Discerning a Vocation: What Not to Do

In my sixteen years as a priest, I’ve been vocation director, seminary rector, and spiritual director to a convent. More importantly, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot, and like many God-related things, a lot of the knowledge we have about vocations is about what’s not true. How exactly someone goes about “discerning a vocation” is a hard thing to answer, but I can definitely tell you what not to do. For one thing, don’t talk to me about it anymore. This post is all you’re getting. Also there’s a video at the bottom of this post you can watch of an event we did at school.

I’m not a historian of theology, but I wonder how old the current idea of “discerning a vocation” really is in the first place. In the olden days, you get the sense that some kid kind of liked the idea of being a monk, so he became a monk, and that was that. I think it’s possible that a lot of the torturous self-searching we find ourselves doing is the result of our confused and narcissistic culture. I think maybe the same goes for the decision of choosing whom to marry. I get that it’s an important thing to you, but honestly you’re not that important, so just pick something and get on with it. Being a young person is already confusing enough without you obsessing.

For the most part, I’ll be discussing discernment of a consecrated vocation generally speaking – that is, a way of life that requires sacrificing marriage. That includes religious life, consecrated virginity, and (today, in the West) most vocations to the priesthood. I’ll use a question-and-answer format, both for clarity as well as for some gags to entertain myself.

“How do I know God’s will?”

As promised, I’ll tell you what not to do: don’t treat God’s will as something independent of, or opposed to, wisdom. God wills for us to choose wisely. So if you’ve (prayerfully) figured something out (anything in life) according to the best of your wisdom, you’re done. Don’t think that discerning God’s will is something different than that.

“What if I don’t feel called to a consecrated vocation?”

Good. Move on. Very few people are called to it, and not that many think about it, and you don’t have to. Go get married or something.

“Isn’t everyone supposed to discern a consecrated vocation?”


“Isn’t marriage a vocation?”

I guess? In the sense that it’s a way of life that God can use to sanctify you and the people around you. But it’s not a vocation in the sense of “special calling,” and definitely not something you need to discern. Every human being, in virtue of being part of the human species and having a human body, is “called” to marriage. Family life is home base and definitive for all of us. So you’re not discerning whether you’re called to marriage or celibacy. That’s already a dumb question. Everyone is “called” to marriage, by nature, insofar as they are human. The question is whether you’re also called to a supernatural way of life, some forms of which require you to sacrifice the natural “calling” of marriage that you already have.

“How do I discern whom I’m supposed to marry?”

I have no idea. Dating? Is that what dating is? I guess the other person should be involved at some point? Go ask your parents.

“What if I pick the wrong vocation?”

God will not eternally destroy your face if you pick one holy way of life over another. For the love of God, why would you think that there’s some magical vocation out there for you that you have to magically find out, and if you don’t figure it out and end up doing some other good thing, you’ll burn in hell forever?

Discerning a vocation isn’t deciding whether or not to follow God. The fact that you’re thinking about this already means you’re following God. A vocation is just the particular way you’re gonna do it. But all the options before you are good options. I’ve had girls come to me having panic attacks because they’re not sure which convent God wants them to join. CALM DOWN. They’re all convents. If you like one more than another, join it.

“But what if I like something more than another for selfish reasons?”

Why are you like this? Why are you doing this to yourself? More importantly, why are you doing this to me and wasting my time? Your vocation is first and foremost for YOU. So if you like one more than another, GOOD. Do you think God’s will is for you to hate being alive? Do you think you’ll be able to serve others very well when you’re living like that? Yeah, every vocation has its struggles. Just leave the martyr complex at the door. You’re not doing anyone any favors.

“But isn’t suffering part of a vocation?”

No. Suffering is a part of human life. You don’t have to seek it. It will find you, wherever you are. When it does, deal with it like an adult and it will sanctify you.

“But how do I know which vocation I want?”

How am I supposed to know?

“What if I feel called to a consecrated life but don’t do it?”

The young man in Matthew 19 asked Jesus what he needs to do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. The young man, feeling that there was something lacking in his life, asked “but what do I still lack?” Jesus answers, “if you want to be perfect, go and sell your belongings and give to the poor, and come, follow me.”

The guy didn’t want to, so he left sad. But the reason given in the Gospel for his sadness was because he had many possessions, not that he had this one and only chance to follow Jesus, and now he was lost forever and condemned to hell because he missed his one chance, as if salvation is an Eminem song from 2002.

Look at Matthew 19 again (verses 16-30). The first question is about eternal life. The answer to that is to follow the commandments. Not selling his belongings and following Jesus in that radical way. Following or not following a vocation is NOT a moral or immoral act. Choosing one way of life (in Christ) over another is NOT a sin.

Sin is determined according to the good or bad of the human species (“The sabbath was made for man” – not for Fred). Your vocation is determined for you, so it falls into a completely different category than sin does. If you feel called to give up everything, sell all your belongings, and follow Christ, go for it. If you don’t do it, you won’t go to hell (at least for that). You might walk away sad, especially if you have many possessions. But that’s a different thing. And not my problem.

“Am I supposed to feel something or receive a sign if I’m called to a consecrated vocation?”

I didn’t, and I don’t know anybody who did. If Jesus did appear to you, either that’s really cool or you’re really crazy. If you got a rose on your doorstep or something, you might have a stalker.

“Is it okay to date if I’m seriously discerning a consecrated vocation?”

Nah. You wouldn’t seriously date more than one person. There’s no way to do that without hurting someone’s feelings, or your own, or both.

“What if I’m not seriously discerning, just kind of thinking about it? Should I break up with my boyfriend/girlfriend?”

Probably not. If that starts growing, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to them about it and go from there.

“What if I had a really sinful past?”

Nobody cares. Worry more about your present.

“What if my sinful past still haunts me with memories and temptations?”

Work on it. But I don’t think it makes a consecrated vocation impossible. See St. Augustine.

“But didn’t St. So-and-So say X about vocations?”

Beats me. Go ask her.

“Why are you so rude and unhelpful?”

Because people keep trying to talk to me about their vocations.

“Isn’t a consecrated life more noble than a married life?”

Yup. Doesn’t mean you’re called to it though. And it doesn’t mean that any given celibate is any happier or holier than any given married person.

“If it’s more noble then why doesn’t God call more people to it?”

Because noble/higher things are by definition rare.

“Isn’t the priesthood more noble than the lay state?”

Nope (at least I couldn’t find anything in Denzinger that says that). The priesthood is about service. And answering dumb questions. But most priests are also dedicated celibates, so the previous two answers apply to them for that reason.

“What’s it like being a priest?”

It’s cool. Sometimes it sucks.

“Aren’t you supposed to say it’s amazing?”

This isn’t a Disney movie.

“What’s the best part about being a priest?”

Saying Mass, by far.

“What’s the worst part about being a priest?”


“If this is how you feel about people why didn’t you become a hermit?”

I wish.

“Seriously you’re rude.”

That’s not a question.

“Ok so how do I discern my vocation?”

I don’t know. This is a super personal thing that God gives to you. It’s not intelligible to anyone else but you. Figure it out yourself.

“Can’t you give some general advice?”

Fine. Pray long and peacefully, and go to adoration and sit and shut up and just be there. Look at what challenges you and exhilarates you. Look at what brings you closer to God. Look at how God works through you. Keep trying to grow in love of God and neighbor, and all the virtues (that will clear your head and help you think better). Most importantly: look at what you want. Do you want to live a consecrated life? Ok do it. Are you not sure? Go do one of those weekend visits or like a Zoom meeting or whatever. Do you kind of like it and think you might want to do it? That’s what seminary and novitiate are for. Join.

“What is it like to follow a vocation?”

Weird and interesting and annoying.

“What if I never figure this out?”

God will use you anyway.

“Should I calm down?”


Ok here’s the video:

36 thoughts on “Discerning a Vocation: What Not to Do

  1. Good advice! I can’t speak about a vocation to the priesthood because I don’t have one but I would advise anyone seriously discerning the consecrated life to just do it if you feel you can. Like Matthew 19, God calls everyone to consecrated life if they are bold and courageous enough. At least make a visit to the community. If you have peace there then you can plan on how you will quit the world when you get home. If you don’t have peace, they will send you home within the hour usually so you don’t disturb the others. Never heard of someone entering or remaining at monastery who wasn’t excited to do so.

      1. Yes, Father, everyone wont have a vocation to make vows. Many are called, few are chosen. But if you have no impediments, attempting consecrated life is an open invitation.

      2. You’re essentially right I think, yes. Of course, the verse you’re quoting is about salvation, not vocations, which is all the more terrifying.

    1. Saint Jerome suggests in Adversus Jovinianum that before the Incarnation man’s job was to fill the earth (marriage); after the Incarnation, it is to fill paradise (virginity). If he is right, perhaps the consecrated life should be presented as natural and ordinary for Christians.

      1. St Jerome explains in his letter #22 to Eustochium (his treatise on virginity) that the exalted positive original state lost by the loss of virginity is completely irretrievable, you can never get it back. He laments the foolishness of Eustochium’s sister Blesilla (who was widowed young) for marrying, and in regards to the girls’ mom Paula he explains that the positive worth of marriage is that married women can give birth to virgins. Once degraded, according to Jerome, ruined virginity can never be restored–he insists firmly that God Himself cannot restore virginity.

        From this perspective it is apparently untrue that God can or will “make all things new” (I sobbed and sobbed once at a homily about that, because there was a consecrated virgin sitting behind me and I just dissolved in confusion about what is it that the Church believes). Jerome’s letter #2 is one of the most severe of the ancient treatises on virginity. Of course it was partly that Eustochium was the first Roman woman of high status to become a Christian consecrated virgin (ie, like the Vestal virgins who were primarily from Senatorial families) and it was high-stakes for her to persevere and he puts it in the strongest terms. But it is also that he seems to have been a penitent himself who did austere penance, and his severity toward himself may have had something to do with how profoundly he condemned his former behavior. His pitilessness is not only toward women but toward himself.

        A concept of a mystical fruitfulness of virginity, and indeed the concept of “consecrated virginity” existed prominently and clearly in pagan classical culture (where it existed in context of significantly different moral ideas, certainly not a concept that chastity is for everyone), and the Christian version of these themes helped combat paganism and enculturate Christianity. In pagan thinking the gods (demons) were subject to emotional manipulation by humans and even sexually interested in humans. But union with the true God is in the faculties of the soul, is “marriage” BY ANALOGY (this marriage, remember, is consummated by suffering and death on a Cross) and is not literally sexual–and virginity, which like marriage has a role above all as AN ANALOGY (ie, “present you to Christ as a chaste virgin” is not about being literally a virgin) is not literally essential to it, let alone somehow salvific. Even the virginity of Mary (fitting for its analogy and testimony that only God is the Father of the Son) is not the cause of the incarnation, nor of the salvation of Christians. According to Jesus, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons with no need of repentance. And “tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you”. The Good News is that entry into heaven is by the Grace radiating from the Cross, whether as prevenient Grace or as Mercy, it is all one at its source in the dying and rising of Jesus.

        Centuries later St Peter Damian (also a Doctor of the church) would debate Jerome’s contention that “God Himself cannot restore virginity”. Peter Damian defended the omnipotence of God and insisted that God can restore virginity in whatever way He chooses. There is no dogmatic definition of virginity in general, nor uniform consensus on its exact Christian significance, only dogmatic definitions of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

        I’ve concluded the sigificance of virginity in Christianity actually has always depended on what it means to the culture. It was meaningful in differing ways in Jewish and ancient greco-roman culture. In today’s culture, often it’s a pornographic theme. I didn’t grow up with any reference to virginity–which is why I was flabbergasted by the Church’s culture about it. The relevance of virginity TO MARRIAGE is a basis for understanding Christian “consecrated virginity” and by and large there simply isn’t an expectation of virginity connected with marriage today, so the point of reference gets lost. It’s also exceedingly problematic that many women receive the message about virginity and consecrated life as meaning “it’s too late for you”. Too late to be consecrated to Jesus or fill heaven.

        But it’s an analogy. There’s no Gospel principle of preferential option for innocent virgins with no need of repentance.

      2. This is well said. I think it’s very important to distinguish the formal teaching of the Church, conclusions made based on theological reasoning, and writings of Saints. There is certainly a lot of overlap, but these are three different things and not the same.

        On this question, I’d look more at traditions about Mary Magdalene and the rejoicing of the angels over one repentant sinner “more than” (in Christ’s words) 99 who have no need of repentance. This with no disrespect to virginity, of course, which is a virtue of Our Lady herself.

        Or, we could accept that we are all sinners in need of the mercy of God and throw ourselves at the foot of his throne.

      3. replying to Fr Andew since the nested comments don’t offer to reply at that level.

        yes you are right, making a distinction about what is the source or authority of a particular writing has actually made me realize that part of why it has been so remarkably difficult over the last 12+ years to find what do Catholics believe about virginity and why, is that even though I have vastly more information, there isn’t any single authoritative answer, and it doesn’t all add up to neat answers about what is the mind of God about the matter and its particulars that I have many difficult questions about.

        Obviously I have been discussing the topic of virginity as such and don’t use that as a synonym for consecrated chastity. Since that single heartedness for Jesus is my own calling for which I am totally grateful I can only agree completely that this is better than to marry, for those to whom it is given. Surely this anticipates heaven, where union with Christ is our all.

        The theme of Mary Magdalene as model penitent i will get long winded some more if i get into, but one think I think of is that the repentant sinner made truly holy and clean is the proof of the salvific efficacy of the dying and rising of Jesus. Another thing I would say is that both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene can be legitimate “types” of the Church (see Avery Dulles, Models of the Church for the argument of why we need multiple mental “models” to best capture the many-dimensioned mystery of the Church). Above my bed I have a totally unique one of a kind artwork that was made in cloisonne by a religious sister in Milwaukee circa 1950s, it is a crucifixion scene in a stylized byzantine style with Jesus with milk white skin on the Cross (as a long skirt wearing woman it cracks me up He has a cream color loincloth that is of regulation “modest skirt” length–to well below the knee!) and pressed directly against either side of Him with their heads touching the underside of His arms are the Blessed Virgin (whose dress has a spiral motif) and Mary Magdalene (whose dress has a teardrop motif). There is no visible blood. i would love to know the artist’s explanation of this “icon” but mine is that it depicts the immaculate Virgin and the repentant sinner united in the Eucharist. And maybe also a visual representation of what I said before, prevenient Grace and Mercy are just one thing at their origin on the Cross, there is no way that one is more or less accepted by and united to Jesus than the other. i want that we all be united in Christ and this unusual image represents that.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Father!
    Finally, a sensible practical post on vocation discernment.
    Vocation discernment has been made so complicated that many vocations have probably been discerned to death.
    Just say yes to Jesus and get on with life. Jesus will not forget and will open pathways when the time is right.
    Don’t seek absolute certainty. There’s no certainty until the Church accepts you, or until the Bishop consecrates you (as in my case). So I left the discernment to him.
    And there’s no need to understand everything about the vocation. Understanding comes through living the vocation.

    1. For me, the categorization of celiibate women in the parish as to whether we are virgins has been a source of massive anxiety, shame and grief.

  3. ““Isn’t the priesthood more noble than the lay state?”

    Nope (at least I couldn’t find anything in Denzinger that says that). The priesthood is about service. And answering dumb questions. But most priests are also dedicated celibates, so the previous two answers apply to them for that reason.”

    This is bad sacramentology.

    (1) Holy Orders impresses an indelible mark upon the soul, whereas marriage does not. “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek”. This passage has no reference to celibacy. I

    (2) The priesthood is about sacrifice. The diaconate is about service.

    1. 1) Indelible means permanent as opposed to passing, without reference to superiority or greater nobility. Baptism confers an indelible mark, but the Eucharist does not. That does not mean that baptism is superior. Like I said, I’d be open to correction on this point, but I can’t find any conciliar definitions on it, like those defining the consecrated state as more noble.

      2) I don’t see service and sacrifice as opposed, but yes that is a more precise way to say it.

      1. The argument is indirect. Non-ordained laity (whether married or single) are inferior to the priest within the Mystical Body of Christ. In his encyclical Mediator Dei (20 November 1947), Pius XII states that priests are superior to the laity by dignity of their configuration to Jesus Christ through the sacrament of holy orders and its intrinsic link to the sacrifice of the mass.

        “It is superfluous to explain how captious errors of this sort completely contradict the truths which we have just stated above, when treating of the place of the priest in the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. But we deem it necessary to recall that the priest acts for the people only because he represents Jesus Christ, who is Head of all His members and offers Himself in their stead. Hence, he goes to the altar as the minister of Christ, inferior to Christ but superior to the people.[83] The people, on the other hand, since they in no sense represent the divine Redeemer and are not mediator between themselves and God, can in no way possess the sacerdotal power.”

        Footnote 83 cites St. Robert Bellarmine,

        “The sacrifice of the Mass is offered by three: by Christ, by the Church, by the minister; but not in the same way. For Christ offers as primary priest, and offers through the priest as man, as through his proper minister. The Church does not offer as priest through the minister, but as people through the priest. Thus, Christ offers through the inferior, the Church through the superior.” De Missa, 2, c.4.

        (2) The Council of Trent also dogmatically defined that the episcopate is superior to the priesthood. It would seem strange to suggest that bishops are superior to priests, while also maintaining that the lay state is equal to the holy orders.

        Trent, Session 23:

        “Accordingly, the holy Synod declares that besides the other ecclesiastical grades, the bishops who have succeeded the Apostles, belong in a special way to this hierarchial order, and have been “placed (as the same Apostle says) by the Holy Spirit to rule the Church of God” [Acts 20:29], and that they are superior to priests, and administer the sacrament of confirmation, ordain ministers of the Church, and can perform many other offices over which those of an inferior order have no power [can. 7].”

        Can. 7. If anyone says that the bishops are not superior to priests; or that they do not have the power to confirm and to ordain, or, that the power which they have is common to them and to the priests; or that orders conferred by them without the consent or call of the people or of the secular power are invalid, or, that those who have been neither rightly ordained nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical authority, but come from a different source, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments: let him be anathema [cf. n. 960].

        (3) The laity have no power to consecrate, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, forgive sins, or preach. These are unique to the priesthood.

      2. Good references – thank you.

        My reluctance in conceding the point is that the paragraphs from Pius XII and Trent are about function within liturgy, which I never had a question about. Without a doubt, the role of the priest is superior to that of the laity within the Sacrifice of the Mass; similarly, the power of the Bishops is superior to that of priests in administering the sacraments, and in their authority within the Church.

        However (and to address your third point), nobility in vocation is not defined by power or function. On the contrary, the Gospel passage about Martha and Mary which the Church from the time of the Fathers has used as a paradigm to illustrate the superiority of the consecrated life, implies that functionality is at the service of contemplation. Ways of life are defined in their relative nobility according to contemplation, not power. This is how St. Thomas analyzes it, at least (https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3182.htm). Similarly, he claims that a candidate for bishop need not be “better simply” than others, but only better at governance (https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3185.htm#article3). Also, in reference to another one of your points, St. Thomas compares the perfection of religious life and the episcopacy, but not of the presbyterate (https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3184.htm#article7).

        So the superiority discussed in the passages you helpfully present is qualified – superiority within the liturgical life and the governance of the Church. That I certainly concede, and never intended to deny. But my point is about the nobility of the vocation itself as such, which the Church has very clear definitions on regarding the consecrated life, but not the priesthood (at least as far as I’ve seen). Priests and bishops are greater in a certain respect, that is, in their sacramental authority; that does not seem (to me at least) to imply the superiority of the vocation or way of life as such, nor do I think the citations you offered say or imply that. Such a superiority might be a valid conclusion within some particular approach to sacramental theology, but it doesn’t seem to be a defined dogma of the Church. But again, I’m open to seeing other documents or arguments. The way I’m presenting this is what I was taught by the most conservative priests in seminary, so I don’t think this is a hippie-Church idea.

        That said, I hope this discussion clarifies my meaning to any readers thinking I’m saying that laypeople have an equal role at Mass with the priest, or an equal sacramental power, or an equal ecclesiastical authority, which they do not.

      3. I’d have to look through several dogmatic manuals to see if there is any discussion on the topic. But here are some arguments in favor for the intrinsic superiority of the priesthood specificallly.

        (1) The priesthood more perfectly reflects the image of the marriage union between Christ and His Church in Ephesians 5.

        (2) The priest is more perfectly configured to Jesus Christ by the sacrament itself, “You are a priest forever.”

      4. Let me know what you find. I really did spend time looking through Denzinger, as I said in the post, but could have missed something. But as far as I’ve been able to find, there may be theological arguments one way or another, but no doctrinal pronouncements, and that’s an important distinction.

      5. Considering that the church has not defined that the Eucharist is of greater dignity than the other sacraments (which it is), we are not likely to find any official pronouncements on whether the sacrament of orders is superior to marriage. But as I argued in my most recent post there are good reasons to believe that holy orders is superior to marriage.

      6. Well, Pius XII calls the Eucharist “the culmination and center of the Christian religion” in Mediator Dei, so there is something defined there. And the Church does have official pronouncements on the superiority of the consecrated state. There may be reasons to believe in the superiority of holy orders, but it is not something taught by the Church explicitly, and I think that’s an important distinction.

      7. CCC 1324 makes a similar statement citing Lumen Gentium 11. Considering that the NT priesthood is intrinsically connected to offering the Eucharist an argument can be made that the priesthood is of greater dignity than the sacrament of marriage by sacramental connection. Of course, one could argue that baptism itself also is intrinsically connected to the Eucharist, but here the priesthood is presumed, since there is no Eucharist without the priesthood.

  4. The part about no one cares if you had a really sinful past is rather untrue–for women in particular. It was shattering and massively confusing when I realized, in the course of my own pursuit of my vocation, that women are defined in regards to literal virginity, and literal virginity is routinely held as important to women’s consecrated celibacy. I purely hate unchastity (and have lived perfect chastity for many years) so being identified with such things has been mortifying and horrifying, but the most disturbing and caused me the most tears was that in relation to virginity I was defined as a woman by having betrayed Christ the Bridegroom. in my private consecrated life I devoted myself to a life of penance. There is frequently a clergy blindspot or a preference to gloss over and say “no one cares” when the reality is there IS a distinction made about whether never-married women are virgins; either virginity matters or it doesn’t, rationally speaking it cannot be that it matters if you’re a virgin, and if not “no one cares”. The whole category of female consecrated chastity and worthiness for or acceptance by Christ as bride is often defined as “virginity” and often with insistence on the literalness, at least in terms of never having consented to certain sins.

    It is UNTRUE when it comes to some female vocations, that no one cares if you had a sinful past. And I have a feeling that any woman in any consecrated vocation who doesn’t meet the ideal is going to have to grapple with that in some way because it will keep coming up in Church texts, spiritual reading etc even though everyone who knows them accepts them for who they are without any reference to the matter. But in particular women who don’t know this is an issue are in for a rude awakening when they feel called to be a consecrated virgin, or a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary or one of another group that turn away vocations for certain past sins, regardless of the total orientation of your life to Jesus NOW and for eternity.

    1. Very sorry to hear that. I think what I meant was “nobody should care” or “God doesn’t care.” Or at the very least, “I don’t care.” For whatever that’s worth.

      1. Thank you for the kind reply, i could point out in some way that God’s radical, outraged caring when (in the Bible) bride Israel “plays the harlot” is part of the mystery of His love and her election. More importantly it will do good for others who have any similar kind of worries as to whether God would call and choose “someone like them” or whether they can fit in in the Church to see you were kind to me

  5. This post is chock full of good sense. It’s refreshing. I couldn’t agree more with telling young people to stop having panic attacks over what convent to join. Good job. Now go take a class on Christian marriage. It’s definitely part of a sacramental, supernatural life, it requires discernment, and if St. John Paul II is to be believed, it is also a vocation. You should go re-read Casti Connubii and Familiaris Consorto. “I don’t know? Go date!” doesn’t cut it, buddy. Ignorance is the stuff of which future annulments are made. Discernment before marriage is critical if you don’t want to get sacramentally shipwrecked!

    Here is how you discern whether to marry someone, broken down into steps:

    1) Is she a baptized Christian who understands that marriage is permanent and exclusive, and does she want to have children? Good. You just avoided an annulment based on the Petrine privilege.

    2) Are you both mature enough to marry and willingly take on the sacrifices involved in family life, including having everything in common and raising children? One good gage of this is whether you have a good example of married life in your family, her family, or both your families. If neither of you do, proceed with extreme caution. Actually, you should probably just break up and find someone who has a good example in her life. You just avoided an annulment … for all the other licit reasons.

    3) OK, she’s baptized and she has great parents (or you do). She’s emotionally mature enough to make a life-long commitment. Two more questions: Do you know her well, do you admire her, and are you sexually attracted to her? Good. That’s important. Grace builds on nature. Now, is she a devout Catholic in good standing who wants to help you grow in holiness? That’s the supernatural part. It doesn’t have to be there at the outset, but you need to know that if it isn’t, you could potentially be in for a bumpy road, and your potential for an annulment just went way up.

    Christian marriage is not for the faint of heart … believe me, we just hit the point where we have to use two grocery carts every time we go to the store. And it’s been so long since I’ve had a good night sleep, I don’t think I’m capable of it anymore. And if I see one more priest who blithely tells me what to do on the way to go out to dinner and a movie with his buddies, or on the way to Hawaii, I think I will scream. Even though what he said was probably right.

    Also, clericalism and the current crisis in the religious life in the United States both feed off a poor understanding of Christian marriage. And corruptio optimae pessimi. (If your marriage is bad, that’s bad. If your religious order, or diocesan priesthood, has gone bad, that is going to be really, really, really bad. Maybe that’s why God is calling so many people to Christian marriage these days and so few to the religious life.)

    1. Good advice – thank you. My point, of course, was not that marriage doesn’t require discernment, but that I’m not the guy to ask. Hence “ask your parents,” which I meant literally.

  6. I am crying! Stumbled across this in the New Advent e-mail that I get. Absolutely hilarious! I see that Fr. Younan is going to be providing me with a lot of laughs during this pandemic. LOL! Our Catholic Faith can be so hard sometimes. Great to have a humorous priest bring some much needed levity to the party.

    1. What kind of demoniac are you? This is some sort of anti-prophecy inspired by the devil himself. Who in their right mind would make such a fake prediction?

    2. By the grace of Jesus Christ, the priest will remain a holy and faithful priest throughout his life.

  7. Deacon Steven Greydanus has a good piece on St. Philip Neri today at https://www.ncregister.com/blog/steven-greydanus/homily-37a that touches on some of these points. He writes: “When (St. Philip Neri) got bored of study he sold his books, gave the money to the poor, and began visiting the sick in hospitals and encouraging others to join him — all this as a layman for 17 years. Then finally a confessor set out to persuade him to become a priest. And at first Philip had all sorts of objections to this — didn’t think he was worthy; he had had a vision! he felt called to serve as a layman! — and his confessor was like, ‘Good humility, but no.’ And Philip was humble enough to trust his confessor’s judgment more than his, and he became a priest. No scrupulous anxiety, no paralysis.”

  8. This is the best vocational advice I’ve ever read. I have to say thank you to all the annoying people who bothered you into writing it!

  9. Father, did you for real mean to say that the priesthood isn’t more noble that the lay state, and that it’s only nobler in the sense that it is linked to celibacy? If so I beg to disagree. What happened to the beautiful ontological changes on your soul that happened at ordination?

  10. A lot of you people need to drop the arrogance and the academic nonsense. You’ve missed the whole point of this blog article. You sound absolutely silly trying to one-up each other!

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