Knowing my Vocation
Discerning a Vocation to the Priesthood
Offered here is a prayer discernment exercise. Oven Seven moments there is a scripture text with a key question aimed at assisting young men who feel they may be called to the priesthood. Use this over a 7 day period – taking one point, in chronological order, each day.
- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
God, how did you imagine me before you made me?
- “I shall no longer call you servants … I call you friends.” (John 15:15)
God, why was it in your loving design for me to know Jesus?
- “You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother’s womb. For so many marvels I thank you.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
God, what are you telling me through my family and the many gifts you have given me?
- “There are many different gifts, but always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but always the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-5)
God, what are your plans for me in the service of others?
- “Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up … (and asked) “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life.” (Mark 10:17)
God, if I am to be a priest/religious how can I give up my other options in life?
- ”Come after me and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19)
God, why would you want me to be a priest or religious?
- “Do you love me? … Look after my sheep.” (John 21:16)
God, how can you give me the strength to prepare?
Twelve Guides for Discerning Priesthood
by Father Alexander Osborne
Discernment isn’t a simple matter of asking ourselves how we want to live, or what the best way of life is, it is asking God how he wants us to live. We are asking the question, “Who am I?” and “What is the purpose of my life?” These are some of the biggest questions of our lives, so it is very important to be patient. Discerning your vocation well takes plenty of time. When discerning, we need to adopt a lifestyle that allows us to discover ourselves and to know, worship and love God.
Here are my 12 recommendations for discernment:
- Ask God what your vocation is, pray for guidance and understanding. You simply cannot follow God if you do not communicate with him. If prayer is not part of your discernment, you are following your own will.
- Consciously ask Jesus to show you what you should do. Look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit in what you do so that you can discern what is from God apart from what is not.
- You are not alone on this journey, there are many who have responded to the call. If you are discerning the priesthood then seek out the company of priests. Get to know them, see how they live, and understand the type of work that is required of priests. Let me tell you, there is a lot more to being a priest than Sunday Masses.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for the help of other people in discerning the call. Other people can usually see our strengths and weaknesses much more clearly than we can. Seek out the advice and wisdom of people who know you well.
- Be active in the life of the Church. You are hoping to become someone who has a crucial role and responsibility in the Church; you will be her servant, her leader, her protector. You cannot fulfil this role if you do not understand her.
- Likewise, study the faith of the Church, grow in an ever-deepening prayer life, and participate as much as you can in the sacraments of the Church. Teaching the faith, celebrating the sacraments, and leading others in prayer will be the mainstay of your life as a priest, so become as familiar with them as you can.
- Likewise, be as active as you can be in your parish. One day you will lead a parish, so it is best to learn how they run now, learn how the community works, how things happen, what has worked and what did not work in the past. Be as open as you can be to your parish family, and it will set you up well in your future ministry.
- You need be a good and genuine example of the Christian faith. People look to priests for holiness; you cannot lead them to somewhere that you have not gone yourself.
- God has created you with particular gifts and talents, finding out what these gifts are is a key part of discernment. For example, being able to talk to strangers easily would be a wonderful gift for a priest to have, or being particularly good at encouraging or consoling parishioners.
- Jesus Christ is the only perfect priest; most of us are pretty poor imitations of him. Discernment involves knowing where we are weakest and where we need help. This is useful to discern, not only in order to manage or correct these shortcomings; but also to experience and know how God heals us, so that we can lead others to God’s healing. Most importantly, if we do not suffer or struggle ourselves we will not know to know how to be compassionate to those who suffer. A priest, who is blind to his own faults and sins, will be a terrible confessor.
- Learn how to suffer well. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23. No Christian life is easy, each and every one of us will confront the cross. However, we know that the cross leads us to heaven. Priesthood is not an easy life, becoming a priest is to share in the sufferings of Christ, of the apostles, of the martyrs, and to particularly share in the sufferings of your parishioners. Familiarise yourself with the sufferings of the Church and especially the suffering of priests.
- God is not calling you to misery or to pain, the cross leads us to the fullness of love. As much as the priesthood is a hard, it is also abundant in love. Learn how to have the heart of a priest. If you want to be a priest then learn how to love as a priest loves.