Discerning The Priesthood

"Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace."
- Pope John Paul II,  Message for the 42nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Called to the Priesthood

Jesus still calls men to be priests just as He called the apostles. The ministerial priesthood is a call to share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ so that his unique saving mission may continue in the world.  It is through the priesthood that God continues the salvation of the world.  This is accomplished through a number of means including pastoral work, proclamation of the Holy Word of God, and the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

How do I figure it out?

Ask for the Grace The first thing for any man who is seriously considering if God is calling him to be priest is to ask God for the grace of a priestly calling.  If God is calling you, and you cooperate with his grace, you will joyfully follow Him.  If He is not calling you, he will give you the grace to see where He does want you.

Things to do: Here, are the four major things that any man who is considering the priesthood should do.

  1. Prayer  Prayer is a Dialogue with God.  When we pray we come to know God’s will in our lives.  The closer we come to God, the more clearly we will understand His call for us.
  2. Moral life  It is not possible to be moving toward God and away from Him at precisely the same time.  When we put into practice the relationship we have with God, by living a good moral life, it helps us to see more clearly what he desires of us.
  3. Act  Talk to your pastor, or chaplain, or another priest you know, and start some of the things that will get you closer to the Church, such as becoming an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, Lector at Mass, or serve in some other way.
  4. Community  Be involved in a good, life-giving, catholic community that will help, not hinder your life as a good catholic man and that will support your interest in a priestly calling.

Practical Suggestions

  1. Talk to a Vocation Director To obtain further information about seminary and priestly life contact the Vocation Office and set up a meeting to discuss your vocation with the vocation director. 
  2. Daily Mass The sacrifice of the Mass is the Church's greatest prayer of praise. At Mass we are fed and nourished by God's word and the Body and Blood of Christ. A young man discerning a vocation to the priesthood is encouraged to participate in the daily celebration of Mass so that he can grow in his relationship with the Lord.
  3. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also very beneficial to a young man discerning a vocation. This is a powerful way to grow in love for the Eucharistic Lord and to grow in the spiritual life.
  4. Daily Prayer is time set aside for God alone, usually in a quiet place at a specific time each day. This prayer time can consist of talking to the Lord in one's own words or praying with the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Developing the daily habit and pattern of prayer will help the young man to hear more clearly the call of the Lord.
  5. Spiritual direction is also very important when discerning a vocation to the priesthood. Speaking with a priest about one's prayer life and seeking his advice on a regular basis is very helpful as one discerns a vocation to the priesthood.
  6. Discernment programs like a weekend retreat with the Vocation Office, vocation evenings of recollection, or by joining a discussion group of other young men discerning a vocation are invaluable in helping one to come to greater clarity of God's call to the priesthood.
  7. Get involved in some form of service with the Church. For example; outreach to the poor, teaching religious education, taking Holy Communion to the sick, working with the youth of the parish, etc. are ways to give one a taste of "ministry" and can also increase one's desire for ministry and service.
  8. Devotion to the Blessed Mother Praying the rosary daily and seeking the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary is recommended when a young man is discerning a vocation to the priesthood. The Blessed Mother had to respond to her vocation. She is most helpful in helping others obtain the grace to do the same.  

Does God Send Signs?

Very often a man who is considering the priesthood looks for a sign from God that he is called.  Although God is never constrained in how He calls us, He typically does not do so with some great sign, as much as with small graces. 

Here are some things that may exist in the life of a man who is called to the priesthood. 

  1. A desire to lay down one’s life and to do something great for God.
  2. The feeling that you are called for something greater than what this world offers.
  3. The sense of a call from God to serve His people and to give of one’s life.
  4. The recurring thought of the priesthood and a growing attraction to the priesthood
  5. A sense that one would find fulfillment by serving God and His people.
  6. A love of God that manifests itself in a desire to give one's life in service to God's people.
  7. A love of the Church and her Traditions and a desire to celebrate the sacraments, even while feeling unworthy.
  8. A love of the Word of God and a desire to proclaim the Truth of the Faith.
  9. The desire to be a minister of God’s mercy through the forgiveness of sins.
  10. The desire to strengthen your relationship with God through prayer and worship of God.
  11. Generosity of heart toward others and openness to discern God’s call in life.

Among those totally dedicated to the service of the Gospel, are priests, called to preach the word of God, administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, committed to helping the lowly, the sick, the suffering, the poor, and those who experience hardship in areas of the world where there are, at times, many who still have not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ.”
- Pope Benedict XVI,   - Message for the 45th World Day of prayer for Vocations