RELIGIOUS LIFE AND VOCATIONS
- Are you considering becoming a priest, nun, or other religious vocation?
- Have you already entered religious life, but now have doubts?
- Are you suffering from a spiritual, physical or mental health condition, but are afraid to ask for help?
- Do you have a lot of negative emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness?
- Do you have a sense of positivity, but feel confused and unhappy because your life has changed so much?
Religious vocations are not for everyone, one must be called to the life. The process of discernment is there for a reason. But some people make the choice to become a priest, nun, monk, sister, and so on because they are trying to accomplish something other than respond to God’s will and serve Him according to what they have discerned through a period of prayer, fasting, and penance has shown them is His will. Even if it is God’s will for the person to become a religious, many people still struggle with their vocations and instead of doing it out of love, they do it out of “duty”…so their service becomes more of a “chore”, and they suffer from a number of ailments and fall into disobedience, which just turns into bigger problems.
VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT AND COUNSELING FOR RELIGIOUS
Many people never even have the chance to really examine their motivation and desire for religious life, which is often driven by both the conscious and unconscious. Psychotherapy and spiritual counseling techniques will be essential regardless of the stage of discernment and/or current state of life that you are in, even if you have already taken perpetual vows, for example, as nun. While the approach is always individualized and the outcome is different for everyone who participates in treatment based on a number of factors, the end goal is the same.
We will work through the beliefs that you have developed about yourself and the unconscious conflicts that are at the core of these beliefs as they relate to your vocation. As you develop an understanding of your unconscious, we can also talk about ways to, in a sense, “make friends” with it, so that you are no longer just trying to “manage” or “control” your symptoms as they come up. Because prayer, fasting and a sincere study of the faith are essential to discernment of religious life and vocations, we also implement that as well. If you follow the spiritual counsels that are assigned to you and do the work of psychotherapy, we will be able to identify “why” you do what you do and you will be able to discern God’s will for you, as well as whether you are willing to do it out of love. Religious life is not for everyone, but some are called and not everyone answers.
ALTHOUGH YOU MAY SEE THE BENEFITS OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT AND COUNSELING FOR RELIGIOUS, YOU MAY STILL HAVE SOME QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROCESS…
I don’t think I am worthy of being a wife or husband. I’m probably better off becoming a religious.
This is a common belief that people who have experienced some form of neglect or abuse from their parents think and they often believe that running away and becoming a religious is the answer. Some even think that becoming a religious will be ‘easier’ because they won’t have to disappoint a spouse or their future children who they are afraid to fail, and they also believe that the Church may provide them some sort of ‘protection’ from their parents because they will have an excuse for not seeing their parents by claiming that their superior has them too busy or on a mission. They even believe that if they become a religious, perhaps their parents will love them and hate them at the same time, so they will get the best of both worlds. The fantasies of religious life can be extreme.
Many who are in religious life don’t make it any better because they want others to do it, just like them, and when it doesn’t work out, they ostracize the ones who didn’t join or who left after a period of discernment even if it was never God’s will for them to be there in the first place. The only way to know whether you are called to religious life, single life as a lay person, or married life is through prayer, fasting, and a sincere study of the faith. Many people, however, are not capable of discerning God’s will though because of deep psychological conflicts that need to be worked out in psychotherapy.
I am a religious sister, and I am the outcast because I am from a different country and have less education. I am always in trouble with my superior even though I work harder than everyone else, she claims that I am disobedient because I talk to the laity who all love me. I have dirt on my superior and she knows it.
This is a complex problem that I have seen in different religious orders because it is not uncommon for one or more of the religious to feel singled out by the superior and in some cases, for that individual to have some sort of claim against the superior, which may even include something that could result in the superior’s removal from office. However, that’s not the way to solve the problem for the one who wrote the question or for anyone who is in this kind of situation.
Religious orders are like families and families do have their problems. Obedience is typically one of the vows that religious take when they decide to become a nun, for example, and that’s because love begins with obedience. So, without knowing all of the details of the situation, I cannot render an opinion other than to say that I’ve seen this before and there can be truth on both sides. Therefore, work on your own issues related to obedience, pray, fast, and do penance and let God do the rest. He’s watching anyway and He is always in control. Read the story of Job and the Diary of St. Faustina. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary daily. If you believe that your superior is doing something harmful to the community, consider asking for Our Lady of Good Remedy’s intercession.
I am a religious. Isn’t counseling for people who don’t have a relationship with God?
In the technical sense, the only thing that you really need to do to surrender your life to God and live a life of chastity is prayer, fasting, and penance, combined with a sincere study of the faith. However, many people have deep psychological conflicts that they are not able to overcome without doing the hard work of psychotherapy and that’s where I can help. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to seeking help from a Catholic psychotherapist who understands that deep rooted psychological conflicts can get in the way of being able to live a holy life and fulfill your vocation as a religious. It actually takes a lot of courage and humility to admit that you need help and even more so to accept it and to commit to doing the hard work that goes along with it. It’s not a sign of weakness. What would it matter if you lost everything else, but you saved your soul?