The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena
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Discerning a Priestly Vocation
Why do you exist? What is God calling you to?
What will fulfill you and truly make you happy?
A vocation is a call from God to a certain state of life.
Many people are called to Marriage and family life.
Some are called to the Consecrated Life. Yet some men are called to the Sacred Priesthood.
God thus calls us each of us to a certain vocation, one which best suits our talents,
best prepares us for Heaven, and most honors Him.
Everyone has a duty to discern and fulfill this vocation.
The Priesthood is a unique vocation in the life of the Church, one which is necessary for the salvation of souls.
As St. John Vianney put it in the 19th Century:
"Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have Our Lord.
Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest.
Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest.
Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest.
Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ?
The priest, always the priest.
And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace?
Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”.
Pope Benedict XVI, commenting on this text, wrote:
"These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor,
might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the sacrament of the priesthood.
He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility:
'Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth [wrote St. John Vianney,] we would die: not of fright, but of love…
Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail.
It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth…
What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door?
The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.'"
God wants to shower humanity with abundant blessings and graces,
and He has chosen the priest to be the special instrument for this task.
Without the priest and the Sacraments, many souls would spiritually starve,
and would find it very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to get to Heaven.
This is why discerning true priestly vocations is of enormous importance.
What are the signs?
When we say that a man has a vocation to the priesthood,
it simply means that God’s will is for that particular man to become a priest.
Priestly vocations do not usually become known through visions or interior voices,
but rather by various indicators – in a man’s character, piety, and inclinations –
that the Holy Spirit is moving him to the Priesthood.
Among the ordinary signs of a priestly vocation are:
• A genuine and perduring inclination of mind to serve God as a priest.
You feel attracted to the life of the priest, and to ecclesiastical things.
You might be interested in the Church’s Liturgy, in learning more about the teachings of the Church
so as one day to transmit them to others, or missionary work.
There is something about the priesthood that draws you.
• A genuine desire to promote the glory of God and of His Church, and the salvation of souls.
This is the real work of the priest, and at times it demands great sacrifices.
This is the only true motive of becoming a priest.
It would be wrong to become a priest for the wrong motive: for example, because people would have great respect for you.
• A good moral life.
One of the signs of not having a vocation is the inability to stay away from mortal sin for an extended time.
But this does not mean that one must be a saint to discern a priestly vocation;
it simply means that you must be serious about your spiritual life, that you receive the sacraments often,
be intentional about avoiding circumstances that lead to sin, and strive to lead an upright life.
The life of a priest is a life of prayer,
and part of a vocation to the priesthood is an inclination to prayer – both liturgical prayer and private prayer.
• Emotional / Psychological stability.
The priest must be a father to all, and must bear the problems of all,
and cannot himself be burdened with emotional and psychological problems.
• At least average intelligence.
The priest must faithfully transmit Catholic doctrine to the faithful,
and accurately identify and diagnose their sins in the confessional.
Hence he must have at least average intellectual ability to pass his seminary courses.
• Good physical health.
The priest must be in good physical condition in order to carry out his work.
Those who suffer from chronic illnesses, cognitive impairment, or who have significant physical limitations
cannot enter the priesthood.
Here are some discernment resources:
General information about the Priesthood: http://www.heroicpriesthood.com/resources/
Pope Benedict XVI’s address to seminarians:
Office of Vocations of the Diocese of Bridgeport: http://www.bridgeportvocations.org/
Any young man who is discerning a vocation to the Priesthood should feel free to speak with one of the parish priests, who would be happy to answer any of his questions, and/or to put him in touch with a sound Spiritual Director.
The Vocation Director of the Diocese of Bridgeport is Father John Connaughton.He may be reached at FrConnaughton@diobpt.org.
Prayer to St. John Vianney for Priestly Vocations:
Saint John Vianney, parish priest of Ars,
through many difficulties, you were ordained to the Holy Priesthood.
Hear my prayers for the priests of the Church throughout the world,
and especially for the priests of this diocese and parish.
Accept my sacrifices, moral and material,
for an increase in vocations to the priesthood.
By your intercessions,
may worthy young men hear Christ's call to follow Him
and be ordained to preach the Gospel
and to celebrate the Holy Sacraments,
so that through their anointed lives
many may see their Savior, and follow Him to Heaven.