Can I Verify My Vocation without Hurting this Woman I Love?

You don't want to spend your life wondering if you might have had a vocation, yet to follow it would cause damage to a woman you love.
by Father Anthony Bannon, LC | Source:
Question: Dear Father Anthony,

I have a serious girlfriend who I've been dating for two years. We both recently graduated from college and have been planning on getting engaged this year, but I keep having this feeling that I may be called to the priesthood...

I feel stuck, because I can't go on a vocational retreat to verify my vocation, because she'd surely find out...but if I don't go, I might have to live my life always thinking I'm in the wrong vocation, and that I've said "no" to God somehow. This wouldn't be fair to my future wife. If I do go, and a priestly vocation is revealed to me, it would do some serious psychological damage to her, and she may even lose faith in God. If I went and did not have a vocation, she might think I don't feel strongly about her, and she would just be the next best thing. Either way, I would hurt her, but if I didn't seek this calling out, who knows what might happen.

Should I take my situation as a sign that I shouldn't pursue the priesthood, and that I've found my vocation? Or is their some way of verifying my vocation without seriously hurting this woman who I love very much?

- John

Answer: Dear John,

Maybe this is what Catch 22 means... You don't want to spend your life wondering if you might have had a vocation, yet to follow it would cause damage to a woman you love, and even to try it would probably have a bad effect, even if the outcome was to discover the priesthood isn't your vocation.

From what you say, you and she do not see eye-to-eye as regards things spiritual and your relationship with God. This is a point that you should seek to address with her, especially if you do not have a vocation and your relationship with her is going to grow. Also, you have to be very realistic about the person you are going to marry, keeping in mind the duties you both take upon yourselves: you will not only be her husband to cherish and care for her, and she will not only be your wife; she will be your children's mother and you will be her children's father with all that these two imply. So, if she is psychologically fragile this is not something you should leave off facing until the pressures of marriage mount.

As regards your question, does this particular situation with your girl-friend mean you do not have a vocation I would have to say, no, not necessarily. Your recurring thoughts on their own are not a sign of a vocation, and your attachment to her on its own is not a sign you don't have one.

I think you should meet with a priest or spiritual director and explore with him privately to see if there is any other sign in your life pointing away from the priesthood. There is no reason to tell anyone else what you are doing or thinking. You would have to do this as soon as possible because there are two possible outcomes: one, you may discover you don't have a vocation and then your conscience will be at rest. Only if your conscience is at rest will you have a serene enough relationship with your girlfriend to be able to see your next step more clearly. Two, you may discover that there are other signs pointing towards the priesthood. In this case you are going to have to take a step. You cannot test a vocation without severing other ties, and if such a step has to be taken it is best not left off for too long, out of fairness to her.

God bless.

- Father Anthony

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