Stop Pressuring Me! A Reflection on the Discernment Process

#DiscernmentProblems

Please stop asking me about my vocation. It genuinely grates on my nerves when people ask “Are you going to be a nun?” when I’m single or “Are you planning on marrying him?” if I’m dating someone. When I answer, “I don’t know,” I’m told to make up my mind! Now wait a minute! You tell me that I have time to think about these things one minute, and now you’re telling me that I need to make up my mind? That makes no sense.

Now, not all of the people in my life who have said those things to me are Catholic, and they simply don’t understand the discernment process. Some of these people are Catholics, and they are the ones that I’m addressing, as a young adult and on behalf of the young adults who are discerning their vocations. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, discernment is an ongoing process. Please stop telling young people to make up their minds already, because it’s an attempt at spiritual direction, which you may or may not be qualified to give.

I think that one of the reasons why young people today are not keen on speaking up about their discernment of religious life or the priesthood is that it’s something that they can’t say for sure they want to do. Some people leave the convent/seminary and go on to become excellent husbands and wives; fathers and mothers. On the reverse, there are some people who date and intend on getting married, but end up breaking up and entering the convent/seminary and leading a very fulfilling life in Christ.

It all really depends on who you are at that point. Sometimes, God “changes his mind,” if you look at it from a human perspective. Even people who have entered religious life and taken vows already can leave and pursue another vocation. They discerned God’s will, and had spiritual direction before they did it.

Honestly, I am so afraid to talk about my discernment process to people. The fact that I might become a religious sister is a scary thing to an over-sexualized society, where marriage has seemed to become the “default mode”. Being single is almost tabooed. I hate it when people think that entering the convent is something I might do if I’m 30 years old and not married yet. Guess what? There are a lot of people who aren’t married yet at 30.

I almost entered a religious order right out of high school myself. I think, on a certain level, I felt pressured by my family to do it, and I guess by default, everyone just looked at me, thinking, “Okay, she’s it. She’s going to do it.” On another level, I think it was my desire to run away from things that happened in my past. I wanted to run away from a lot of family tragedy. I also was experiencing some pain from a recently broken heart due to a break-up, and I never wanted that to happen again.

I ended up not entering the religious life, and decided to enroll at Notre Dame College as a Theology major. I did so with a lot of spiritual direction, and this is not a means of saying that I’ve made up my mind as to what I am going to do with my life. That has yet to be determined. I feel the pressure mounted on me daily. The minute that people  hear me say that I’m a theology major, they ask, “Are you going to be a nun?” The answer, is, as it has been for a long time, “I don’t know yet.”

Please stop pressuring me. I have a life to live. When I fall head over heels for someone, and it turns out that my future lies in them, then, I will have made up my mind. But it’s really the will of God that determines my vocation.

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