Column: Does your discernment have ‘analysis paralysis’?

by Father Mitchel Zimmerman

Nick Blaha is a seminarian for the archdiocese from Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. He told a recent group of 23 college-age men attending Archbishop Naumann’s annual vocation retreat that for every “yes” we say in life, we must say “no” an infinite number of times. If we say “yes” to attending this high school or that college, it means saying “no” to every other school.

The same can be said of elective classes and academic majors, not to mention dating and marriage. Nick, in describing his own discernment, accused himself of sometimes trying too hard to keep all his options open in life. In his talk, he challenged himself and those men in attendance to remember that true happiness and freedom are not found by those who desperately try to avoid making decisions, but by those who say “yes” to the good that is right in front of them.

As vocation director, I meet plenty of men who are sincerely interested in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, but are suffering from “analysis paralysis.” While there is the possibility of a man “under-discerning” his vocation from God, more commonly guys torture themselves trying to keep their options open as long as possible, afraid of commitment and afraid of making a mistake that will cost them dearly.

Sometimes we can forget that the God who calls us to a vocation by name desires our happiness. There is no need to fear that if we get our vocation “wrong,” we are dooming ourselves to misery. Nothing is farther from the truth. Our happiness comes from knowing the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (Jn 17:3). Getting our vocation “right” is not a matter of happiness versus misery. It is our way of proclaiming to others what God has done for us.

On this recent retreat, we suggested men start asking themselves simpler questions: Can I schedule an appointment with the vocation director to discuss where God is leading me? Can I make time to visit a seminary? Can I find two years of my life to give to the church in discernment?

Many guys try to discern from afar whether or not the priesthood is for them, without taking these simpler steps that are much easier to say “yes” to. Trust me. I’ve seen lots of guys spend hours and hours in prayer trying to think of every conceivable reason why they shouldn’t become a priest, even though they know the Lord is calling them by name.

Having the courage to answer God’s call can be a matter of focusing on the simple “yes” that is right in front of you. Do not be afraid. The Lord Jesus knows you and will be with you. He desires your happiness. E-mail the vocation office to take the next step in your discernment at: vocation@arch kck.org.

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