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The answer is: possibly. But before we address that question directly, we need to review a few preliminaries. First, while the life of a priest is intimately intertwined with the ministry to which he is called, his action flows from his identity. A priest can hold many different titles or “jobs” over the course of his active ministry. However, his identity is one and the same throughout. He is a priest of Jesus Christ, in a particular relationship with God and his Church. Second, like any relationship, in which the identities of those engaged is revealed over the course of a lifetime, so also in the lifetime of the priest does his identity unfold in a way known beforehand only by God alone. In practice, this means that:
... to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ involves much more than the effort of a single individual, even by the man so called.
Imagine a man who falls in love with a woman and decides to marry her. That movement towards marriage involves much more than the man’s desires and decisions. At the bare minimum, the woman whom he seeks to marry has complete freedom in accepting or rejecting any proposal that he might offer. Friends, family, and colleagues might also have a certain insight into the relationship of a particular couple, and their contribution to the discussion of marriage might influence the couple in moving forward towards marriage or not; or they might have other advice to consider with regard to the practicalities of preparing for married life.
Similarly, becoming a priest involves much more than a man simply deciding to become a priest, on his own in isolation from any sort of discernment from within the Church. The Bishop must “say yes”, so to speak, to the man who takes that step forward with the desire to become a priest. And as friends, family, and colleagues have some influence with a couple deciding to marry, and help prepare them for marriage; so also do the people of God, seminary faculty, and others have a contribution to make is recommending a man for the priesthood, and preparing him for priestly ministry.
Husbands and wives who have been married for 50 years are remarkably different from how they were as newlyweds. The passion which may have drawn them together in their youth has been concretized and lived out over the course of a lifetime. In the normal course of family life, with the raising of children, the welcoming of grandchildren, births and deaths, family rituals and celebrations—in a word, everything that accompanies the “sunrise” and “sunset” of family life—a man and woman mature in their identity as husband and wife. Certainly they could not have foreseen everything that they would encounter in life as spouses when they were first newlywed. Had they known, perhaps they might feel overwhelmed from the start.
Similarly, a man discerning a vocation to the priesthood might feel overwhelmed if he should try to foresee everything that might possibly await him as a priest. Sequential steps are necessary in life, and all that a man needs to discern is whether not he is called to take that next step forward officially as a seminarian, and then apply himself towards that effort.
In that initial discernment, a man is not yet even at the point of discerning whether or not he’s called to the priesthood. That call is discerned properly within the context of the seminary, through the guidance of the Bishop and those to whom the Bishop has entrusted his seminarians.
To quote Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension Presents, “God will not ask you to answer a question he hasn’t asked yet”. The following clip might perhaps be beneficial to those who might be tempted to discern their vocation prematurely.
So the question remains...
First, like those who are seeking marriage must ask themselves: “Am I free to marry?”, so also the potential seminarian must ask himself: “Am I free to become a seminarian?” If there are no objective obstacles preventing a man from entering the seminary for the Diocese of Honolulu, the following recommendations are made to help guide a man in his discernment:
Like all vocations, it is in the context of the Christian life that a vocation to the Catholic priesthood is revealed, and so a life of virtue is necessary in discerning the call. Our Lord speaks in the silence of one’s heart, attuned to the voice of the Lord through a life of prayer, the sacraments, and good habits.
If you have any further questions regarding the Catholic Priesthood for the Diocese of Honolulu, please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Vocations.