3 Things to Think About When Discerning Religious Life
By pintswaquinas• October 12, 2022 •
Many Catholics who are trying to discern their vocation fall prey to two extremes: either overly romanticizing a vocation or not thinking enough about the challenges that vocation presents.
When discerning religious life, you can’t simply rely on your feelings or what others are telling you (although the opinion of your spiritual director carries a lot of weight). You need to think practically about whether you can handle such a life.
Here are a few things to consider while discerning religious life.
1. Are you prepared for radical obedience?
Obedience to your superior is an essential part of religious life. So much so that some of the Desert Fathers spoke much more harshly about the disobedient monk than the fornicating monk.
When you join a religious order, you are freely giving up your free will in order to imitate Jesus’ perfect obedience to His Father in heaven. But this is much easier said than done! Since a fruitful religious life hinges on obedience, ask yourself if you’re up to the task.
2. Do you want a theology degree?
Some people believe that you need to study theology to be a religious. But this is usually not the case, unless you’re going to be a priest or join a teaching order.
If you’re aiming to be a cloistered monk or nun, you’re better off prepping yourself to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, rather than spending a ton of money on a theology degree. This is because many religious orders won’t accept you until you’re debt free. By taking out large loans for a theology degree, you may be effectively pushing your day of entry into religious life far into the future.
3. Do you understand that religious life is NOT a utopia?
That’s not to say you won’t find peace in religious life. But do you really think the devil’s going to sit around and simply watch you give your life to God?
If you talk to religious, they’ll tell you that religious life is one of constant warfare. You also become more acutely aware of your own sins and shortcomings and of your need for God’s grace.
If you want to join religious life because you think it offers a way out of the stresses and challenges of marriage or the real world, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise! Every vocation is a battle fought on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven. Eternal repose doesn’t come until later.
As with any vocation, religious life should be approached prayerfully, seriously, and practically. If you think you’re called, seek out a wise spiritual director who can help you sift through all you’re feeling and thinking. Know what you’re getting into before committing — it will save you a lot of heartache later on!
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