For many years, I have acted in the capacity as a Vocation Director for the Roman Catholic Church. During this time, I have been in contact with many people who have been considering the possibility of being a Roman Catholic priest.
Inevitably, somewhere along the line, all the candidates come up with good reasons why they should not pursue their vocation or call to religious life! Fears set in, doubts set in and there is always something that is holding them back.
Sometimes, the reasons candidates decide not to act on a religious vocation at the present time are good and certainly need to be considered. There may be family concerns (elderly parent), financial debts to pay off, a strong desire to finish schooling or training in a particular field. When these reasons surface, they need to be considered and sometimes may require that a candidate's personal plans or consideration of religious life be put on a "back burner" for a while.
Yet, sometimes, they may be just "excuses"! Excuses that are "self" centred are sometimes not God orientated. Excuses that flow from some fear I may have of responding to a call from God may be real but not worth considering. When do we know if our reasons for not considering a call from God are good reasons or just excuses?
Where can we get help? Well, a good spiritual director can help with this. Often times, we need to seek the guidance of others who may be better able to help us make this distinction. One important point to remember is that there is probably no "excuse" that has not been used before!
All the "excuses' we can think of probably were thought of and used before. God has heard them all! If you don't believe me, check out scripture!
If you can identify with one of the popular excuses listed below; take a moment to investigate the Lord's input to your concern (after all, God is the one calling). Although it is not David Letterman's, these can be seen as the Vocation Director's "Top Ten List" of excuses given for not considering the possibility of being a religious. So, in descending order, the top ten list of excuses given for not entering religious life is...
#10. "I want to be happy." Check out: Psalm 37:4; Matthew 5:1-12; John 10:10 and Mark 10:28-31.
#9. "I'm afraid of being alone." Check out: Exodus 3:4-22, Luke 1:28-38 and Matthew 28:20.
#8. "I'm not smart enough." Check out: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 and Exodus 4:10-17.
#7. "I am afraid of making a commitment." Check out: Ruth 1:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 25:5-10.
#6. "I want the good life." Check out: Mark 10:17-31, John 10:10 and Matthew 13:44-46.
#5. "I want to have a family" Check out: Genesis 12:1-3, Matthew 12:46-50 and Mark 10:28-31.
#4. "I'm not talented enough." Check out: Luke 1:26-38.
#3. "I've made mistakes; I'm a sinner." Check out: John 21:15-23, Matthew 9:9-13, Luke 7:36-50.
#2. "I am afraid I will fail." Check out: Exodus 14: 10-31 and Luke 15. And, the top excuse given for not considering the possibility of religious life is...
#1. "I am not holy enough." Check out: Isaiah 6:1-9 and Luke 5:1-11.
Although put in a humorous way, these "excuses" are real. They can be paralysing. They can make it impossible for us to go on with our life. They need to be reconciled. You can take comfort in the fact that they arise in the hearts and souls of everyone who considers a religious vocation. You are not alone.
What do we do if we discover that they are not good reasons but just "excuses" for not considering religious life? Well, perhaps the prophets, disciples and followers of Christ who had these same excuses can give us some direction. It is clear that all of them had to put their "self" aside and trust in God. Moses had to do it. Mary had to do it. All the apostles had to do it. God wants us to be happy in our lives. Happiness comes from trusting in God. Perhaps we need to do it.