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Is God Calling Me to be a Priest?

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:

The process of discerning the call...

... 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.

The fullness of a vocation is revealed through time.

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...

...Is God calling me to enter into the seminary?

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:

  • Sacraments: Particularly in the Eucharist and through Confession, a man encounters Christ in the sacraments, which directly infuse grace into each one of us.
    • In receiving the Eucharist, which is the true presence of Jesus Christ, a man encounters his Lord directly and physically.  There is no greater intimacy with God than in receiving him in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our Faith.
    • In Confession, a man voluntarily reveals himself without reserve to his Lord, who purifies him from sin and restores him to a life of grace.
  • Prayer: Like any language, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”; prayer is the language in which we communicate with God.  Like one who develops “an ear” for a spoken language the more that one is exposed to it, so also for the one who prays frequently and with sincerity develops “an ear” to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, who gently reveals God’s progressive revelation to a vocation to the priesthood.  Devotion to Eucharistic Adoration and Marian devotion often surface in the autobiographies of the men who eventually are ordained priests.
  • Guidance and Encouragement
    • Gospel Readings: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”, to quote Saint Jerome.  In particular, the four gospels hold pride of place, in which the Divine personality of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
    • Priest Mentorship: Priests spiritually beget other priests.  It is through the active ministry of the priest that a man might visibly see an image that resonates with an interior summons to the priesthood.  A pastor might be able to recognize the affective movement of a man towards the priesthood, and provide counsel on continued discernment and how to take that next vocational step forward.
    • Holy and Healthy Friendships: God created us for relationship; and our identity is revealed progressively through the relationships in which we engage.  Often, the seed of the priestly vocation can be seen in how a man interacts with his friends, peers, and colleagues.

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.

Interested in becoming a Catholic Priest?

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.

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