Culture of Life
Ministry or Bust?
BY Phil Lenahan
September 13-19, 2009 Issue | Posted 9/4/09 at 3:09 PM
I’m interning with the government while I earn my master’s degree in business administration. I believe God is calling me to marriage and family life, yet I would ideally like to serve the Lord in some form of full-time ministry. Is it possible to make these pieces fit together?
I’m impressed that you’re thinking about how you can serve rather than how you can maximize your earning potential. Surveys reveal that many young people are focused on obtaining wealth rather than doing God’s will in their lives. Yet it’s when we do God’s will that we fulfill our real purpose in life.
Your question does betray a bit of a misunderstanding of the Christian life as the Church teaches it. Christian life is, in and of itself, a life of mission. Every baptized and confirmed Catholic is called to spread the faith, not just live it out privately. (See the Catechism, No. 900.)
With this in mind, remember that the paths that lead to serving the Lord in specific ways are numerous — becoming a priest or religious, marriage and family life, vocation as a single person, and the particular work and service activities one undertakes. Even though you are assuming marriage and family life will be your vocation, the fact that you feel called to full-time ministry (or apostolate work) is an indication that this question isn’t fully settled in your heart or mind. You should seek the counsel of a wise spiritual director and remain open to whatever path the Lord may have for you.
In Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote eloquently of how differing vocations must impact our life of devotion. Problems arise when someone chooses one vocation while living as though they have chosen a different one.
If you say Yes to marriage, family life and a career in the secular workplace, you need to recognize that these are demanding ministries in their own right. The marketplace and the home need to be infused with the grace of God through the good example of the faithful. If we reflect Christ in these areas of daily living, we can be confident our efforts will be pleasing to the Lord.
If marriage ends up being the vocation God is calling you to, rather than focusing on “full-time” ministry as the only viable answer to serving the Lord, I suggest you find a form of service that fits with your life as a husband and father. That may well be full-time ministry, but it may take a different form, too. Many people I know who work full-time for apostolates were called well into their careers. The Lord gave them the opportunity to sharpen their skills in the secular marketplace, and that made their mission work more effective.
For those in a similar position as this young man, take advantage of the opportunities you have now to grow skills in your chosen profession. Recognize this as a time of preparation that is not being wasted. If the Lord is calling you to full-time ministry or apostolate work, he will respond to your faithfulness and open the appropriate doors in his time.
God love you!
Phil Lenahan is online at
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