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Q & A with Father Anthony



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How can a former seminarian know whether God may be calling him back to the religious life but in a different congregation?

Chris asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

After years of church activism and a rather long discernment process, I felt that God had called me to the priesthood back in the summer of 1999. With a sincere desire to conform my will to his and to ascertain whether I truly had such a vocation, I exmatriculated from college and entered a seminary. Despite the fact that I fell deeply in love with the congregation in which I was forming myself, excelled at much of what we did, and loved the rule perfervidly, it gradually came to light that I had never actually been called to the priesthood in that congregation. In accordance with and trusting in the will of God as expressed by my spiritual director, I left the seminary in the spring of this year. The need to do so was the most heart-wrenching of my life, for my one overriding goal in life had become the serving of God as a priest in the congregation. Nonetheless, I left for home, ex necessitate rei (from the urgency of the case), confident that God Omniscient had charted out another - and even greater - course for my life. Since my departure, the prospect of a religious vocation has stuck with me. True enough, upon being informed of my lack of a vocation by a higher superior, my spiritual director intimated that the married life was probably the vocation to which God was calling me. Yet the feelings of a vocation have been irrepressible - inasmuch as they arise sporadically and have caused me much hesitation regarding dating, dancing, and the like. To put my questions succinctly: 1.) How can a young man who was formerly a seminarian know whether God may be calling him to the religious life distinct from the congregation with which he was once affiliated?; 2.) In the light of my former spiritual directors assessment of my probable (married) vocation, is it advisable to desist with thoughts about the priesthood?; 3.) If so, is it possible to mentally exculpate myself for doing so, or will I forever feel as though I may have betrayed God and nixed His plans for my life? I realize that these are very delicate questions and thank you for the time and effort you will invest in answering them.

Dear Chris,

 The only one who can really answer your question as regards the priesthood being definitely out for you would be your former spiritual director. If he gives you the considered opinion that he does not think you are called to the priesthood as such, and not just the priesthood in that congregation, then I would advise you to prudently accept his opinion and act accordingly. If he leaves the question open, or is not sure enough to categorically affirm that you simply don't have a vocation to the priesthood you may safely look into some other congregation. In the case that the priesthood is ruled out you will have to overcome thoughts of having betrayed God, because if you don't have a vocation you have not betrayed him by leaving, quite the contrary. You gave him the first shot at your life, you have been extremely generous with him and that is always going to be part of your relationship with him, and he will be no less generous with you. So when those thoughts come treat them for what they are, a temptation.

God bless,

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