If God has a plan for your life (which He does) then He isn’t going to keep it secret. That being said, discerning whether God is calling you to be a priest can still be challenging and even scary. But do not be afraid! God is guiding you, and if you stay close to Him and to His Church then your vocation will become clear. Whether that is priesthood, marriage, single life or religious life it will bring you great joy to discover it. What’s more, you will be one of the few people in this world to find true fulfilment in your life if you follow His will. If you do not follow the vocation for which God made you, you can attain a certain degree of happiness in this world, and still attain salvation, but you can never be as happy as you might have been had you followed your proper vocation. This is why it is so important that you discern correctly. Of course, there are trials and tribulations in every vocation. To become a priest does not take away all suffering. But there is great joy in laying down one’s life for Jesus!
For some practical tips on discerning your vocation, please explore the links below:
Discernment is about relationships
Discernment is all about relationships.
Most importantly discernment is about your relationship with the Lord. If you allow yourself to grow close to him, that is, to become holy, then you will hear his voice speaking. Don’t be afraid to ask God what his will is for your life but also do not become anxious if you do not hear his voice speaking immediately or clearly. Focus more on becoming holy, and then you will grow in trust for God. Trust that God is guiding you: trust that his plans for you are good; trust to take one step at time; trust to allow him to be in control of the big picture. The path to holiness consists of regular prayer, regular and, if possible, daily participation in Holy Mass, regular confession, growth in virtue and the elimination of sin.
Whilst your relationship with God is of paramount importance, your relationships with other people are also necessary part of discerning your vocation. After all, the reason why the priesthood exists in order to help people to grow in their relationship with God. Speak to a trusted priest about your thoughts. Speak to your diocesan vocations director. Perhaps most importantly: connect. Connect with other people who are discerning. Nowadays you may be the only one in you parish discerning but by getting in touch with your vocations director it will be possible to get to know other discerners and seminarians.
Don't discount the 'signs'
If your reading this then the chances are that you will have had many signs and pointers indicating that you might be called to the priesthood. Sometimes these signs can be explained away as coincidences, but very often God can speak to us through events, circumstances and people. In fact, it is very rare that God reveals his will to someone in a concrete way like he did to Our Lady or St Joseph in the Gospels. More often we discern his will through signs, circumstances and our interior desires and feelings. Don’t let this uncertainty cause you anxiety. God loves us and wants us to remain free to choose to follow him. Following the signs that God puts in our path may seem risky but if we get one wrong it is unlikely we will ever regret this. If we choose not to follow his signs however this is something we could well regret.
Prayer for discernment
Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfil my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray that you will send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. I ask this prayer in the name of Jesus, your son and my only Lord. Amen.
Jesus, I trust in you.
The importance of priesthood
Either the priesthood is the most ridiculous ‘job’ imaginable or it is the most important vocation on the face of the Earth. There is no middle ground. As Catholics we believe that the priest is the necessary and indispensable means by which much of God’s grace is brought into the world. He does this through the teaching and governing offices which he exercises but most especially in the sanctifying office through the sacramental ministries. God has given us no other means to have our mortal sins forgiven than through the priest in the sacrament of reconciliation. Likewise there is no other way that Jesus becomes really, truly and substantially present on Earth in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity except through priest’s hands when heoffers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The list could continue.
We can do nothing more noble than to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus and that is literally the priest’s ‘job description’.
Signs you may have a vocation to be a priest
None of these points are the guarantee of a priestly vocation, nor is the list exhaustive, but if you identify with at least a few of the following then you should seriously consider that God may be calling you to the priesthood:
- You have a strong desire to help others grow in holiness and to bring people to Jesus.
- You have a desire to grow in holiness and develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
- You enjoy serving the poor and needy and seek out opportunities to do so.
- You serve in ministries at Church but have a sense that you would like to do more.
- You’ve been told by others that you would make a good priest.
- You have a deep love for and identification with the Church.
- You have a desire in your heart for priesthood, especially one which will not go away when you have ignored it.
- You have the qualities of a good father.
How to make a plan of life
If you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood then it is important for you to have a plan of life. A plan of life is a set pattern of living which will help you to grow in your relationship with God. What it consists of will change from person to person, so please talk about it with your vocations director or spiritual director in order to establish one which is right for you.
- Spiritual Direction – If you don’t have a spiritual director already then getting a faithful and wise priest who can assist you and advise you is absolutely essential. Your diocesan vocations director will be able to offer you advise on somebody suitable.
- The Eucharist is at the heart of the priestly identity. Therefore regularly attending Holy Mass, even daily, is incredibly important. If you are not able to attend Mass daily it might be possible for you to be able to make a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
- Regular confession – We cannot make ourselves holy. Holiness is a gift of grace given by God. In the sacrament of reconciliation we not only receive forgiveness for our sins but we also receive the strength to overcome sin. That is why regular confession, at least monthly, is so important.
- Daily Prayer – do not leave prayer to chance! Have a set pattern for prayer, a set place to pray and a set time too. We cannot become friends of Jesus without regular prayer, and regular prayer is almost impossible unless we are deliberate about it.
- Routine – Try living life with discipline and offering the challenge of it to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Be deliberate about the time you get up and go to bed. Be deliberate about when and how much you eat and when you fast. Show gratitude for God’s gifts by looking after yourself, your loved ones and your things.
- Apostolate – Are you involved in apostolic activity. Every Church needs readers, Catechists, Evangelists and cleaners. Are you playing your part?
- Charity – A priest is called to offer his whole life as a victim of charity just like the Lord did. Consider how you can respond to his cry “I thirst” in the poor and needy.
- Remove Sin – All people struggle with temptation and sin. Fortunately, God is merciful. However this does not mean we should be serious about removing sin and occasions of sin from our lives. If drink, the internet, certain friends, or certain television programmes are occasions of sin for you then what commitments do you need to make to the Lord about them?
Seeing past my weaknesses
Do you worry that you are not good enough to be a priest?
- Too shy – Almost all of the prophets of Israel concluded that they were unsuitable for Gods vocation. They were too young, too old, and too weak. Even Moses, arguably the greatest leader of Israel, was a stutterer.(Exod. 4:10). God qualifies the called, he does not call the qualified. If God is calling you to be a priest then he will qualify you regardless of your confidence in yourself. There are many seminarians currently at Oscott who started seminary extremely shy, and with God grace and the help from and time spent at the seminary they have become leaders and public speakers.
- Too unworthy – Nobody is worthy of the priesthood, including you. If you think you are worthy then this is probably a sign that God may be calling you elsewhere. If you have anxiety that your colourful past makes you an unsuitable candidate for priesthood then speak speak to your vocations director about this candidly. God’s call is always taken seriously by the Church, even when God calls those who have particularly struggled with sin. Just think of St Paul who, after his past of persecuting the Church became one of its greatest saints.
- Too unchaste – In the 21st Century chastity is a more important virtue than ever, yet it is more difficult to life than ever with our permissive culture and the role than technology plays in our lives. It is important that the Church has chaste priests but your diocese will be realistic in their expectations of candidates with regard to Chasity.
- Too old – The oldest seminarian at Oscott is in his 60’s and he’s by no means the only one!
- Too young – God calls many people to the priesthood at a very young age – often as young children! Do not be afraid to follow his voice regardless of your age. Samuel was the youngest prophet at just 11 years old! If he told God to wait ten years then God would never have been able to use him to achieve his purposes. Similarly, you are free to ignore God and push his will into second place for a period of time in your life, but if you do then you will potentially miss out on so many of the ways that God wants to use you to serve him as a young priest.
- Not clever enough – It is far more important to have holy and faithful priest than clever and well-qualified priests. There are seminarians with postgraduate awards at Oscott and there are seminarians who have worked for years in retail and construction since leaving school. At Oscott we recognise that every person is an individual and where appropriate the academic programme is accommodated to an individual person needs.
The seminary is a place of discernment
Some people think that that they have to be absolutely certain that God is calling them to the priesthood before they can enter the seminary. You may be interested to hear that very few seminarians start the seminary 100% sure that God is calling them to the priesthood. The truth is that being in the seminary, and living a lifestyle which is ordered toward becoming a priest is a fantastic way to discern your vocation. It is not uncommon for up to a third of seminarians in any year to discern that the Lord is calling them to another vocation, whether that is marriage, religious life or lay single life. While this may seem like something negative at first sight, in fact many of these seminarians leave the seminary extremely happy that they have discovered the Lord’s will for them. This certainty was often found in the seminary after many difficult years of uncertainly trying to discover God’s will before joining the seminary.
Do Not Be Afraid!
“Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”
Pope John Paul II, The Meaning of Vocation