Jesus Christ has a plan for all of our lives, and he calls each of us by name in unique ways. A select few are called to live a life of service and sacrifice in the Holy Priesthood. Discerning whether or not this is the case for yourself can be a difficult process, but thankfully you do not have to do it alone.
The priesthood is a supernatural call from God to be offered as a gift to the Church, and as such the Church walks alongside each man throughout the process of discernment. In other words, a man does not simply decide that he is being called to the priesthood on his own: his discernment needs to be affirmed by the Church both before and during his seminary formation.
This reality helps take some of the pressure off individual men who are perhaps feeling the weight of the discernment process. Ultimately it is the Church who calls a man to Holy Orders, a fact which allows him to approach his ordination with confidence, knowing that he did not simply imagine his call but that is has been confirmed by his bishop and those charged with his formation.
Though the process of discernment is of its nature both subtle and personal, it is possible to identify a number of signs that may point to the presence of a priestly vocation in a man’s life. As an initial guide, you may wish to read the following statements and take them to prayer:
If some of these statements ring true for you, it may be a sign that the Lord has planted the seed of a priestly vocation in your soul.
There are a number of time-honoured practical suggestions that a man can use to help him in the process of discernment:
God seeks deep union with us, and he desires our good. As such, if God wants you to be a priest, he has placed that desire within you. Approach the Lord in prayer each day—through the Scriptures, through the traditional prayers of the Church, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in silent meditation—and ask him if this is truly what he wants for you. Then look for signs whether or not this is so.
Living a Sacramental Life
If possible, go to Mass every day, and be attentive to the readings and prayers of the liturgy. Make the effort, and allow the Lord to touch your soul in the process. Similarly, regularly examine your conscience and make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Offering some form of service within the Church is a good way of testing your desire for public ministry. Examples include serving at Mass, assisting with the parish youth group, outreach to the poor, taking Holy Communion to the sick, along with many others.
Discuss it with People you Trust
It can be helpful to bounce your thoughts off a family member or a friend who knows you well. Similarly, your parish priest or another priest you trust can help provide information about seminary and priestly life. You may even want to consider meeting regularly with a priest for spiritual direction.
Through the year the Vocations Office offers various programs of discernment including mini-retreats, seminary enquiry days, and other gatherings of young men considering the priesthood. Look for information about forthcoming events on this website, or contact the Vocations Office directly.
It is natural for a man considering the priesthood to have some apprehension about it all. After all, the Catholic priesthood is a very counter-cultural calling that inevitably requires significant changes in a man’s life. Some may be worried about the thought of foregoing family life and embracing celibacy; others may be concerned by the study involved or the fact that priests are public figures who regularly speak before large groups; still others may be daunted by some of the negative perceptions surrounding the priesthood in our present-day culture.
If you have fears about the priesthood, take them to the Lord in prayer, and ask for courage and peace. Being honest about any concerns and confronting them at the beginning will, with the Lord’s grace, help make the process of discernment less complicated. A few specific tips:
To apply for seminary is not a definitive commitment to become a priest, and it does not require complete certainty about one’s calling. However, it is also not a step to be taken lightly. Though a degree of ongoing discernment takes place after a man has entered seminary, he should already have a healthy sense that this is right for him before he submits a formal application.
Step 1 – Contact the Vocations Office
The Archdiocese needs to get to know an applicant before he is offered a seminary application. As such, the first step in this process is to get in touch with the Vocations Office. Their role is to assist men with the discernment process, and to facilitate the application process for those who believe they are being called to the priesthood.
Step 2 – The initial application process
Applying to become a seminarian is a bit like applying to study at a university, but with some additional screening components. Applicants need to provide various documents and references, and are asked to undergo basic medical and psychological assessments.
Step 3 – Interview panel
Towards the end of the year an interview panel meets with each of the men applying to enter seminary. Following these interviews the panel’s recommendations are given to the Archbishop, who makes the final decision on each application. If accepted, the applicant then makes preparations to transition into seminary life towards the start of the following year.
Many men find the application process to be a healthy exercise in self-knowledge and a helpful part of overall discernment. To take the first steps, or to simply find out more, contact the Vocations Office.