very much.


A. Dear Lynne,

I don’t have to tell you the situation you find yourself in is difficult, that’s why you wrote me. However, there are a few things I can recommend you to do that will help you sort it out. And of course we will both pray, and pray a lot that God’s will is done.

I find that there are two principal reasons parents have the same reaction as your mother, vocation yes, but after college. They want to be sure it is a mature decision you are not going to regret and change later, and they want to be sure you have something to fall back upon (namely, your college degree) if you find out after a few years in the convent that it is not your call. These sound perfectly reasonable, and the first one often has as an implicit undertone the thought that college will help you see if you are called to marriage or not, and if you have a vocation it will only be strengthened in college.

This of course has to be balanced out, and discussed with your mother, with a couple of other very reasonable and true facts.

The first is, a vocation can be lost. Many deny this, it is true it doesn’t necessarily happen, but it does and I know many cases to prove it. Since a vocation is something extra God asks of us and we give God, and its alternative is not something bad (a good Christian marriage is by no means bad) it is extremely easy for us forfeit the vocation when some other desire takes root in our heart, since we are “not doing anything wrong”. Now, we all know that at college you are exposed not only to the virtuous alternatives to a vocation but to life-styles and behavior that are incompatible with the Christian way of life, and many fall.

The second is, the course of formation for many religious institutes and ecclesial movements does include getting a college degree.

A good course of action for you is to continue your discernment, continue praying and opening you life to be guided by God. Nobody should discount the strong sense you have of being led by God to following your vocation right out of high school as being just your imagination. How else is God going to lead us if not through these interior motions? Nevertheless, prudence counsels that you test to see if all the signs are there that it is God’s voice and not your own.

The way you do this is by talking to a vocation director. Once a vocation director gets to know you and you express your belief that you have a vocation, he or she automatically, almost without thinking, begins to play the “devil’s advocate”, to see if there is anything that is telling them that God is not calling you. They will speak to you, go over your faith-life with you, your habits, the influences in your life, they probably will have you take some psychological tests, they will try to assess your maturity, all of this to see if everything looks favorable to a vocation. If they find anything that worries them or makes them think you are being too imprudent and are not ready for the vocation they will tell you. And they will tell you either to wait, or not to think about the vocation any more.

I think you should think over these things, speak to the vocation director of the order you are considering, speak some more with your mother. If the vocation director sees no need to delay entering have your mother speak with her and ask all her questions. And, pray.

God bless.

-Fr. Anthony

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