I distinctly remember sitting in my dorm room at college and staring anxiously at my seminary application. It was near the end of the school year and I knew that I needed to finish it soon. But I was too busy actively trying to think of all the ways I could get out of it. Was I making too big of a commitment too soon? What if I just decide to come back to college next fall instead of going to seminary? I liked my major and I was only a freshman. What if I was called to be married and I was just wasting my time in seminary? Is there a way I could finish my application and be dating at the same time? Maybe that way I could see if I’m called to be married over the summer, and then decide if I should continue on to seminary that fall. I would get the best of both worlds!
Brothers and sisters, discernment doesn’t work like that for several reasons. First of all, dating somebody (including the Church) means you give them your whole self. Having one foot in each vocation is unfair and disrespectful to both. Imagine that you were dating somebody and one day telling her, “I know we’re dating, and I like being around you and everything, but if we don’t work out I think I’ll ask out Sally.” How do you think that would go?
If someone is discerning the religious life, discern only the religious life. Make a commitment before you start your application. Say to yourself, “No matter what happens this year, I will spend at least one year in seminary. If I’m not at peace, my university will still be here when I leave.” Trust God. Trust that if you are truly following His will, he won’t disappoint you.
If you are in a career, this requires a lot more trust. But the principle still applies. Pray hard about what God wants you to do. How does He want you to serve Him today? This month? This year? Pray about what life would be like a year from now, and follow where you have the most peace.
Secondly, because of the nature of the human person, if you’re dating and discerning, the dating relationship will always win. But after the period of romance fades and the butterflies fly away, you will be left with the same question about seminary. You can’t use seminary as a “fall back” if things don’t work out. When you start discerning the priesthood or consecrated life, you may be surprised how much like a dating relationship it actually is.
I have seen it 100 times with men I’ve discerned with. As soon as they get serious about seminary, girls start getting a whole lot prettier. The grass is always greener, brothers. You will even begin to say to yourself, “Maybe God as asking me to give up my application and go on a date with her.” That may be true, but make a commitment then follow the peace. Get a spiritual director and follow his advice. Never make a hasty decision.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in seminary, it’s this: Following God’s will isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it.