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“Ask a Priest: Divorced, Alone and Feeling Guilty for Not Pursuing the Priesthood – What Can I Do?”
Q: I am in my 70s and am not at peace about my vocation in life. I have never had a passion about career. In my Catholic education, and it came up all the time, we were asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood. Somehow the message had been delivered wrong, or I have received it wrong. Anyhow, for some reason, I feel uneasy, even guilty, that I have not responded to the request. The guilt will not go away. I wanted to be married, but found out that was a disaster. My divorce really brought things to clarity, and the annulment process answered a lot of questions. I now see how my family of origin helped develop who I am. And it pains me to watch my adult children do some of the same things that I have done. There are serious family disconnects that I cannot change. I am single now and living life to the best of my ability. I have no desire to be a priest; I just don’t have that calling. I understand the shortage of priest and appreciate those that are called. My problem is how to deal with my guilt and not being at peace with a calling that I don’t have. Thanks in advance for your support. – B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good to hear that at least you understand yourself better and the impact your family might have had on your upbringing.
It would also be good at this point of your life to be realistic. What is done is done. You can’t change the past. But you can learn from past mistakes and then move on.
The best way you could spend your life now is the apostolate of prayer, including the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours. Pray for your children. Pray for their conversion if need be.
In this way you can continue to be their dad. You can continue to show a father’s love by your concern for their salvation.
It would be good to complement your prayer life with a rich sacramental life, such as daily Mass and Communion. You might also consider getting involved in volunteer work. Helping others is a great way to put our own problems in perspective.
As for the priesthood, if you realize that you “just don’t have that calling,” then don’t worry about it. If you want to help promote the priesthood, then you might look into organizing Eucharist adoration for vocations. You could speak with your pastor about this. There are resources online, such as http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/adoration/holy-hour-for-vocations.cfm.
By adopting some of the ideas above you can make the most of the time you have left. It certainly is much better than lamenting a past that cannot be changed.
Remember that the goal of life here on earth is to live in a deeper and deeper communion with God. This is the path of spiritual growth, the path leading to holiness. Deep communion with God requires a committed prayer life, growth in self-knowledge, the sacraments, and a sincere effort to imitate Christ and do God’s will in our daily lives.
All those things are possible for you. And it sounds like the Lord himself has actually been giving you some light and strength.
Continue to seek holiness. Live each day with a desire to know God more clearly, to follow him more closely, and to love him more deeply. That will give great meaning to your life and allow the Holy Spirit the space he needs to keep working in your soul. (Our online retreat guides at https://rcspirituality.org/retreat-guides/ might help you.)
By the way, the devil loves to get us stewing about the past — the things we did wrong, the possibilities we let slip by, the what-if’s that hang over us like a sword of Damocles.
You don’t want to burn your energy worrying about past. Look toward the future — and that possibility that your prayers and sacrifices now can help all your family make it to heaven. That wouldn’t be a bad way to spend your remaining years.
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