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“Ask a Priest: At Age 41, Am I Too Damaged?”
Q: I’m a returning Catholic as of a few months ago. I always told myself that if I were to ever darken the doorstep of a Catholic church again, I would do it right. I left the Church for a number of reasons (even though I was contemplating becoming a religious sister). One of my biggest struggles is the image of myself that has been installed in me for many reasons: It is that my only purpose in life is to please men in whatever way they deem for me. Through this I have grown to hate myself and no longer really believe that I can fulfill any real purpose. I no longer can have a real relationship. I try very hard to keep people away. I know that I would have to allow God to tweak my head. Since coming back to the Church I’m finding myself looking back at becoming a religious sister again. I no longer know if that is an option as I am 41. But is that even an option for someone so damaged? I just want to do something with my life. I want it to mean something. What makes me the happiest and gives me the most peace is when I am helping others. Am I too messed up to be of any use? – J.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You shouldn’t think that you are irrevocably messed up.
You are and always have been a beloved daughter of God. And you, like the rest of us, need God’s grace for growth in the spiritual life. It is all his gift. We can only say yes to his gift. Without him we would all be lost.
I’m sorry to hear about your self-perception, especially in regard to men. No one is in this world is meant to be a mere source of satisfaction for others. That doesn’t do justice to the dignity of women.
As for whether religious life is a possibility: That would depend on a lot of factors. The best thing would be to speak with a vocation director or a novice instructor of a congregation that interests you.
Discernment of a vocation takes time and patience and lots of prayer. A first step might be to contact a congregation and see if you can pay a visit.
In the meantime you want to stay close to one man who loves you more than anyone else, and that is Jesus. He was willing to suffer and die for you on a cross. He is a man you can trust.
An intense prayer life and frequent recourse to the sacraments will help you, whatever lies ahead. You might find our Retreat Guide on Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan woman to be helpful.
Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will intercede for you. Count on my prayers.
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