Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Discernment and Friends

“Did you tell your friends?”

This was one of the questions that I was asked during my talk on vocation discernment last month. I’ve decided to post a lengthy answer here.

I did not want to tell anyone that I thought God might becalling me to the religious life. The
first reason was because, at the time, I was dating the previously mentioned guy. Telling the guy you are dating and discerning marriage with that you are thinking about taking a permanent vow of celibacy is not my idea of fun. “Boyfriend” and “Nun/Sister” don’t even belong in the same sentence. I was very attached to him, did not want to lose him, and so I didn’t want him to know I was discerning. Cowardly, but there you have it. That was my first reason.

The second reason I did not want to “‘fess up”, is because of a common misconception. I knew that if I told people I was thinking about being a nun, they would expect me to actually
become one. I was fourteen. I knew I wasn’t about to make that sort of commitment. Yet, I did not want to face the failure that others would see in me if I discerned out, and ended up not
becoming a religious. Therefore, I did not want them to know I was discerning.
If they didn’t know, they would have no expectations for me to fail to live up to.

Despite my hesitation, everyone ended up finding out about my discernment. It was growing on me so much and was so surely going to become such a large part of my life, that I was
not comfortable keeping it from my friends. Five days after I turned fifteen, a few of my friends and I found ourselves at a Steubenville youth conference. At the end of the conference, the bishop did a vocation call: anyone discerning the priesthood or the religious life was asked to come up for a blessing. I plucked up my courage, scooted past my two best friends and my boyfriend, and went up. It was a way to tell them, without actually telling them. About a year later I began to actively discern, and my parents told everyone who didn’t already know. Now, everyone knows I am discerning the religious life.
“How do your friends feel? How do they treat you? Did they abandon

My friends did not even mention my having gone up for the vocation call! They were not the least surprised that I was discerning, and they have since been very supportive and encouraging. One of my friends took the initiative to research the convents I visited, the Orders I was interested in. She went online to their websites to check them out and see where I might possibly be living in the future. One of my friends sits there and listens when I complain about slow letters, temptations, and the numerous other struggles I have encountered during my discernment. When I’m done dumping on her, she rants to me about how hard it is to
find a gentleman in this modern world who knows how to treat a lady, or how she
likes this guy but doesn’t know if he likes her, etc. Another friend went to visit a convent with
me, and has promised to write me letters and visit me when/if I join. The majority of my friends have taken at least a small amount of time out to discern their vocation themselves. They have decided that God is calling them to marriage, but they love God, and understand that it means to follow Him. I don’t know what I would do without them!

Oh, my fears? Well…

I did not break up with my boyfriend right away. It was not until I began to actively discern
(one year after the conference) that we parted ways. My spiritual director—and myself—thought it prudent. The guy is still one of my best friends. He took time out to discern the priesthood after we “broke up.” He has been very supportive, just as much if not more so than my other friends. I know it has been unbearably difficult for him, but he loves me enough to let me
go, and we both find comfort in the knowledge God will make everything come out right if we only trust in Him.

People have assumed that because I am discerning I will definitely become a religious. I’ve fixed this by learning not to care; I’m doing this for God, not for them. I do, however, take every chance to explain to them that discernment is not a commitment. It means that you are learning about your vocational options, that you are taking time out to pray and ask God what He wants for you, and most importantly it means that you are willing to say, “Yes,” when He replies. That’s what discerning means. Nothing more, nothing less. And we are all supposed to discern. We can give God at least as much consideration as we gives colleges, right?


  1. This generation is breaking the ice that has formed over the sea of vocations.

    Your story is a testament to this lesson.

  2. Joan: thank you!

    Matthew: I pray that it is true.