Frequently Asked Questions

Mother Teresa

God speaks in the silence of the heart.
Listening is the beginning of prayer.
– Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

What is a Vocation?

The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare which means to call.  God calls or invites you to a particular vocation: single life, marriage, priesthood or consecrated life.  Although each of us must make a decision about our vocation, that choice is a response to an invitation from God.

Every member of the Church is called to holiness (Lumen Gentium, Ch V). This means we are called to love: to love God and to love each other. The particular way that you live out that call to holiness - that's your vocation.

For a more in-depth understanding, you can visit this article on the 7 Essential Things about a Vocation. In addition, this page gives a good summary and this article covers a range of FAQs.

Pope St. John Paul II on Vocation

(from Dilecti Amici: Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of International Youth Year):

The Church finds Christ's "Follow me"(54) at the beginning of every call to service in the ministerial priesthood, which simultaneously in the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite is linked to the conscious and free choice of celibacy. The Church finds the same "follow me" of Christ at the beginning of the religious vocation, whereby, through the profession of the evangelical counsels (chastity, poverty and obedience), a man or woman recognizes as his or her own the program of life which Christ himself lived on earth, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.(55) By professing religious vows, such individuals commit themselves to bearing a particular witness to the love of God above all things, and likewise to that call to union with God in eternity which is directed to everyone. But there is a need for some to bear an exceptional witness to this before other people.

It is for this reason that I wish to say this to all of you young people, in this important phase of the development of your personality as a man or a woman: if such a call comes into your heart, do not silence it! Let it develop into the maturity of a vocation! Respond to it through prayer and fidelity to the commandments!

And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” - Mark 10:21

Therefore, a vocation is the path you choose when you answer Jesus' call to 'follow Him'.

Should I consider a religious vocation?

Everyone should consider their choice of vocation. In essence, what this means is – do I get to heaven through marriage or through celibacy?

We spend a lot of time in our lives making choices. Schools, colleges, subjects, courses, career, jobs, etc. We make choices about our needs, money, desires, etc. We spend hours researching, discussing, stressing… And why do we do all this? To be happy.

And this choice – marriage or religious life – is one of the crucial choices that determine happiness.

Does religious life seem ridiculous and scary? Right now, quite possibly. Maybe such a possibility has never occurred to you.  Or maybe you’ve always had a nagging feeling about it. Either way, you owe it to yourself to find out. What the path to happiness for you? Or in today’s parlance, how can you be the ‘best version of yourself’?

So, in summary, yes, you should consider religious life. Consider all the options and choose the one that is right for you.

Is religious life 'better' than marriage?

Yes, and No.

Objectively, yes, the Church does consider religious life to be somewhat superior to marriage. (You can see the scripture and documents that verify it below.)

However, for a particular individual, for you, the superior choice is the one God has called you to; and that you have chosen in response to his invitation. Let’s take an example: Is it objectively good to be a doctor who works for the poor? Yes, it is. It’s a ‘superior’ choice, by all accounts.

However, are you called to be a doctor? Maybe not. You may be more suitable to be a teacher, or a cook, or a musician. Can you love God and neighbor through these professions? Of course.

That’s the difference. In general, celibacy or religious life is considered a better choice. But is it better (the right choice) for you? That’s what you figure out through your discernment process.


Articles: Some articles that address this topic are here, here and here.


Mathew 19: 10 – 12 : His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

1 Corinthians 7: 32 - 35, 38 : I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.
So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Church Documents

Pope John Paul II , Vita Consecrata, 32: “As a way of showing forth the Church's holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ's own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church's purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity. The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery, will be achieved and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God (c.f., Matt. 22:30).”

Full document available here.

Pope Pius XII, Sacra Virginitas, 32: “This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as we have already said, revealed by our divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy Council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and doctors of the Church.”

 Full document available here.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 916: "The state of the consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a "more intimate" consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come."

Full section available here.

Council of Trent: Session XXIV: Doctrine on the Sacrament of Matrimony: Canon 10: If anyone says that the married state excels the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is better and happier to be united in matrimony than to remain in virginity or celibacy,[15] let him be anathema.

Full section available here.

Is there a right time to be called to religious life / celibacy?

No. Any time is the right time. (Unless you’re currently married. Then it’s the wrong time.)

In the past and particularly in India, we are used to people joining for religious life relatively early i.e. after Class 10 or 12. This is just the way things were done. It is considered ‘standard’ because it is the most usual way of doing it. Also, for practical reasons, joining early has the benefit of becoming accustomed to the lifestyle at a young age and being able to form habits that will last a lifetime.

However, God is not limited by this. There is no right or wrong time to be called or to discern a call to religious life. You may feel called after you complete a professional course. You may feel called while the marriage ‘proposal’ process (for arranged marriages in India) is going on. You may even feel called while you’re in a relationship with someone. Until you’re married, any time is possible.

So if you do feel a supernatural nudge or a whisper deep in the silence, spend some time to listen and consider the possibility.

What are 'late' vocations?

This is related to the question above of ‘Is there a right time to be called?’. As mentioned there, we are used to people joining religious life rather early. Therefore, those who join at a slightly older age are often called ‘late’ vocations.

However, there is nothing late about a vocation. The time or the age doesn’t matter and God can call a person at any time. What matters is whether you take it seriously and discern what is the right path for you.

In addition, in the current situation of the world, these ‘late’ vocations may be precisely what is required in the church. When things are changing at lightning speed, priests and nuns who have had some exposure and are capable  of quickly understanding and responding to change are crucially  important.

These ‘late’ vocations are usually more equipped to handle the changes that are happening and can help the congregation to embrace innovation, without compromising on charism or values.

And in the history of the Church, there are many saints and holy men and women who had these 'late' vocations:

  • St. Alphonsus de Liguori was a practicing lawyer when he decided to dedicate his life to Christ.
  • St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) was a university professor before she converted and joined a convent at the age of 43.
  • St. Francis of Assisi was a soldier and discovered his vocation after being injured in battle and spending a year recuperating from his injury.
  • St. Augustine of Hippo was a teacher of rhetoric and spent years living a decidedly non-Christian life before he had an encounter with St. Ambrose that led him to his vocation.

Would God call me (of all people)?

 “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” ― St. Augustine

Yes. He would.

God loves everyone the same and can call anyone at any time. Your past really doesn’t matter. There are countless examples of people with a questionable history being called. Your lack of skills or experience or holiness doesn’t matter either. For a few notable examples, read the following articles:

So your past does not matter. He can call anyone at any time.

What if I say No?

This is a really hard question to answer because God's ways are very different from our own. (Isaiah 55:8-9 : For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts).

He is infinite and we are not. Therefore, we cannot answer this question definitively. However, we can try to answer it based on what we know.

God created you. He knows what is best for you to get to heaven and to be in union with Him. (This is the ultimate objective. Remember this point as it's important - His ultimate objective is for you to be in union with Him and get to heaven.) In this context, if He is calling you to a particular vocation, it is probably because that path is most likely to achieve that objective. Remember that the call is ultimately, for your own good. It is not a punishment or a burden that you have to endure. It is the path that will lead you to eternal happiness.

Therefore, for your own good and to reach this ultimate objective, it is probably best to choose what you think God is asking of you. No one can be 100% sure, but if you are reasonably convinced, it makes sense to say Yes.  

A few possible situations

I’m reasonably convinced that I have a call to religious life but still want to get married

As mentioned above, for your good, the good of others and to get to union with Him, it is best to choose what you are convinced God is asking of you.

But I still want to get married!

Ok, what’s the final objective? Union with God. Will He punish you because you chose a different (completely sacramental) path to get there? It seems unlikely; knowing that He is a loving, merciful Father. Whichever path you choose, His first priority is that you love Him and eventually be with Him. That’s the key.

Whichever decision you finally make, spend more time in prayer now. God will value the desire to do the right thing and will give you the grace to make the best choice. 

I’m married now but I feel I might have had a call to religious life…

You cannot be at fault about something you didn’t know in the past.  

What do you know now? God is good. God loves you more than you can ever know. God is a Father. God wants you with Him. Marriage is a Sacrament. All of these things are true.

At this point, forget what you might have missed. Focus on what you have. Your duty now is to live fully the sacrament of marriage. Be the best husband and father you can be. Be close to God and your family. The End.

I was pretty sure I had a call, but still got married.

This is a combination of the answers already given above.

If you were pretty sure about a call and chose against it, what happens? We can’t say for sure. But we do know that God is loving, merciful and kind, so the same logic applies.

What do you know now? God is good. God loves you more than you can ever know. God is a Father. God wants you with Him. Marriage is a Sacrament. All of these things are true.

At this point, forget what you think you missed. Focus on what you have. Your duty now is to live fully the sacrament of marriage. Be the best husband and father you can be. Be close to God and your family. The End.

What to do when parents (friends/family/colleagues) discourage you?

It is unfortunate, but quite common nowadays for parents, friends, relatives and colleagues to be a) surprised b) discouraging when they hear that you’re considering a vocation to priesthood / consecrated life. Unlike in the past, this isn’t perceived as a very good choice.

Although, in truth, following God’s will has always been the best choice anyone has made. (Here's a good article on the topic.)

Some possible questions that arise in this situation are addressed below:

Is there something wrong with me?

For feeling called to priesthood / consecrated life? Absolutely not. You are not alone. Many people (including many saints) who have considered such a life have been discouraged by family and friends. See below a list with their stories under 'Has this happened to other people'.

How do I deal with it? I don’t want to disappoint and hurt my family.

First, try to understand where they are coming from. If they are discouraging you, it is usually coming from a place of love, concern and because they want what is best for you. According to their ideas and worldview, marriage is the best option.

Some other possible reasons could be:

  • Misconceptions about priesthood or religious life
  • Worry about acceptance / disapproval from relatives, neighbors, society
  • Anxiety that it will not last and you will come back
  • Fear of being distanced and separated from you
  • Perception that religious life is unhappy and full of struggles

While you should listen to them and take their inputs into account, remember that their perceptions are their perceptions. Your discernment and decision making must depend on what you explore, what you discern and ultimately, the deep conviction in your heart if He is calling you.

This deep conviction is hard - almost impossible - to explain to others. So, to an extent, you must be ready to be misunderstood and even ridiculed for some time. (Otherwise known as ‘the cross’. John 15:20 - Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.)

However, through-out the process, always remember not to yell or fight or ridicule them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, your behaviour should be an example to them of your call; and being kind and patient are Christian virtues.  

Should I let them decide for me?

No. You should decide about such a crucial life choice because you have to live the life and experience its consequences (joys, rewards, suffering, growth, etc.).

What you do with the rest of your life should be your decision. You may take guidance, inputs, information from any number of sources, but ultimately the decision should be yours. Even God respects free will and doesn’t force anyone to follow Him. (Rev 3:20 - “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,  I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.)

A word of caution:

This is not a decision to be made out of selfishness or a misplaced sense of independence or because you don’t like marriage. This should not be about ‘I love to live alone and do whatever I want,’ or ‘Marriage is so last century, I don’t need a man to complete me.

This is a call; a call to giving, a call to service. You make this choice in humility because you are convinced that God is calling you. You need courage, not aggression. You need kind humility, not pride. It is a choice made in obedience to God, your Father. Remember, the vows are poverty, chastity and obedience.

(For that matter, choosing marriage based on all the things you will get is also not the best decision. Both calls – consecrated life and marriage – are a call to service. They are a means to get to heaven; and selfishness is generally not a good fit on that path. (CCC  1534 - Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so.))

Has this happened to other people?


To me - which is why I started this site; but also to so many other people. The circumstances, the ages, the type of discouragement etc., may vary but the underlying situation is primarily the same – God called, and they faced a lot of obstacles because of it. Most of them followed anyway.

A few well known examples are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Rose of Lima, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Gerard Majella, St. Clare and Agnes of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas. Short excerpts of their lives are given below with links. If you want more details, look for their biographies:

St. Francis of Assisi

Not long after this, Francis, dressed in rough clothing, took precious merchandise from his father’s store and sold it to his customers, in order to pay for the rebuilding of the fallen-down chapel. He also sold his father’s horse. Francis’ father, Peter, would have preferred to see Francis go back to wearing fancy attire and throwing parties for his old chums. He was aghast and embarrassed, moreover, to learn that Francis was often caring for the lepers, who were living in the valley below Assisi.

In response, his father, boiling with rage, dragged Francis before the bishop of Assisi and demanded the return of his property and goods. Francis readily agreed to this. In the hearing of all present, Francis said, “From now on I will no longer say, My Father Peter Bernadone, but Our Father who art in heaven.” Francis gave back to his father not only his property and goods, but the money and all his clothes as well. Francis carefully placed his clothing on the ground.

The bishop, admiring Francis’ fervor, drew him into his arms and covered him with his mantle. The bishop understood that Francis’ actions were inspired by God—and were part of God’s way of leading Francis into an amazingly new form of life.

Excerpted from this article.

St. Rose of Lima

Rose grew up in a fine villa in Lima, Peru. Behind the house was a spacious garden, which Rose especially loved. Given her wealth, her rank, and her beauty, Rose’s parents expected her to make a brilliant marriage. Rose, however, wanted to be a nun. Her father rejected the idea as entirely unacceptable. To persuade his daughter to marry, he invited suitors to the house. To discourage these suitors, Rose rubbed her face with pepper, which left unsightly splotches on her skin.

In time, the suitors stopped coming, and Rose persisted in her determination to enter a convent. After a period of bickering, all parties came to an agreement: Rose did not have to marry, but she could not enter a convent. She could, however, join the Dominican Third Order; she would take religious vows and wear a nun’s habit, but she would live at home with her parents.

Excerpted from this article.

St. Gerard Majella

The circumstances of Gerard’s entry into religious life are legendary in Redemptorist circles, and are the stuff of romance. In 1749, the Redemptorists came to Muro to give a mission. Gerard was then 23 years old. He met with the superior of the mission, Fr Cafaro, and begged to be admitted to the Redemptorist Congregation. Though impressed by Gerard’s obvious sincerity and holiness, Gerard’s bad health – he looked “more a ghost than a man,” said a witness – and lack of formal education put Fr Cafaro off. He refused to accept Gerard, and told him to forget about the idea.

Meanwhile, Benedetta (Gerard's mother) had found out about the plan. On the day the missioners were leaving town, she locked Gerard in his bedroom so he could not follow them. But Gerard made a rope from the sheets, lowered himself down, and pursued the missioners out of town. A note left behind declared that he had gone off to become a saint.

Twelve miles later he caught up with the mission team. On a country road that May afternoon, Gerard knelt before Fr Cafaro and again begged to be allowed to join the Redemptorists. Eventually, Fr Cafaro gave in, sending Gerard to the Iliceto community with some of the most famous words in the Redemptorist annals: “I am sending you a useless brother.

Excerpted from this article.

St. Catherine of Siena

As a child, Catherine was merry, playful and joyous, and her good humor stayed with her throughout her life. At age six or seven she had a mystical experience. Over the Dominican church in Siena she saw a regally dressed Jesus sitting on a throne, together with Saints Peter, Paul and John the Evangelist. Jesus had smiled upon her and held out his hand to bless her. She decided to vow herself to the service of God as a virgin, at a time when young women married to improve the financial or social status of their families.

She had to convince her parents that she did not want to marry (by cutting her golden brown hair) and endured their displeasure, which relegated her to servile duties within her family. Finally, her father allowed her a room at home for meditation and prayer. Here she began the austere fasting and ascetic practices that marked the rest of her life.

Excerpted from this article.

Sts. Clare and Agnes of Assisi

Born to a wealthy family in Assisi, Saint Clare was deeply moved at the age of 18 by Saint Francis’ preaching on living out the Gospel in a radical way and escaped from her father’s house at night with the help of her aunt Bianca. She did not want to get married and wanted to dedicate her life to God. They proceeded to a small chapel to meet Saint Francis and exchanged her jeweled belt for a simple rope to tie around her waist. Her hair was cut and she was given a veil before she was entrusted to a Benedictine convent.

Her father was furious that she would refuse marriage and with her uncles he stormed the convent and tried to force her to come home. Clare clung tightly to the altar and revealed her trimmed hair, a symbol of her consecration to God.

Saint Clare’s sister, Agnes, also ran away from home in the middle of the night and sought refuge in the Benedictine convent with her sister. Enraged by losing two of his daughters, their father sent an uncle and several armed men to force Agnes to return home. They tried to drag her by the hair but eventually her body became miraculously immovable and they gave up.

Saint Clare’s family members realized that God was protecting them and allowed them to remain in the convent, no longer trying to force them away from God’s plan.

Excerpted from this article.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Born to a noble family in Italy, Saint Thomas Aquinas was captivated by philosophy at an early age and resolved to enter the Dominican order at the age of 19. His family was not exactly thrilled with the idea of a noble young man putting on the garb of a beggar.

The Dominicans sent him to Rome in order to live away from the influence of family members, but on the way he was captured by his brothers and locked away in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. He remained there for two full years and during that time his parents, brothers and sisters all tried to dissuade Thomas from pursuing a religious vocation. They even sent in a prostitute to tempt Thomas, but he chased her away with a brand he grabbed from the fire in his room.

His mother finally relented after two years and arranged a secret escape, hoping to not bring further embarrassment to the family. Thomas was lowered with the help of his sisters out a window and into the care of the Dominicans.

Excerpted from this article.

What about present day?

Did this only happen in ancient times to saints? Not at all. Watch the story of Fr. John Bartunek here - details about this come at the 9 minute mark. Or this collection of stories.

Is consecrated life (priesthood / religious etc.) life difficult?


As is marriage.
As is the single life.

Each vocation has its challenges and struggles. Living in community with people from different parts of the country or the world, with different backgrounds, personalities and temperaments, will not be easy. In addition, you almost certainly will have some struggles either in formation, community life, the work you are called to do, the place you are sent or other members of your community. The other members may not be as holy or as kind as you expect. All of this is part of the reality of religious life.

[Note: Members of religious congregations and priests are human beings. They also have fears, worries and weaknesses, just like the rest of us. Do we expect more from them? Yes, of course; and we should. But it’s also important to be compassionate and remember that we’re all human and we’re all on the same journey, trying to get to heaven.]

Back to the question. Yes, religious life could be difficult. This does not indicate that your choice was wrong. Jesus promised us the Cross as a condition for following Him. (Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mathew 16 : 24)

One of the main reasons family and friends discourage you from this vocation is by highlighting all the difficulties and struggles. But it is important to be balanced and note that:
a) there are struggles irrespective of which vocation you choose.
b) along with the Cross, there is also joy. There is the great satisfaction of serving others and there is ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding’. (And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4 : 7)

For along with the promise of the Cross, there are also other promises:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and ALL these things shall be yours as well.
Mathew 6 : 33

Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Luke 6 : 38


So, in summary, yes, you will have struggles in this way of life. But as in any vocation, if you seek first the kingdom of God, there is joy and peace in it.



If there are other questions that are not addressed here, mail us at and we'll get back to you.

Prayer of Discernment

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going, 
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, 
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will, 
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe, 
That the desire to please You, 
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire, 
In all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything,
Apart from that desire to please You.

And I know that if I do this, 
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always, 
Though I may seem to be lost,
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me,
To make my journey alone.

Thomas Merton (Trappist Monk)