I’m depressed because I’m afraid that I’ll never get married. Should I do a novena to see if God is calling me to that vocation?

I’m sorry to hear of your anxiety with regards to your vocation. Novenas are great prayers, but I don’t recommend them for vocational discernment. It’s tempting to use them in an effort to alleviate anxiety about the future, because we expect an answer within nine days. This can be dangerous because we may be looking so hard for signs that we are not actually growing in the gift of discernment.

In college, I did a novena to St. Raphael the Archangel for discernment on a relationship. At the time, I was in school in Austria and my girlfriend was back in school in Ohio. I hoped to marry her, and on the ninth day of the novena, as I said the word “Amen,” the phone rang and it was her, just saying hi. I went through the roof, seeing this as divine providence . . . and she’s now happily married to a friend of mine. So, while novenas can be a great spiritual gift, we can often misinterpret them to see what we’re hoping for.

As to what the future holds for you, I think it is very important that you focus 110% on what God wants of you today, and let him worry about tomorrow. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but God gives us all a season of singleness to serve him, and many of us spend it miserable because the future is not here yet. Before we can truly love another, he wants us to be secure and content in his love alone.

During this time, we need be honest with ourselves, so that we’re not trying to become content with him so that he’ll give us what we want. If we are genuine with him, and we cling to him in our loneliness, he can give us true peace in times of fear and sadness. In our greatest times of loneliness, he can inspire us to look beyond ourselves to serve those who are far lonelier than we are. If you notice, the happiest people on earth are those who forget about themselves. The saddest people are those who forget about others because they never stop thinking about themselves. So, return to prayer and ask God how he wants you to serve him. In the meantime, it would be wise to find a spiritual director who can help you to discern your vocation. Their job isn’t to discern for you, but to help you learn how to listen to God’s voice and to have the courage to follow it.



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