A vocation is a calling from God. All the faithful receive the common vocation or call to holiness, the call to conform our lives after our Lord’s divine life. Along with our universal call to holiness each person also receives a specific call or vocation, either to the married life, religious life or the ordained life. We are called to fulfill this calling so that we may know true happiness in this life which will lead us to the life to come in heaven. Being totally united with God in heaven is the ultimate Christian vocation.
We might wish that God would just speak to us in a booming voice and in a burst of light but it generally does not happen that way. If the idea of priesthood or religious life seems to “feel right” for you then that just might be what the Lord is asking of you. We can never say that we absolutely know that mind of God, but through prayer and having an open heart we can come to an understanding of what we think God is asking of us. Remember, entering the seminary or religious formation is not a declaration of “this is exactly what I am supposed to do for the rest of my life.” Many men and women enter seminary or formation and find that God is not calling them in that direction. In no way does that mean they have failed but, rather, they are simply coming to a deeper understanding of God’s call in their lives.
Prayer is essential for all people who want to know God’s will in their lives and for those who want to live the Christian life. Prayer is our “direct line” to God. Prayer is how we speak to God and one of the primary ways that God speaks to us. If a priest, religious or seminarian is not praying then their ministry will suffer as a result of it. Prayer has a special power to sustain unlike anything else than we can do. Sometimes prayer is difficult and even the most faithful people can experience “dry spots” in their prayer life; many of the Saints experienced that themselves. Even is prayer seems dry or is not producing fruit, keep doing it. God is still there and He wants to hear from you and to peak to you.
Formation for diocesan priesthood can take one of two roads. One begins with college (minor) seminary. Some men enter seminary out of high school or some have never been to college or completed their studies. In this case they first work on acquiring their bachelor of arts degree which is generally in philosophy. After completion they then pursue a four year program of theology at a major seminary. For those men who have at least a bachelor’s degree upon entering the seminary, they pursue what is generally a six year course of studies at a major seminary which is made up of two years of philosophy and four years of theology. Ordination to the priesthood generally follows the successful completion of all seminary studies.
The minimum age for entering seminary studies for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is eighteen years of age (or seventeen if the applicant has just completed his high school studies). In most cases, candidates have begun their formation by their mid to late forties.
In college seminary a seminarian pursues general studies towards his degree with a heavier concentration in philosophy and some theology. In theology (major seminary) a seminarian pursues a wide scope of theology (systematic, moral, liturgical, sacramental, pastoral) as well as other disciplines such as Scripture, Church history, Canon Law, pastoral counseling, and even some language such as Spanish, Latin, Greek and others possibly. A seminarian is not just formed academically, he is also formed as a whole person. Seminarians also participate in areas of human and spiritual formation
Seminary life is made up of time for daily Mass, community and personal prayer, class, formation, study time as well as time for rest and leisure. One of the great things about seminary life is that it is always full of new experiences of the Church and God’s people. In seminary you also have the change to form great and lasting friendships with other men from around the country, and even the world, who are also discerning God’s call.
YES! Continuous studies have been done on professions in which people find the most happiness and satisfaction in life and priesthood continues to be one of the highest ranking professions.
The simple answer is freedom. Practicing both celibacy and obedience gives a priest freedom to devote himself totally to God’s service and to His people. Celibacy allows the priest to make his sole commitment to his priestly service. The celibate life of a priest is also a living sign of the new order that will be established when our Lord returns in glory. Obedience also gives freedom because a priest surrenders his will to the will of the bishop for the good of the Church, following Christ’s example of total obedience to the Father’s will.
A great place to start is with your pastor or another priest. Also, anyone else whom you are comfortable talking to and who shares your faith would be good. You can always contact the diocesan vocation director who will be happy to help you in any way.