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Q & A with Father Anthony



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How open do I have to be with my spiritual director?

Christine asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

I am in college, and I am in the process of discerning a vocation to religious life. For the past year, I have been talking with one of the priests I have known for years who also happens to be the Vocation Director for my home diocese, and I really feel God is calling me to become a religious sister. This priest has supported me through all this and believes I am sincere and has helped me. About three years ago, I was going through a really rough time, and I found that my father had been book-marking pornographic websites. They became like an escape for me, like a fantasy in my mind to escape my life. This made me feel worse and worse until I felt I didn't even want to live anymore. At that point, I got really scared and turned back to God for help, made a good confession, and got my life straightened out.

Later, I ran into the Vocation Director, and have been talking to him since. It was like one thing sort of led to another and I can't help but feel the hand of God in all of this. I haven't told him about what happened because it is so hard for me to talk about that because I now hate all that stuff so much and I feel really bad about doing all that stuff. I guess my question is if I should tell him about it all.

On the one hand, I feel almost as if I should tell him because it has had an effect on who I am, and I almost feel like God couldn't possibly be calling me to the religious life because of all that stuff, and that's something I'm struggling with right now. On the other hand, it has something to do with my father's reputation, and I've already confessed it and been truly sorry for it, and I know God has forgiven me for it, so I feel bad about bringing it up again.

Dear Christine,

Your question is simple and it boils down to this: do I have to have 'full disclosure' with the spiritual director who is helping me discern my vocation?

First, though, let us consider the problem you had. It seems you have put it behind you, having confessed it, made up your mind to change your habits, and followed through. So on the surface it would not seem to be an out-and-out impediment to religious life. Nevertheless, it did indeed take place, and it tells you something about yourself.
You will have to mention it at some stage (not all the details, but just as much as you have said here) at least to the person who is ultimately going to be responsible for accepting you into the religious order you want to join. You can understand why. It is part of the whole picture of yourself, and that person needs to know it in order to give you reasoned and sound advice as regards entering that vocation or not.

As regards telling the spiritual director you have now, while it is not absolutely necessary, he will probably be able to help you more if you do. He will be better able to tell you if it has a bearing on your vocation, he will put it together with everything else he knows about you, and will prudently examine if it changes anything as regards your having a vocation.
As regards your father's reputation, I do not think it is necessary to mention him as you explain what happened. It would be enough to say that you found these sites book-marked on the computer without saying who did it. However, even if you did mention it was him, neither your spiritual director nor the person who interviews you for the order will speak to anyone else about the incident, so it will not go beyond them, and your father's reputation would not be affected.

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