Help a young lady looking for direction

Help a young lady looking for direction

I’ve received an email from a young lady looking for advice on where to go in life. I’m not really equipped to provide such advice and I basically told her she should seek out a spiritual director who would help her discern her vocation and then explained a little about my understanding of Christian vocation. Her story is not unlike mine: Growing up so sure of what she wanted to do in life but getting to college and having second thoughts and even losing her footing somewhat.

She asked me to post her email and solicit advice from the readership. I ask you to be nice and consider carefully because you’re advising a young person who may make a decision based on that advice.

Since I began college in the fall of 2002, I have done poorly in school.  In short, these past 4 1/2 years have been a nightmare.  However, things were not always like this.  Growing up, I was an excellent student; either I was on the straight A honor roll or the A and B honor roll.  Throughout my life, I was rewarded with numerous academic and athletic achievement awards not only from the schools I attended, but also from prestigious organizations, and even the Navy and the Marines!  My college expenses were mostly covered by the private (and very expensive) college I was accepted into due to my good grades and the athletic scholarship I was awarded by the cross country and track team. 

Unfortunately, once I started college, this all changed.  I lost interest in school and in running.  I hated what I was studying so I started skipping classes, not doing homework, not studying, and missing or failing tests.  With running, I skipped practices and team events, so the coach eventually kicked me off the team and my scholarship was taken away.  This has been going on for the past 4 1/2 years and I have had to beg and plead the financial aid office to give me back my financial aid several times since I’ve been in school. 

They have been generous enough to do this over and over after I offered various possible explanations as to why I could be doing so poorly.  I was so confused and did not know why I was behaving the way I was.  Maybe it was my hormones, maybe I was burned out from working so hard in school all those years, maybe I was depressed, etc.  You catch my drift… I thought I was crazy…

Technorati Tags:

  • Dear friend in Christ,

    Your story sounds much like my own,  I also discovered in college that I didn’t want to do what I had always wanted to do. As a result I lost interest and enjoyment in my academics.  Thankfully I was attending a good Catholic college where I could focus on theology and philosophy despite the fact that I was a pre-law, Politics major.  I could see the possibility for real difficult had my college not allowed me this possibility.

    The reason for this is simple, God want’s us to be happy.  He made us and knows what will make us happy, and strangely enough if we don’t follow where he calls us, we can not be truely happy.

    Of course (and this is not to be moralistic) lying about your situation helps no one, and is detrimental to your relationship with Christ who is the Truth.  This is not to say that you must tell your parents, I didn’t tell my own parents until I had contacted a diocese and was in the process of applying to seminary.  But, don’t lie about it or about your situation, your parents and God will not love you more or less based on your grades.  Remember in the big picture “all is vanity.”

    Never having met you I would give you the following advise:
    1) pray about it
    2) find a good spiritual director to talk to about it (I am not sure where you live but on the East Coast I can recommend a number of them)
    3) talk to a few religious women about their vocations. I am sure you can get in touch with some of the Eternal Word sisters, or if not I can put you in touch with some Nashville Dominicans or Alma, MI Mercy Sisters who can probably help you through this difficult time.
    4) if you are stuck in your discernment then give it a try. You have made the important first step, admitting that you may have a vocation. However, there is a point for all people at which discernment comes to a halt unless you make an act of faith and trust in God, and actually enter formation. 

    For me it was entering seminary, it was such a big step and seemed so final at the time.  What you must realize is that the novitiate, just like seminary, is meant to form you as a Catholic woman and help you discern.  Many men leave seminary with no guilt or hard feelings, and they leave better christian men.  Never having experienced the novitiate I assume if you find a good order this will be the same.

    Anyhow, I will pray for your discernment.  If I can be of any help please feel free to email me, I believe my email is linked through Dom’s site at the top of my post. 

    May St. Cecila and St. Cathrine of Siena interced for you before the throne of God. 


          Ron Floyd

  • It would not be wise to quit school now. You will have to have a job to pay off your debt before you would be able to enter an order. You will do that better with a college degree than without one.

    Orders will likely have psychological evaluations.

    You’ve said nothing about having a spiritual director. That is critical at this point.

  • This young lady sounds articulate and sounds as if she has been doing some true soul-searching. Nonetheless, I have just a couple of comments to share.

    From my experience: I was an intelligent student who wasted a lot of time in school that could have been spent concentrating better on the phenomenal education placed in my lap. I don’t claim that my experience match this young lady’s, but i do see and feel some similarities in what she is writing. I was not able to move on and grow up – in any way – until i accepted full responsibility for the situation i placed myself into. That didn’t come until years after college. I feel as if i wasted some time by not taking appropriate responsibility for my life.

    From the experience of others close to me: A vocation to the religious life is wonderful and should be clearly discerned – It is important that whatever vocation you choose is truly your vocation and not an escape. I say this because i know a few people closely who encountered a tough time, or found themselves lost or in a difficult position in life, decided that the religious life is where they needed to be, and rushed in headfirst. Some years later they came to the conclusion that they were escaping and did not have a true vocation to the religious life. Perhaps this was the path they needed to follow to grow into the people they all are today, but perhaps there was a better way. I would contrast this with my other friends in the religious life who truly have vocations and whose discernment process was a bit more careful.

    In a nutshell, I hope this your lady is as solidly clear on her potential religious vocation as she seems, but i urge her to proceed carefully and with good spiritual direction. I also urge her to look critically on her circumstances and continue to take responsibility for where she is.

  • If at all possible you should finish your degree, as it will provide some sort of backup plan if things do not work out. Also, as far as I know religious orders as a rule do not accept candidates who are in debt, so I would think that you would have to work that off and become debt-free before applying. (Here again, a college degree may be handy in at least broadening the job opportunities that are available to you.) But this is something that you should verify with the order that you are interested in.

    Keep praying but know that even if you do have a vocation, it may be that some of your trials may lie precisely in the practical details.

  • I went through an experience like yours, too. I did well in high school then completely lost interest in studying in college. Long story short, when I look back on that confusing time, I realize that I was completely unprepared to make major life-changing decision. Like you, I thought I might have a vocation to religious life. Yet, I did not follow up on it. Instead, I got a job and moved out of my parents house. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. It gave me the opportunity to find out who “I” am, not who I thought I should be. I believe this is the point of any vocation – to help us become who God created us to be. Our job is to give Him the space to show us this. This ties in with St. Ignatius of Loyola’s first maxim of spiritual discernment, “Know thyself”.

    With that in mind I offer a few suggestions, ones that were given to me and helped me a lot:

    1) Get a spiritual director. Tell him/her what you are thinking/praying about and let them guide you.
    2) Read Authenticity by Thomas Dubay. This book can help you sort out the good from the bad in your discernment process.
    3) Realize that you do have a vocation that you can be sure of today! That is, you are a single lay woman. As such, you are called to heroic holiness just like all the members of the Church, regardless of what titles they have. Live that holiness, love others, love God, pray, fast, and give alms (no better time for that than during Lent!).

    You do not need to know what vocation you will have tomorrow, a month, or a year from now. You have one today that needs to be lived. If you live it well, God will absolutely reveal what he wants of you during the course of your every day live, in the day.

    God is the God of “now”, not yesterday or tomorrow: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” He knows your future. Meet him now, give him what you have, and trust him to guide you into all good things.

  • Having read all of this, I would offer some additional advice.  Before doing anything else, I would leave school- it doesn’t sound like it is right for you at this time.  I would get a job and work for at least two years to pay off your debts,and to show that you can make and keep comittments by working.  Then if you are still interested and have visited some convents by going on retreats, apply at that time.On the other hadn, you may find after two years of working that you would rather return to school reinvigorated, or you may have found a wonderful man to marry, or you may decide to continue working- who knows?  In the meantime, I agree with the above- you do have a vocation but perhaps right now it is the vocation to be a good single lay Catholic.That is as important a vocation as the religious life is.

  • I also had difficulty in college. I ended up dropping out with 10 credits left to my degree. In my case I had been suicidal during my senior year, had flunked a bunch of courses and couldn’t bear to go back. I didn’t go back until 5 years later to finish my degree. I earned a 2.54 gpa. Seven years later I start a second bachelor’s in theology at a Catholic school and finished in two years, including two semesters back-to-back of 18 credit hours and getting on the dean’s list both semesters. I graduated from there with a 3.83 gpa. I am not called to the religious life, but I am called to be holy. So are you, so start there. Don’t lie. It doesn’t work. You don’t say how close you are to graduating, or whether you could take courses at another school and transfer credits. That’s what I ended up doing (one course at a time so I could work full-time), but each school is different. I think you should try to finish. If I hadn’t, getting the theology degree wouldn’t have happened because it would have been say too complicated. And I loved my time studying theology.

  • 1.  You may have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder.  My wife was an honors student in K-12 and then floundered in college (didn’t flunk out, but wasn’t an A student).  At 27, after years of speculating, she swas officially diagnosed with ADD.  She did well K-12 because her whole life was structured, but in college, she was just incapable of organizing herself.

    2.  So in addition to spiritual direction, make sure you seek out both ad decent doctor and a decent counselor, to see if there is some underlying psychological or biological problem.

    3.  As others have said, growing disillusioned with a major or career is common.  Always do what makes you happy.

    4.  Our society has this stupid notion that a college degree gets you a job.  It doesn’t.

    I have an MA and I can’t get a decent job. 

    A technical degree gets you a job.  I have a cousin who dropped out of Duquesne during his senior year and went into the Marines, because he realized it was his lifelong dream and college wasn’t for him.  He had to leave the Marines after an injury and got his plumber’s license.  Now he’s making tons of money as a union plumber.

    I once paid a guy $75 just to plug some component that had fallen out of my air conditioner (note—he put the original back in; it took 10 minutes). 

    You may or may not be called to be a nun, but as others have said, the convent will want you to have all your affairs in order.

  • Greetings to all!
      I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to all of you for posting such sound advice for me.  I will think long and hard before I make any decisions, and I will take into consideration what each of you have written.  Please pray for me as I contemplate my future. Thanks again and God bless you all!