“Ask a Priest: At Age 41, Am I Too Damaged?”

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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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One Comment
  1. Hi there,
    Firstly I as a Catholic, I want to say to you a big warm welcome back. I know that Jesus, Our Lady and Our dear Creator God will be so happy to that you have returned. This is to be celebrated.

    The Holy Family loves you so much.

    It sounds like you have been through a lot, and manipulated through peoples sins and you have sinned too. Confess your sins and repent. Being able to repent is a beautiful way in which to feel uplifted by God’s love and Jesus’s healing, and the tender care Our Lady gives.

    I would suggest that you have some counselling ask if there is a Catholic counsellor that could be recommended to you.

    Some men see women of good heart and vulnerabilities and they use and manipulate them and brainwash etc in order to get their own horrible ways. It is their sin not yours. So work though what sins you have committed and separate out your sins to what those men’s sins are. Those men will have to deal with their sins through repenting. You can then be free of their sins and repent for yours.

    You have to ask yourself are you wishing to enter sisterhood to run away from men? or do you have the calling in your heart? This is something you need to work on.

    You are not old it is never too late.Never, you are God’s child no matter what age you are. And well 41 is very young.

    When the virus is over you could ask if there is a retreat in order to spend some time with Nuns and see if it is for you, even if it is not I am sure that having some time helping out perhaps with some Nuns will give you great peace.

    You need to refuse these men, stay chaste. IF you think that you wish to find a husband then be fussy: look for those in the Catholic church and do not try too hard. Let God decide for you.

    You know it is okay to be single and not a nun! it is okay to be chaste and not a nun. Spinsterhood can be wonderful, one has time to pray and do the things you want to do (with God’s blessing).

    And being a nun is I hear very wonderful too and is a way to devote your life to Jesus, God and in helping others.

    Being married to a caring Catholic is also wonderful.

    Take a breath, things do not happen overnight, some people search for the answers all their life. Take your time and pray pray the Rosary and please wear the Green Scapular and Our Lady’s medal. She is wonderful in helping us girls (and men off course too) she may grant you graces and peace and clarity through wearing these gifts from Our Lady. Praying The Rosary each day even if you can only manage a decade or even better the full Rosary will give you so much. Graces can be granted.

    You are part of the Catholic Church now and that is wonderful. I am so happy and delighted for you in coming back.

    Take your time, refuse men and stay strong.

    Get used to spending time in your own company, pray and do things that you might have always wanted to do if you are able to like drawing, sewing, a hobby (if you can afford it). Helping others through volunteering , when it is safe to do so : for now there could be opportunity to help people from a distance. Search these things.

    Where I live people in their 40’s 50’s go to university and retrain in careers or learn theology. They might do short courses too.

    So first and foremost take time to settle back into the church, take a step at a time. As God to guide you and point you in the right direction and be patient as God’s timing is always perfect.

    In the meantime, I was so happy to read about your return and I have just said a Hail Mary especially for you. 🙂

    Oh and another idea is why not study the lovely hymns that we Catholics have: they are simple tunes and so lovely to learn and sing in our homes. Singing is prayer.

    Keep sisterhood in your mind and see if it is in your heart. And if you decide that it is for you then make your steps towards it. And if you do become a nun then that would be wonderful. Again pray for guidance to what your vocation is.

    Also you can help out more at the church, clean or join the choir when this virus situation is over, volunteer etc within the church that will also help you decide if you are called to sisterhood as being as involved as possible in church life can help you.

    I wish you peace.

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