Frequently Asked Questions about Discernment

What in particular are some of the vocations that I might be called to follow?

Most people are called to the vocation of marriage, while some are called to the vocation of priesthood, to consecrated life as a Sister or Brother, or to the diaconate.  Remember: It is natural and holy to desire marriage and family.  The vocation to married life is the universal call planted in the heart of everyone.  Some are given the grace to transform that natural call and desire into a supernatural vocation.  A candidate for seminary should desire to be a father.  Thus, this desire does not exclude the possibility that you have a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.

How do I know what God is calling me to do?

You must pray every single day, asking God to reveal his plan for you. Do not ask yourself, “What do I want to do with my life?” This is the wrong question! Rather, you should be thinking and asking: “Jesus, what do You want me to do?” And listen for the answer! Listen with your heart, not just your head! The discernment process in the priesthood must also include the Church. Your bishop is the one who will ultimately decide who is and who is not called to be a diocesan priest. He is assisted in this by the vocation office and the seminary. The process for consecrated life will include the Religious Order or organization or even bishop.

Can I be happy in my life if I don’t follow God’s plan for me?

If you do not follow the vocation for which God made you, you can attain a certain degree of happiness in this world and still attain salvation (go to heaven). However, you can never be as happy as you might have been, had you followed your proper vocation. This is why it is so important that you discern correctly. The discernment of your vocation is the most important decision you will make in your entire life! Of course, there are trials and tribulations in every vocation.

What is a priest?

A priest is a Catholic man called by God to proclaim the “Good News” of salvation to the world and to lead God’s people in worship, especially in making present the saving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross in the Eucharist. He is also privileged to bring Christ to people in the Sacraments: he gives the life of Christ to people in Baptism; he forgives their sins in Reconciliation; he anoints the sick; he officiates at weddings. In general, the priest brings Jesus Christ to people in their spiritual needs.

What exactly is a “vocation”?

A vocation is a call from God to do something specifically for God and for his kingdom. The primary vocation of every person is to be holy. It is the divine calling to love and serve God, to obey his commandments, and to cooperate with Christ in the work of redemption by loving and serving others. Everyone is called to live the vocation of holiness, but everyone lives it in a special way according to the plan of God.

 Are most priests happy in their vocations in their lives and in their work for Christ?

Most priests are extremely happy in their vocations. The life of a priest is a very rewarding life. The media often give an incorrect impression of priests; that they are largely unhappy, frustrated and angry. This is simply not true. Priests are far happier in their lives than most of the population and well over 90% would do it again if given the chance.

 But why can’t priests get married? That must be difficult.

Catholic priests do not get married so as to dedicate themselves completely to Jesus and to His people. The sacrifice of celibacy is a sign to the world that only Jesus can give us the happiness that we all crave. Giving up something as important as marriage and family is a powerful sign to the world that Jesus Christ is real! He is worth living for and sacrificing for. No, it is not easy, but neither is marriage. The fact is, every vocation requires great personal sacrifice. And there is great joy in sacrifice. And there is great joy in sacrifice when it is done for Jesus and for others!

 Will priests ever be allowed to get married?

Perhaps a better question is, “Would this be what is best for the Church?” As said above, celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a powerful sign that Jesus is real, and that He is worth living for, sacrificing for, and dying for! Besides, in the world as a whole, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life have dramatically increased in the last 30 years. In Africa, they increased by 394%; in southeast Asia by 152%; in Central America by 165%; and in South American by 253% It is only in the U.S. and western Europe that there has been a decline. Perhaps it seems the problem is not celibacy, but other larger cultural issues and values.

 Will I be lonely if I become a priest?

Loneliness is part of every vocation, at one time or another. It is part of the human condition. Married people get lonely at times, even though their spouses and children surround them. Priests are always surrounded by people. This is one of the joys of being a priest. We are involved with people at the most profound moments of their lives. Loneliness can be part of the life of a priest, too, but when we do experience loneliness, Jesus can fill that void, as He does for people in every vocation. Celibacy is a charism, a gift from God, that we choose to accept. We do not force ourselves into it.

 Do priests get paid?

Priests get paid. Because a priest does not have a family and because he lives a simple life, he does not need a lot of money. However, diocesan priests receive a salary which enables them to buy their necessities, to buy and maintain a car, to take a vacation, do normal recreational activities, and save for retirement. Priests are provided room and board so their expenses are minimal.

 Can priests do anything they want for recreation and fun?

A priest can do anything he wants for recreation, as long as it is consistent with the Christian life. Many priests play golf, basketball, softball, and engage in other sports. Others enjoy movies, plays, and reading. Some like to watch hockey, ski, hunt, fish, travel, and every other imaginable entertainment.

If I am attracted to the priesthood and priestly life, does that mean God is calling me to be a priest?

Possibly, but not necessarily. A man must pray a great deal, listening with both heart and soul to know what God wants him to do. If you feel some attraction at this point, just continue to pray, go to Mass, and live a Christian life. If you are living a Christian life, Jesus will let you know when the time comes. Also, go talk with your parish priest or with the vocation director. Try to come to diocesan-sponsored retreats and discernment nights. The vocation director can help you determine if in fact God is calling you to the priesthood.

 I’m not all that “holy.” Can I still be a priest if I’m not very holy?

Holiness (to be like Jesus) is a lifetime endeavor for every person in every vocation. Don’t worry if you don’t see yourself as very holy right now. God will form you slowly, day by day and week by week, so that you will be ready to be his instrument when the time comes. But for now, use the sacrament of Penance at least once a month. Repent of your sins, receive the sacraments, and pray every day. You will be surprised at how Christ-like you can become!

 How does someone become a priest?

After being accepted as a candidate by a diocese, a man who wants to become a priest will go to the seminary. In the seminary, he will receive the preparation, both spiritual and academic for priesthood. If he enters right after graduation from high school, he’ll work towards an undergraduate degree, with an emphasis in philosophy, before continuing in a graduate program in theology. Seminary training and discernment ranges from six to nine years, depending on one’s educational background, before a man is ordained a priest. But do not let this discourage you. God always gives us the grace to do what He asks us to do.

 Is all this education necessary?

It is very important for a priest both to have a well-balanced education as well as a deep grasp of theology and the spiritual life. Priests must be at least as well educated as the people they serve. Every soul is precious to God and, therefore, to the priest. A priest is called to help the most educated as well as the least educated to find and follow Jesus.

 What are the qualities that the Church looks for in a candidate for the priesthood?

A good candidate is a practicing, believing Catholic. He attends Mass at least weekly, prays everyday, obeys the commandments, and tries to serve others. He must be mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. He must be open to the will of God and willing to learn and grow. Do you have these qualities?

 If I decide to go to the seminary to “give it a try,” am I committed for life?

No, you are not. Most vocation directors agree that the only way to really know that you have a vocation to the priesthood is to go to the seminary and try. It will become more and more clear to you once you are in an environment where everyone is also discerning the priesthood. There is no obligation to stay in the seminary if you discover that priesthood is not for you. Some people go to the seminary and eventually become priests while others discover different ways of serving the Lord.

 Is the daily life of a priest interesting?

There is never a dull moment for those in the priesthood. It is a great challenge but it is also extremely rewarding. When each day comes to a close, a priest can say, “Lord, today I spent myself for You.” What a wonderful thought with which to end one’s day!

What does “vocation” mean?

It is Latin for “vocare” which means to call.

 How do you know what your vocation is?

In order for you to know how the Lord wants you to make a gift of your life, you must spend time with Him in quiet prayer. In this prayer, you are able to pour out your heart and express to Him all the desires of your heart. But more importantly, He wants to speak to you about His love and His plan for your life. It is also helpful to share with someone older and wiser (i.e. your parish priest, a Religious priest or Brother, etc.) about the promptings the Lord has been putting on your heart so that they might be able to help you understand and respond faithfully to the vocation you are being invited into by the Lord.

 How do you feel when God calls you to be a priest or Brother?

There are many different ways God calls one to be a priest or Brother. Often it is in the secret recesses of your heart that you hear the Lord call you to Himself through the priesthood or brotherhood. This is why we must cultivate silence in our lives, so that we might hear the Divine Savior speak our name.

 What happens if I don’t follow God’s plan for my life?

Remember the rich young man? Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

The Lord reveals to us through the rich young man that He offers eternal life to all who follow the commands of God. But to those who have been invited to leave all and follow Jesus, they have a choice to say yes or no. If they say no, they do not lose salvation, but they do go away sad. Why? Because the Lord has extended to them a great gift to follow Him in a particular way, and they chose not to receive the gift. Although they choose not to respond to the call to be an intimate companion of Christ, they still receive the grace of eternal life in the world to come.

 How do you make up your mind to devote your life to God?

We make up our minds to devote our lives to God through prayer and love. As we hear the Lord’s voice calling us to Himself, we respond in love to the voice of the Beloved. It is only through the grace of God that we respond to the grace of our vocation, and it is with His help that we persevere in our call.

 Is a religious vocation greater than being married or being single?

God calls only a few to embrace a life of consecrated, celibate love for the Kingdom. He does this so that those who are in the world can be continually reminded of where we are going, that heaven is our true homeland. Because it is a supernatural vocation, the Church upholds the great dignity that Religious Life and Priesthood is. Because marriage is a natural vocation, it is upheld with the great sacramental dignity in the Church, it will be the way of salvation and sanctification for most of the Church. The vocations of Religious Life and Priesthood compliment the vocation of Marriage. God wants both to be present in the Church; our task is to fulfill His call for us personally.

 What is a “Brother”?

A Brother is a consecrated man who is dedicated to the Lord through prayer, penance, and active works of charity. A Religious Brother is a man called by God to freely embrace the call to the consecrated life through the profession and living of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. A Religious Brother lives out his consecration to Christ through prayer, community life, and apostolic works, and would not minister the sacraments proper to the priesthood.

 How old do you have to be a priest or brother?

Priest – a young man can begin preparation for the priesthood at the age of 18 years.

Brother – depending on the Religious Community, a person could begin formation to become a Brother as early as 18 years old.

 What must you do to become a priest or Brother?

Meet with either the vocation director of the diocese or the Religious Community and continue to take the next steps laid out for you through the diocese or the Religious Community.

 Do you have to be Catholic to be a Brother?

To embrace a life of consecrated love and to forgo the good things of this world, such as marriage, family, and riches, a young person must have a deep love for Christ and His Church. To be a part of a Religious Community of Catholic Brothers, clearly you would need to be Catholic. There are a few Communities that have developed over the past several decades that are ecumenical. This is where you have a Community of Brothers who live in community with each other but are of all different Christian faiths.

 If you are called to the Religious life in the middle of marriage, can you switch?

No. When you commit your life to another person, it is until death. This is why it is very important to discern your vocation well before you get married so that you might really be faithful to the call the Lord has given you in the married vocation.

 If you realize you weren’t really called to be a priest or Brother, can you quit?

To become a priest or Brother takes many years of formation and discernment. It can take anywhere from 5-8 years before one would make a final commitment to the particular vocation they have received. Up until this point, if it does not seem to be where the Lord wants this person, they can leave at any time. After they make final commitment to their vocation, they are then expected to persevere in the way of life the Lord led them to.


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