Am I Called?

A vocation is an initiative of love from the heart of God.  He calls in a gentle and loving way and invites us to respond in freedom. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood takes time, prayer, reflection, patience and attentiveness to God’s action –  undertaken with the assistance of others.  It also takes courage to respond to the interior movements of the Holy Spirit. Could God be calling you to be a priest?  Explore below the signs of a calling to the priesthood, some of the challenges of responding to a call, and the joys priests experience in their vocation.

10 Signs of a Calling to Serve

These signs apply to all vocations! Are any of these things true in your case?

  1. I have a love for God, a desire to know Him intimately and serve Him with the gifts I’ve been given.
  2. I love my neighbours, care for their well-being and want them to know God in the same way I do.
  3. I feel unworthy of being called and genuinely humbled by being called.
  4. I am willing to serve God and am open to His plans for my life.
  5. I want to live out the word of God in my life; I want to be a saint!
  6. I want to attend Mass regularly and receive nourishment from the Eucharist.
  7. I know priests I admire and look up to.
  8. I have a generous heart and a willingness to make sacrifices to give glory to God.
  9. I have a compassion for those in need and a desire for justice.
  10. I have been given the gifts of intelligence and a sound mind.

 7 signs of a calling to the Priesthood

Here are some signs of a calling to the priesthood.  Have you experienced any of these?

  1. I wish to give myself completely to God. I want to exclusively identify myself with Christ and His Church.
  2. I want to contemplate the Word of God and share it with others through preaching and teaching.
  3. I feel a certain sense of attraction to the priesthood.  Sometimes I imagine myself being a priest, preaching and helping those in need.
  4. Thoughts of the priesthood have remained with me over a period of time.
  5. I have a love for prayer and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
  6. I experience a sense of joy and peace deep in my heart when I think about being a priest.
  7. I simply want to love like Jesus Christ.

Noticed any of these signs?

Take some time to reflect on these points. If you find that any of these signs are resonating with you, then don’t ignore them! Share your thoughts and feelings with God and ask Him for the courage to take action.  You may also find that when you think about a vocation to the priesthood, your first reaction is one of fear or resistance. This is a very common response among young men who are searching, and it does not mean you are not called to be a priest. See the next section on the challenges involved in responding to a call to the priesthood.

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The Challenges of responding to a call to the Priesthood

Anything worth doing is going to have challenges!  It is tempting to remain in our comfort zone, but deep down we know that remaining where life is secure and comfortable is not really living to our full potential.  Men thrive and become who God made them to be when they take hold of an opportunity to be courageous, bold and heroic.  Responding to a call to serve God as a priest is one of the gutsiest decisions a man could ever make.  Yet in all this, he relies on a strength that is not his own.  Through God’s grace and the support of others, saying ‘yes’ to His invitation is possible. Here are some challenges others have experienced in responding to a call to the Priesthood.  You may experience some of these too:

  1. Facing home truths.  Discerning your vocation is a process of self-discovery because it means asking, ‘Who am I?’ During this process you may discover things about yourself that are difficult to face.  It might be a wound from your past or something you don’t like about yourself.  The Lord allows us to experience this so that we can learn and grow, and ultimately experience His grace and mercy!
  2. Dealing with people’s reactions.  Some friends and family might be very supportive of a decision to pursue the priesthood.  Others will not be.  In a recent study of men ordained in the USA in 2014, half of the respondents said they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons.  Often friends and family are concerned about you pursuing a path which is unfamiliar to them.  During your discernment, your spiritual director or vocation director can talk these issues through with you: it’s likely they have experienced the same thing!
  3. Facing your fears. Some common fears include fear of making sacrifices, fear of losing your life or your identity, fear of surrendering your will to God’s, fear of letting go of things you are attached to. Part of the vocational journey is not to be imprisoned by your fears forever but to face your fears with the help of God and others.
  4. Understanding celibacy.  Some men who are called to the priesthood have always assumed they would marry and have children.  Maybe you find it hard to imagine how you could ever live a celibate life or be happy living one. Maybe you’re wondering what giving up sex means for your manhood. A desire for marriage, children and sexual intimacy is normal and natural for a priest. Our culture tends to characterize celibacy as unnatural or impossible.  But many saints and holy people were celibate!  Being celibate means sacrificing these good things for a greater good. The best way to proceed in your discernment is to learn more about the meaning of celibacy.
  5. Experiencing ‘spiritual dryness’. It is not uncommon for men who are living a committed Christian life to go through a period where they find it difficult to pray and don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence. This may be God’s way of drawing forth in you a deeper faith – that you would place your trust in Him even when you are not receiving His consolations.
  6. Moments of discouragement. Many men will feel unworthy when they think of being a priest. They may feel disappointed at their struggle to be free from sin, or despair at the difficulties they face in their spiritual life. It is important to recognise that discouragement does not come from God, who seeks to love and affirm us.
Priesthood_theChallenges_bodyPhotos by: (1) Giovanni Portelli, (2) Fr Stephen Varney, (3) Giovanni Portelli
All these challenges you may come across are common experiences for those discerning the priesthood.  Of themselves, they are not indicators that you don’t have a vocation to be a priest. If anything, it is the overcoming of these challenges which may be a way in which God wants to form you through your vocational journey. It’s a good idea to talk about these experiences you may be facing with a spiritual director.  If you don’t already have a spiritual director who can guide you as you explore these issues, you can contact the Vocation Centre to find one.

 

The Joys of the Priesthood

It is a strange quirk of our culture that the priesthood is often presented in terms of what a man gives up:  the priesthood is seen as giving up marriage, giving up children, etc.  Imagine if every time a couple got engaged to be married people looked at them sympathetically and said, “You poor things, you’ll never get to have a romantic relationship with anyone other than your spouse!”

At the same time, we rarely get to hear about the many joys priests experience.  Did you know that survey after survey shows that a high number of priests are happy and satisfied in their vocation?  Read about one study here. All vocations involve sacrifice.  All vocations have joys.  Below are some Sydney priests sharing about their own joys of the priesthood:

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WATCH

Fr Robert Barron Why It’s a Great Time to Be a Priest

Watch Fr Robert Barron speak on Being a Priest Today

READ

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To find out more about signs of a call, see Brett A. Brennan, To Save a Thousand Souls.  To obtain a free copy, contact us at vocations@sydneycatholic.org

Read Fr Stephen J. Rossetti, The Joy of Priesthood (2005)

Banner Photo Credit: Patrick J Lee