The Initial Steps to Discovering Your Vocation as a Priest
“A vocation is a call…[it is] a request, a petition from God saying, ‘I love you. I invite you. I am asking you to do this, to help me bring the kingdom of God to fulfillment.’”
-Fr. Brett Brannen, To Save A Thousand Souls
Discerning your vocation is a long process of introspection and consultation with God. It is not an order or a command, but rather an invitation from God to discover His path for you. In order to properly discern your vocation, you must be humble, honest, prayerful, patient and courageous -- instant gratification is not part of the process. Being open and honest with yourself and with your spiritual director is crucial to discovering your vocation. God made us to be happy and lying to yourself and to others is a denial of His plan for your happiness.
The first stage is an initial attraction to priesthood and can take place at any point, even during childhood. According to Fr. Brett Brannen, “it is usually a fascinating attraction that is not well understood, and it leaves one with a sense of wonder.” You may feel it during Mass one day, while reading the bible, or interacting with priests of various ages.
You may find that you’ve been thinking about priesthood for a while, maybe even a few years. You may not actively think about it every day, but those thoughts surface during prayer or Mass. Your curiosity has probably already led you to read vocation materials, speak with priests and seminarians, and ask God for guidance. Frankly, someone in this stage isn’t all that excited about priesthood, according to Fr. Brannen, “he might pray, ‘God, please tell me that priesthood is not what you want from me. Why am I still thinking about this?’ The primary emotions are growing fear and denial.”
While still fearful, there is a growing love and trust in God during this period. You realize that your attraction to priesthood will not go away and you become more serious in your efforts to grow in your faith and may consult with a spiritual director. Your desire to serve others will grow and you’ll experience happiness while serving as your love for God matures.
At this point, you’ll realize that God is probably calling you to the priesthood and there is a sense of peace associated with it. You will have probably consulted a spiritual director and a vocation director and have come to the conclusion that discernment can’t continue outside of seminary. There is excitement at the thought of becoming a priest and your vocation director will help you begin the application process.
Finally, you’ll attend seminary. You’ll learn what it takes to be a priest, benefit from life experiences and strive to live a life of prayer. “You’ll have a developed spiritual plan of life: going to Mass every day, praying before the Blessed Sacrament, and seriously studying the faith. . .you are falling in love with Jesus and the Catholic faith. You are praying, going to spiritual direction, studying, and serving.”
After 2-4 years of seminary, you will have grown very much in your faith, prayer, knowledge and generosity. You know Jesus personally. “The excitement of those early years in seminary are over and you’re now doing the hard work of priestly formation through daily prayer and study. . .you are leaving the stages of discernment.”
This is the very last step and is more of the end of discernment, rather than a step of the discernment process. You will no longer have fears of becoming a priest, but rather excitement. Fr. Brannen: “A man in this stage does not ask God whether or not he should become a priest; he asks God to help him become a good, holy priest.”