“Ask a Priest: Should I Pursue the Priesthood or Stay to Help My Girlfriend?”

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Q: A couple of years ago when I met my girlfriend, an evangelical Christian, she started to question my Catholic faith and my understanding of it. Because of that, I had a number of questions about our doctrines and practices. I was on the brink of conversion to evangelicalism, but the Holy Spirit led me to study first my Catholic faith in an in-depth manner. By the grace of God, I learned so much about it that satisfied my intellect and eventually transcended to my spirituality. Now, it is I who is guiding my girlfriend toward the Church. I also decided that if she won’t try to learn the Church’s truths, it would be better for us to separate. Having said that, I have become the reason my girlfriend opened up herself in learning the Catholic faith despite her hesitations. I continue to guide her and be patient with her. However, I feel as though God is calling me to become a priest. I have this feeling ever since my high school years, but I have only understood it recently because of my satisfaction with the truths and the beauty of our Church. I am so ready to give up everything for the priesthood because I am deeply in love and certain that it is on the priestly life where I can give my all for the Church. I have shared this feeling with my girlfriend. She is truly upset and she told me that she won’t be open to learning the Catholic faith anymore because I am her only reason why she is taking that leap of faith to even study it. I am so torn about what should I do. If I give my everything to Jesus as a priest, I will surely lose the chance of guiding her to true salvation. I don’t know if I am called to serve God as a future priest, or just to serve God with her, as a future married couple, as she converts to Catholicism someday. How can I discern the right decision I should make? – J.P.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s great that you took the time to start studying the faith — and learned how great it is.

Perhaps helping your girlfriend to draw close to the faith has given you a taste of what the priesthood is about — bringing people nearer to the truth of Christ and the Church. This in turn might have revived your interest in the priesthood.

So how should you move forward? A few observations might help.

First, it would be good to speak with a priest directly, either a vocation director or seminary rector or your pastor or confessor. You need spiritual direction at this point.

Discernment about the priesthood very much involves the Church. So, it’s important to get feedback from someone in the Church.

Second, it might be good to step back a bit from your relationship with your girlfriend.

You mention that you are helping to bring your girlfriend closer to the faith. By comparison, if God is calling you to the priesthood, he might want you to bring hundreds, even thousands of souls closer to the Church and to Christ.

In any case, if your girlfriend is threatening to give up her pursuit of the faith because of your talk of the priesthood, then she probably doesn’t understand the faith well enough.

The Catholic faith is ultimately about her relationship with Christ. Our Lord should be the reason she enters the Church, not you.

If you sense that she is trying to pressure you to give up the idea of priesthood for her sake, be careful. God always reveals his will amid calm and serenity. You can be sure that the Holy Spirit isn’t working through your girlfriend’s threats.

Besides, if you really do have a vocation and follow it, that will be a powerful witness about the veracity of the Catholic faith for your friend. Your pursuit of the priesthood could actually help her embrace the faith someday. Don’t worry if you pursue the priesthood; God will look after your friend.

You seem to be assuming that if you stay with your girlfriend, she will convert. Perhaps she will. But, again, be careful. If you ignore God’s call to test your priestly vocation, could you rightly expect your friend to follow a divine call to enter the Church?

In the meantime, it would be good to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life. And it would be good to contact a vocation director or someone sooner rather than later.

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