“Ask a Priest: What If God Hasn’t Sent the Signs I Hoped for?”

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Q: I asked God for a sign to help me discern something, or for a physical ailment for the sake of a spiritual gain. One was where I asked for a simple physical sign (like a gust of wind) to nudge me toward the priesthood or to marriage; the other where I asked for God to give me struggles to convert a soul. In both cases, nothing happened. I also struggle to feel anything in prayer. I believe the Lord is present in the Eucharist but can’t feel him. The only time I ever feel anything real is after confession. Am I broken? The Church teaches that God doesn’t abandon us, so I have to ask for advice. – J.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are turning to prayer for discernment and for the sake of helping another soul.

You mention that in the wake of your prayers “nothing happened.” That implies that you were expecting a quick, visible response.

In fact, God is always aware of our prayers. He might not respond as quickly as we want or in the way we expect. You might have asked for physical struggles, but Our Lord might prefer that the struggles you go through now are more related to your faith and confidence in him.

You mentioned that you can’t “feel” Our Lord in the Eucharist. Religion isn’t about feelings. It’s about giving due worship and glory to God through our prayers and obedience to his will. Faith is both a gift and an assent of our will.

This might be the deeper lesson he wants you to learn. Whether the priesthood or marriage is in your future, it’s crucial to remember that these ways of life aren’t primarily about feelings. They are paths to holiness that involve lots of sacrifice.

If you are thinking about the priesthood, it would be good to speak with your pastor or a vocation director. You want to put your interest in the priesthood to the test. Perhaps it would help to visit a seminary or religious house and do a retreat.

In any case, it would be good to look for a spiritual director. A prudent director could help you adeptly apply the principles of the spiritual life in your concrete circumstance.

In the meantime, try to cultivate a solid life of prayer and the sacraments — and one not based on feelings. A habit of solid piety will help you, no matter what your path in life is.

A book on the priesthood that might help you is To Save a Thousand Souls.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.


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