Dear Fr Anthony,
I have been “fighting” my vocation for some time (5-7yrs). I don’t want to be a priest, to be honest, but often I see pictures of priest on television shows, movies, street sings, even when I read, etc. and they appear to be directed at me. People at my parish tell me all the time to enter the seminary, that it seems that I can be a good priest. However, all this “signs” get me angry and irritated.
My question is: why do you think I feel this way (frustrated, angry, anxious at times)? Is God really calling me, and if He is why do I feel like this? Thank you.
The reason these “reminders” get you angry might possibly be that your conscience is not yet quite at rest with your decision regarding the vocation. Let’s take two opposite possible causes for anger and frustration with the continued appearance of “signs” and people always telling you that you should be a priest:
For case number one, we’ll suppose you really don’t have a vocation. Now, in this case there can be a few different scenarios: If you are pretty sure that you don’t, if you solved your doubts by testing it, by getting advice, by praying, by receiving spiritual direction, then there is no reason to be upset; you just remind yourself of what you’ve done to make sure and that is usually enough to set the matter at rest, lay your frustrations aside because you know the people who think you have a vocation are mistaken and there’s no need to get anxious over it. The problem really begins when the scenario shifts and we can’t explain to ourselves why we feel such rejection to something that is good in itself, when we don’t know the reason we don’t want to be a priest or to consecrate our life to God. We sense we may not be called, but we don’t know for sure, and it really becomes a problem when in our subconscious we have that nagging fear/sense that we may not be open to it if God really is offering the vocation to us.
Case number two is when we do actually have a vocation, when those signs are really signs and the intuitions of those who are telling us we ought to be priests are on target. A good number of vocations have started out in a struggle like this, and it is actually a fairly common pattern. The signs are speaking to our conscience, and since we feel a stronger attraction to other ways of life any reminder of what God really wants gets thoroughly on our nerves.
Unless you want to be angry and frustrated all your life long, even if you don’t have a vocation, you have to face the issue squarely, you have to find the answer. The only true source of happiness and security is to be willing to let God speak freely to us, and to do our best to do what he wants. That is easy to say, but especially in our world today it is difficult to do, to say the least. God seems to be asking us to let go off all our likes and securities, sometimes to sacrifice very real talents, and he doesn’t seem to be offering any more guarantee than himself, and we don’t find that particularly appealing or reassuring. We would prefer something more tangible, more “substantial”.
You can see where the root of the problem lies: God is distant, we don’t know him and therefore we don’t trust him. The answer to the question you are asking is not in putting distance between yourself and God, but in getting closer to him: through the sacrament of Confession and through the Mass and receiving the Eucharist, through prayer, through service. Don’t be afraid to do this. It will give you the answer you are seeking and above all it will bring you the peace you find lacking in your life. At some point you will find it necessary and useful to find a spiritual director.