Sowing doubts

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An acquaintance of mine, who happens to know about my vocational discernment, is a psychologist. All through my process she has constantly been asking me questions about how I've been doing. To paraphrase her, she is "trying to figure out what I'm about", because she can make no sense of it. She has described my vocation from everything since "honeymoon stage of conversion" to escapism. When those theories failed, she said that I was trying to get to "happiness the hard way", and that "the hardest way is not necessarily the best way". I tried to explain to her that if I had to give up things on this path, that I'd do so out of love, because that is what this is all about: a call to a greater love - with God and others. Her latest attempt to make me question my vocation (?) was a few days ago, when I told her about my experience with the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. She said that I was stunned by the newness of the whole experience and that once amongst them I'd realize that things were not so "wonderful", that I wasn't looking at my vocation from all possible angles (I forgot to mention, but her specialty is guidance counseling).

Perhaps I'm over simplifying things, but I believe there is only one angle I should be looking at my vocation from: does my following a religious vocation help to glorify God? That, I believe, is the fundamental question. All others should only be asked after that. If the answer is Yes, then what must I do, how can I use my God-given talents (and what discover what they are if I haven't already), etc; if No, then how else might I better serve God than consecrating my entire life to Him?

I don't understand how a person can be so relentless to be calling into question your every decision regarding such a matter. Then again, when that person doesn't believe it puts things in another light.

And so the assaults continue...

7 comments:

Totus Tuus Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 10:12:00 AM PDT  

+JMJ+

Mark,
My mother has been doing something similar with me whenever I bring up the topic of my vocational discernment. She thinks it might be a phase, and she has some background in psychology as well. I take into account what she says, and I pray about it, but at the end of the day I trust what the Lord is telling me in the depths of my heart. I suggest you follow a similar approach: take into account what your acquaintance says, and pray about it, but at the end of the day it's your decision, and you need to follow where Our Lord is leading you.
Your persistence and dedication to following Our Lord and submitting yourself to His will for your life will indeed glorify God, you have to trust that. I know it's hard, and I know that the devil works extra hard to deter us from following where Our Lord is calling us. However, Christ never said it would be easy, but that He would be there with us.
Whenever you feel sad or tired or worn out from discernment, find a crucifix and look closely at it. Look at the nails in His hands and feet, examine the wound on His side, and the crown of thorns on His head. What you are looking at is a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice, the greatest act of love that the world will ever know. Christ loves you enough that he died for you on the cross, and He is asking you to follow Him. He promises to be there with you every step of the way, even if He seems distant at times. Have courage, my brother, and hang in there. I know the road is long and hard, and there are ambushes along the way that leave us worn out and scared and tired. Remember, though, that Christ is there with you, and that those of us on this blog are praying for you and are here for you and are undertaking similar journeys in our lives.
Let us pray for and support each other.
May God bless you abundantly in all you do, now and eternally.
Your brother in Christ and in discernment,
Mike

+AMDG+

Dan G Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 1:38:00 PM PDT  

I would be careful not to shut her out too soon. Some guys do seek to enter seminary or religious life for entirely wrong reasons. Receiving wise counsel from others about ourselves is an indispensable part of this wondrous process.

I find myself wondering, regarding your acquaintance: Does she believe in the Catholic Church? Does she believe that anyone has such a vocation? If so, what does she believe characterizes such a person; and what does she see in you that is different from that?

You say that you don't understand her relentless questioning. That is worth a question in itself: What has her own experience with all of this been? Was she ever attracted to religious life, or did she know someone who was? Did she attend a school taught by religious, etc.?

There could be important answers to all of these questions. Or, perhaps you will find out that she really is just opposed to religious vocations in general. But I think it is worth asking.

BTW, the answer to your question is that you want to do what God asks of you. Questions of what state of life might be higher or lower than another are completely beside the point. Nor is it just a calculation based on talents. What God asks of YOU is what matters.

Mark of the Vineyard Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 2:32:00 PM PDT  

She is not a Catholic. She was baptized and confirmed, yet she is no longer a believer. To her, religion and spirituality is all about the mind, about what WE can do. Her conception of God has very little to do with the Christian God.

From what I can understand of her, she doesn't believe that an "exterior" God would call anyone to lead such a life of sacrifice, and she also has a negative image of the clergy (though they seem to be ok in her book the more secular they act).

There's nothing wrong with the questions, as they are not very different from the ones I've been posing myself all through this process; questions by themselves are harmless. It's the way that she poses them that bothers me.

Mark of the Vineyard Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 3:23:00 PM PDT  

Dan,

"BTW, the answer to your question is that you want to do what God asks of you. Questions of what state of life might be higher or lower than another are completely beside the point. Nor is it just a calculation based on talents. What God asks of YOU is what matters."

You hit the nail on the head. That's what I wanted to say, only I expressed myself poorly and it came out just about the opposite :-D

Esther Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:37:00 AM PDT  

Sometimes whole-hearted dedication to God baffles people in that they can't understand such a radical choice, particularly if they do not share our faith. Your devotion challenges her in some way, and I suspect that is the root cause of her questioning. God bless you as you discern your vocation!

Rev Dr Seamus,  Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 3:22:00 AM PDT  

dear bro Mark
God works in mysterious ways, and the fact is that you are drawn to the priestly vocation is no coincidence but His gentle grace at work. I too experienced the skepticism when I chose to become a bivocational minister and attended a seminary. But these days I find so much of His grace and peace, that I can only be deeply grateful, despite my failings. May our Lord always keep you in His light and love.

pax Dei

The Home Missionary Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 7:27:00 AM PDT  

Yes, it is good to obtain advice, yet one must be careful of relying on psychologists... listen to Fr. Benedict Groeschel's story!

I would make sure you are getting good spiritual direction from a trusted priest to help in your discernment!

God bless you and the angels protect you!

Pax et Bonum,

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