I Feel My Vocation Drifting Away

There are a lot of things I will no longer be able to do in my typical college student life if I start now. I want to have all the fun I can. Is this selfish of me?
by Fr. Anthony Bannon, LC | Source:

Q. Dear Fr Anthony,

I decided a few months ago that I am called to religious life, after about 2 years of discernment. I even have my community picked out and I have spent the last year really getting to know them. I decided over this past summer that I was going to start the initial process in their formation program this coming spring. I had always been so excited to start and most of the time I wanted to start earlier! It was my decision, with the sisters' support, to transfer to another college this year so I could get some time and space away from them to just think and process. So now I am here at my new college, 1000 miles away from the sisters, and I feel myself drifting away from my vocation. I have been dating someone for the past 2 months. Our relationship is going really well and I am so happy, not to say I wasn't happy with my vocation because I was in love with my vocation! The sisters are happy I have this experience too. I have begun to rethink starting my formation so soon because I am only 21 and have several years before I am actually able to give myself over to the community. There are a lot of things I will no longer be able to do in my typical college student life if I start now. I want to have all the fun I can. Is this selfish of me? Sometimes I feel I should never have started dating if I knew I wanted to become a sister, but it also felt right to date this particular person. Maybe he was put into my life to confirm my vocation or not.

Also, where I go to school has a very, very small Catholic population. Catholics are a minority here. So because of this, I no longer enjoy going to mass and such. My faith has no longer become my priority in life (most of the time).

I am so confused right now! I know I need time to think and work this all out, but I want to fix this now. What is your advice for me Father?

Peace and all good

- Kyle Anne

A. Dear Kyle Anne,

I must say, I don’t understand the Sisters’ reasoning unless they are sure you don’t have a vocation and don’t want to tell you!

Every man or woman that has a vocation is made up of soul and body with all that goes with this mixture; plus, they have to be healthy and normal, and so they will have a heart, affections and feelings, as well as a mind and will. They will also have all the instincts and unruly passions that go with our fallen human nature. So, even the holiest person alive who perceives a call from God carries within himself serious obstacles to his vocation. Humbling, isn’t it?

Now, since this is what we are made of, if we start dating it is predictable that we will form attachments that are going to make a vocation even more difficult to follow than it already is, plus we are being very unfair to the person we date since we have no intention of committing more to the relationship because we think we might have a vocation. Either that, or we are willing to turn our backs on a vocation we think we have, otherwise we should not be putting it in danger like that. Either way it does not seem a good or wise thing to do.

That is why it seems to me that once a young person thinks he may have a vocation his first step should be to re-order his life putting the vocation at the center. Yes, this will mean giving up some of the “fun” he would otherwise have, but as soon as God calls it is time to grow up.

Something that strikes me about your message is the fact that your feelings are winning out over your reason as the basis for the choices you make. When this happens we often find ourselves doing things that don’t make much sense and which later on we end up having to correct. It “felt” right to date this young man, and now you are wondering if it was a wise thing to do, but seeing that you are not yet going beyond your feelings, instead of coming to a conclusion and making a decision (for or against your possible vocation) that will have consequences (pursue this relationship or not, get back to more prayer or not, just have fun or get serious…) you are stuck now in your confusion and unable to decide which way to go.

I hope you don’t mind me laying out things this clearly for you. There is a major adjustment you need to make in the way you make your decisions, and I think you will probably need some coaching from a good spiritual director in order to understand and make the change. Here’s the essence of it: For your decisions to be lasting they need to be based on what is right, true and good, rather than on your feelings at the time. So, for example, if you think you have a vocation and you like the guy and have the opportunity to date him, you would be following your feelings if you did, but you would be following your principles and doing what is best if you were to say to yourself, “I think I have a vocation, and if I start dating I may fall in love and decide not to follow the vocation, or even if I don’t he might fall in love with me and I’ll hurt him when I leave him. So, I’m not going to date.” That’s not easy, to be sure, but it’s the only way to go if you want to be happy with your decisions.

It will help you a lot if you make every effort to put your faith back in the center of your life by praying each day and trying to get to Mass as often as you can. If you have the option to switch back to a school where you will be able to develop your Catholic life, that would also be good to do.

Kyle Anne, we all go through the same as you to some degree or another. For some it is more of a problem than it is for you, and others experience less of a problem, but we all experience the tug-of-war between what feels good and what is right. Sometimes we convince ourselves that what we feel like is right (we say, “it feels right”), even though it may not be. That is why Christ gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and why it always helps to run our major decisions by someone who will be honest enough to help us stay in the realm of what is right and good when we make them. So, don’t be discouraged. Trust in Christ.

God bless.

- Fr Anthony

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