View all Ask a Priest | May 3, 2019
“Ask a Priest: What If I Fear God Wants Me to Be a Nun?”
Q: I have been having so much worry and fear recently that God might be calling me to be a nun. The thought doesn’t leave my mind. But it doesn’t sound appealing to me. I do want to help people, but I don’t think I want to do it by being a nun. I dream of having a husband and kids someday, and I think I’d like to become a nurse. But the thought of God calling me to a vocation is making me upset and scared. I know God chooses what we will someday become, and I just need some help. If I feel this anxious and against becoming a nun, do you think he’s still calling me? I’m wondering if it’s just my anxiety making me feel this way and he’s not really calling me. I’d like some relief and not have to be worried that God is calling me. – C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: If you are a bit scared by the thought of being called to the religious life, then you have a lot in common with many people who are in religious life. They felt the same way at the start.
A religious vocation, like a priestly vocation, is an invitation to enter something that is beyond our human abilities and even, sometimes, our initial desires.
At a human level it is understandable that you want to have a husband and children. That shows that you are normal. Rare is the person who is naturally drawn to a life of poverty, celibacy and obedience.
But it is good to remember that we aren’t dealing with the merely natural when it comes to vocations. We are dealing with a special invitation from Jesus, backed up by the certainty that if he calls someone, he will give the person the necessary grace to follow the call.
If God is calling someone, and that person starts to follow the call, then things open up. Graces flow. Attitudes change. Hearts soften. A person can start to discover within herself the capacity for all kinds of sacrifices for the love of Christ.
Following a vocation is like being in the Bronx and getting on a bus bound for the ski slopes of Vail, Colorado. When you first pull out of the station you don’t see anything that even remotely looks like the Rocky Mountains. Why? Because you are just starting out. But with a map or GPS, and by checking the road signs, you can tell that you are indeed headed in the right direction.
So it is with a vocation. A person at the start of the journey needs time and guidance to reach the goal.
Now, I can’t say that you in fact have a vocation. That is something that would take time and lots of prayer and the help of a spiritual director or vocation director or religious superior to discern. Perhaps you really are meant to marry and have a family. If so, that would be God’s plan for your holiness.
Still, it might be too early to write off religious life. The thought of a vocation is obviously making an impact on you. For your long-term peace, it might be good to explore this religious option. Otherwise the doubt of having chosen the wrong path might hang over you the rest of your life.
This isn’t to say that God is vindictive if someone rejects a religious vocation. It’s just that, whatever path God calls us to will be the smoothest road to holiness and happiness. I use that word “smoothest” guardedly. We all will face the cross, no whatever what path we are on. And married people are not exempt from suffering, even heavy suffering.
A clarification is in order. You write, “I know God chooses what we will someday become.” In fact, God might call us to one path or another, but he respects our freedom and invites our cooperation. But he doesn’t force things on us. Our own decisions will go a long way in shaping what we become.
Essentially, we are all called to love and to lead lives of selfless dedication to God and neighbor. The point of discernment is to see how God ideally wants us to live that life of love.
As a practical level you might consider getting in touch with a religious or consecrated woman and explain your situation. What do you have to lose? Wherever God is calling you, he is doing it out of love for you.
Perhaps this short video could help, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZaGvjQ-Jx8. There are lots of postings that might help, too, such as https://vocationnetwork.org/en/articles/show/359-5-signs-religious-life-might-be-right-for-you. And this website could be a help: http://vocation.com.
Count on my prayers.
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