Am I Called to be a Parish Priest?
Some people know from an early age what they want to do with their lives. Others need time to think about it, talk to people and pray about it.
Ask yourself this: Is God calling me to live a life for him? Do I have a feeling deep inside that makes me think maybe, just maybe, I need to be helping God's people as a religious person? If your answer is "Yes," then don't you owe it to yourself to experience a discernment process to determine if that is, indeed, a call to religious life?
See what Bishop Robert Barron says about exploring the discernment process.
Discerning in High School
High School can be a great time to consider where the Lord might be calling you. Here are some first steps.
If you are in high school and you think God may be leading you closer to the seminary, the best thing you can do right now is to make sure you are attending Mass and the Sacrament of Confession faithfully. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives and gives us the daily strength we need to follow the Lord and discern His will for our lives. When we are close to the Eucharist, we can hear Jesus’ voice better. He will teach you how He wants you to serve Him — whether through holy marriage, religious life, or the priesthood.
You may also want to talk to your pastor about serving mass. Becoming familiar with the flow of the liturgy will help you become more comfortable around the altar and will give you a better idea whether or not it is the kind of vocation God is calling you to. This experience will also help you get to know your pastor and other priests better.
Be faithful in the little things. This is really important if you want to discern God’s will. Work hard at school, respect and obey your parents and family members, finish your chores well, get involved with healthy extra-curricular activities like sports, art, music, etc. The Lord uses these good habits to draw us closer to Himself. As Mother Teresa once said, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”
Above all, start making the decision today to have a personal prayer life. Prayer is that intimate dialogue with the Lord Jesus where we find deep peace and rest. Try setting aside a place in your room as your ‘prayer space.’ Crack open your Bible, pray the rosary, or study the lives of the saints. Download the iBreviary app and take a swing at the Liturgy of the Hours. Prayer habits like these will help solidify your identity as a Catholic man and will be invaluable as you move along in your discernment journey. But most important of all, you’ll come to know the God who loves you unconditionally.
The people you hang out with will help form you into the man you become. Make sure you choose your friends wisely! If your parish has a youth group, get to know people there. Root your friendships as much as possible in the faith. Of course, you’ll still have plenty of non-Catholic friends, but never underestimate the value of having friends that share core values with you!
If you are dating a young lady, pray for the grace to be respectful and chaste toward her. She’s a daughter of God. Make Christ the foundation, and be honest with her if you are open to the priesthood!
Discerning in College
Living out your faith on a college campus is tough, but it can be an incredibly fruitful place to discern where the Lord is leading you!
For a lot of men, college is the first time they ever started seriously considering that God might be calling them to the priesthood. Or maybe you’ve had the idea of a priestly vocation in your mind for most of your life, but now you’re thinking about taking more concrete steps to explore that possibility.
Regardless of your background, college is an excellent time to start taking that call seriously. For many students, learning to live out the Catholic faith on their own for the first time in a university environment can be a challenge, but it can also be a wonderful time for growth and learning to seek God’s will for your life.
During your time at college, your Catholic Campus Ministry is one of your greatest resources for your prayer life and discernment. Most importantly, your campus ministry is your lifeline to God’s grace through Mass and the sacraments.
However, the benefits don’t end there. Getting connected to your local campus ministry will surround you with people who are focused on the same goal you are – seeking holiness in college! Having the support and influence of a good Catholic community makes a huge difference when it comes to discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
Discerning as a Young Adult & Beyond
Just as Peter and Andrew were called away from their nets, Christ continues to call men in the middle of their careers to come and learn to be “fishers of men.”
If you’re a young man reading this page, then congratulations! Chances are, you already have the first quality needed for discernment – an openness to God’s plan for your life.
Frequently, God calls men to the priesthood after they have finished college and have had the chance to live in the working world for several years. As a young adult, discerning and pursuing a vocation to the priesthood can come with its own unique challenges, but the process is basically the same as at any other age.
Regardless of what vocation God has planned for you, the most important part of discerning His will is developing and maintaining a consistent, healthy relationship with Him through prayer and the sacraments. As a young adult, this means making the time to get involved in your parish, and taking advantage of the prayer life of your community. In particular, attending daily Mass, going to Confession regularly, and incorporating devotions like the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration into your daily routine will help you build a solid life of prayer.
Make sure, as well, to find time to sit with God in silence. Scripture tells us that God speaks to us in a “still, small voice,” and in the busyness of the working world, it can be easy for that voice to be drowned out. Finding time for silent prayer will allow you the opportunity to hear His call with greater clarity.
Finally, no vocation is discerned alone! An essential part of serious discernment is seeking the guidance of the Church, and your diocese has dedicated resources and directors to help you in this process.
Most men will benefit from talking to their pastors, a spiritual director, or other trusted priests in their life about their discernment. They can point you to additional resources and give you practical advice about your situation and life of prayer – after all, they went through a similar experience.
Most importantly, get in touch with your diocesan vocation director! His role is to help guide you at every stage of your discernment with the diocese, to give you clear, honest advice and support, and ultimately to help you determine with certainty if God is calling you to be a priest of Jesus Christ.