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Aiming for Heaven: Defining Success as a Catholic Musician

Updated: Mar 9

When I was in my final semester of undergrad, I felt suddenly bombarded with enormous pressure to be successful. My peers all around me were getting into grad programs, offers for job contracts, or post-graduate service programs that seemed to seamlessly incorporate their passions.

At the same time, I was facing rejection after rejection, and I had no idea what to do with myself. Success felt like an unachievable goal, and failure seemed immanent.

One afternoon I had a really honest conversation with myself, wondering where all these pressures were coming from. I looked out across the misty, spring afternoon, and thought hard about why I felt I was failing. I thought about all the people who I loved, respected, and cared about, and all the different ideas they held for my future. It was overwhelming, like a cloud of information that I just didn’t know what to do with.

Until God granted me the realization that I had both the ability and the responsibility to define success for myself.

What if I didn’t have the opportunity to go to grad school? What if I never made it to the Met? Would I still be happy? Would I still feel like my degree was worth the blood, sweat and tears? Would I still consider my life and my career to be a success?

What does success even mean?

I think this is a question that we all have to answer for ourselves. Everyone in our lives will have their own ideas and interpretations of what success can or should look like for us, and it can be really overwhelming to have that constant input. It can complicate taking the next step in our lives, when we’re trying to discern what is right for us, while also internalizing so many different thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, well-meaning individuals who are so eager to offer their thoughts and advice don’t even really know our personal lives and goals!

For myself, as I was figuring all this out, I sat with God in prayer for a long time, and chatted with Him like a friend, asking what He wants from me, and what the true definition of success is. In the end, it was SO monumentally helpful for me to be able to clarify how I defined success in my own life. It helped me to clarify what things truly brought me personal fulfillment, and what things I felt I had to do out of a sense of obligation.

Catholic church with fresco of Jesus in the background

It also helped me to orient my entire life path- to Heaven! The ultimate purpose of my life, beyond any career success, any particular vocation, or overcoming any personal challenges, is to achieve holiness through God’s grace, and find myself in His eternal Presence in Heaven. Everything in my life should be directed at this ultimate goal. So, I began to think about my career in terms of how it could help me grow in holiness and into the person God created me to be.

This is a lifelong process, but it has been so fulfilling so far! I have felt more peace and contentment with my life and career than I ever thought possible, even though it doesn’t look like I had once imagined it would. People continue to share their opinions with me, and my contentment doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but in my own heart, I know what success means to me, and that allows me enormous freedom from the confines of other people’s thoughts and opinions.

So, in this crazy world of constant sharing of thoughts and opinions, make sure you put God’s opinion first in all things, especially your career. He will guide you through every trial and difficulty. He will remain faithful to you even when others are not. He will redeem you, even when you yourself don’t think it possible. And I promise you, in Him, you will find more success and happiness than ever before.


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