Monday, 24 August 2015

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

I came across a couple of interesting articles:

Two Hard-Won Tips For Your Discernment

The whole discernment anxiety thing is largely a Catholic problem- what is God calling me to?

Priesthood or Married Life? Consecrated Single Life or Religious Life? Diocesan Priesthood or Religious Priesthood? Religious Life or Married Life? Pick one! Quick!
Although I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us to stress out about it, I think it's a good sign that singles actually are willing to consider more than the default married and two kids. In Catholic circles where I live, most young people aren't even encouraged to seriously think of religious life as an option. Plus most people are brought up on a steady diet of romantic comedies, romance novels and the expectation that by your late 20s you are going to 'settle down'.

 One way or another

Anyway. Assuming that for some people, through retreats or Christian youth movements, they have come to a personal experience of God's love, and a belief that He cares about their life, the choices they make, and has a beautiful plan for their life, the question is.. what is that plan, and how do they move towards it?

For some, the question can paralyze them- how do I KNOW? If I am attracted to someone, that probably means I am called to marriage right? But maybe I am just choosing the easier path? When do I have to make this decision? Can I not think of it right now? But I need to know! What if I make a mistake? I haven't heard a voice from heaven or anything, so how do I know????

The article gives a couple of cool insights:

God Loves You and Wills Your Happiness. Period, Full Stop. No Matter What You Decide. Always.
God isn't trying to make you miserable, or hiding this SUPER IMPORTANT CODE that you need to unlock the answer to life, the universe and everything. If you sincerely desire to do what He wants, and are being faithful in what you DO know He is asking of you, He'll work it out. Also, getting married or becoming a priest or a nun isn't really the key to happiness. And if you did not discern your vocation, and got married, you don't have to worry that you missed your path to happiness. GOD HIMSELF is the key to happiness. And He can write straight with crooked lines.

But that still leaves an important question

If there is a plan, I've not yet made a decision, how do I know what it is, and how do I move towards it?

There plenty of cool resources, articles and videos, like this one:

I think all Fr. Barron's tips work for any vocation, not just for discerning the priesthood-

1. The test of JOY

2. Pray pray pray- ASK GOD! (He wants to guide you) Ask for signs.

3. Read the bible attentively

4. Go to Mass and be attentive

5. Be attentive to the people who know you well

I would add

6. Be faithful in the little things, the daily duties of your life.

Now supposing, you think you know what God is calling you to, what next? The article says:

A Time Will Come In Your Discernment When You Must Act:
Discernment involves a gradual series of temporary commitments that are intrinsically ordered to the concrete living out of that vocation... 
Like entering seminary or a religious community (making temporary vows), or enter into a courtship. Not just thinking about a vocation, but starting to actually explore it.

 Of course, they add:
Now there undoubtedly many circumstances in which good people may find themselves where they must say, “I can’t even make one of those temporary commitments because of X!” and that can be for many, many legitimate reasons. That’s totally fine, you have to ask for the grace to trust God’s providence that you are where he wants you to be right now.
I think that's where some people I know are at- they are still studying, they can't afford to support a family yet, they don't have a steady job yet. I think that when people are in that position, it's pretty irresponsible to start something they can't finish, or make promises they can't keep. Then also I think some people shouldn't start something because of emotional, psychological or spiritual reasons- like they are not emotionally mature- they are struggling with insecurities and neediness, they are still dealing with major issues like anxiety or anger or depression or addictions, or they have not yet learned how to take responsibility for their own life. All these things can affect their ability to give themselves completely as any lifetime vocation demands.

Obviously no one finishes dealing with all their issues perfectly before they get married. We're all works in progress. But I guess I'm saying we should be 'in progress', not just stuck in a self-destructive cycle that prevents us from loving. Otherwise it's easy to choose a vocation for the wrong reasons (this guy completes me, being in a convent will give structure to my life, maybe having a family will give my life meaning).

But supposing, you're kind of sorted. You are aware of your weaknesses, you're working on them by God's grace, you are living a life in communion with Christ, you are relating in healthy ways to the people around you, and you're done trying to 'find yourself'. And you are ready to give yourself away in a committed meaningful way.

Now what? Make a move! Why does this sound so scary?

Because all commitment, even temporary commitment, involves an element of risk. Our generation hates risk. We are terrified of making the “wrong” choice and losing everything...

But Love is a risk! Always! What do I risk by telling people that I am “discerning priesthood” for example? Pretty much nothing. What do I risk by actually going to seminary? Time, money, my heart, the opinions of others. That’s a lot!

A good litmus test is this: Does my discernment involve a risk to me personally in any way? Is there a chance that this might not work out and I would experience pain? If the answer is no, what we are doing is probably less like discernment and more like thinking and talking about doing something.

So, are you a Catholic man thinking about the possibility of priesthood? Talk to your vocation director about going to seminary! Do it soon!

Are you a Catholic woman thinking about Religious life? Have you investigated good communities? Visited them? If not why not?

Has your prayer led you to a desire for Holy Matrimony? Men, are you asking Catholic women out on dates? If not why not? Ladies, are you open to going on dates when asked? [Read the rest here]

Very related to this, another article that popped up on Facebook was from the Art of Manliness:

Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them

Some good points:

1. She wants you to ask. Most of the girls I know want guys to have enough initiative to just ask. And sadly enough, even with many couples I've heard from, finally the girl got tired of waiting and made the move herself. Didn't do a lot for her confidence or trust in this guy's ability to be decisive. So many marriages where the man chooses passivity, and women feel the need to control.

2. Asking is easy. NOT VIA TEXT OR ON FACEBOOK. This line-
If you’re poking a woman you’re interested in on Facebook, you lose any credibility as a man.
3. Keep dates simple.

4. Prepare for rejection. YES- it's not the end of the world if a woman says no. It's an easy way to know God's will for you. :-) And please please please don't take notes from Bollywood movies and think that persistence (or stalking, or emotional blackmail, or gift-giving in the face of rejection, or being hung up on a woman forever) is the way to a woman's heart. Move on.

 5. Just do it, damn it. Well, pray about it, ask a good friend for advice if necessary, then if you feel at peace, go for it! [Read the rest here.]

Guys, you think this is tough? For girls, it's probably ten times harder. You know what we have to do?


Yeah. At least if we want the kind of guy who is brave enough and sure enough to pursue us.

Okay disclaimer: All this advice is great when you actually have the kind of options you are looking for. It's much harder for a guy to ask if he hasn't met any girls who are on the same page when it comes to faith. It doesn't make that much difference if a girl is open to going on a date, if the guys  asking are very far from what she ever could have imagined as Catholic husband material. What if you feel called to religious life, but you have never come across a religious community in your area (or country) you feel attracted to at all? What if the idea of priesthood appeals, but none of the orders you've seen has the fire and holiness that attracted you in the first place?

I guess we go back to praying, and trusting that God's got it. Thankfully, God alone really IS enough.

Related Posts:

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For)

Life Begins when You Meet the Man of Your Dreams

9QT: 9 Things Christian Singles Are Secretly Afraid Of

7QT: Courtship, Wars and Links


  1. Thanks so much for linking to my article and quoting it in yours! You did a fantastic job of expanding and explaining some points that I made very briefly in my post. You have a lot of great content on here as well. Keep up the good work!

    In Him,
    John Hall

    1. Thanks for writing something worth thinking about! :-)