Some people discover the gift of faith and discern their vocations in exceptional circumstances. For most people however, myself included, these things are much more subtle processes. It would be temptingly easy for me to say that my journey towards priesthood started in 2013 when I started seminary in Valladolid for the propredutic year. However, I don’t even think it would be doing it justice to say that the it started at about the age of 12, when I first started to discern that I might be called to the priesthood. I have now come to realise that it really started on the day I was baptised. Why? Because I sincerely believe that this vocation cannot be separated from my whole Christian vocation.
I grew up in the town of Walsall not far away from Oscott College and come from a very typical modern Catholic family. During my upbringing there was a definite sense of Catholic identity in my family but things didn’t really go much further than this. Mass was optional and prayer at home was unheard of. None the less from a young age I always took a strong personal interest in the faith. It was just after starting to try and develop a daily prayer life, about 11 years old, that I came to first discerned that God might (only possibly) be calling me to the priesthood. For a long time I doubted this; I wanted God to speak to me in a less ambiguous way, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for it and I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a priest anyway! As such, at various times as I grew up I would switch between trying to ignore it and taking it seriously.
At the age of 19 I was firmly in a ‘trying to ignore it’ phase, yet I wasn’t satisfied with how my own plans were going. At the same time I was still aware that God might be calling me to be a priest. Expecting to feel like I had made a big mistake I decided to contact the Vocations Director. Having done so I actually felt an enormous peace. At that point I decided to take vocational discernment much more seriously. I started attending discernment weekends and got a spiritual director. I quickly realised that even if God wasn’t calling me to be a priest he was calling me down the path towards it and a few years later I felt ready to apply to start seminary.
For me being a seminarian has been the best possible thing I could have done with regard to to my discernment. When I started I still lacked entertained doubts with regard to be suitability. I have really enjoyed life living in a Christian community, the spiritual life and the study. Especially significant for me has been the pastoral work we do as seminarians. I have always greatly enjoyed the pastoral work we do, be it in schools, hospitals or parishes. Joining priests on parish pastoral placements as they visit the sick and dying and seeing the incredible impact that this has has also had a profound impact upon me. In fact such experiences have now left me feeling incredibly excited about being a priest as I face my final two years of formation before ordination.
My advise to anybody who has doubts about whether God is calling them to the priesthood is to not be afraid to follow the path rather than to overly focus on the destination. It is only as I have had the courage to follow that path a little further, whether by contacting the vocations director or applying to start seminary, that I have gained greater insight into what lies beyond. I’m very happy to say that I now feel confident that it means priesthood. For others however it is a wonderful fact that following the path towards priesthood along which God is calling them means they come to realise God has other things in store them.