What is a priestly vocation?
Vocation is a mystery of love between God who calls man with love and a man who responds to him freely and out of love. However, the vocation to the priesthood is not simply a feeling. Rather, it is an inner certainty born of God's grace, which touches the soul and calls for a free response.
If God calls you, the certainty will grow as your response becomes more generous. The call to the priesthood asks the man who receives it to dedicate his life to helping his brothers and sisters live closer to God. He has been called to perform a humble service in favor of all humanity.
When he is ordained a priest, he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders and is prepared to lend his body and spirit, that is, his whole being, to the Lord. He will make use of it especially in those moments in which he performs the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ and when, in the name of God, in sacramental Confession, he forgives sins.
Do we all have a vocation?
Yes, we have all been created by God for a purpose and an end. God has willed for each of us a unique and unrepeatable plan, conceived from all eternity: "Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you; before you came forth from the mother's womb, I consecrated you"..... Jeremiah 1:5.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the vocation to beatitude, in short, to holiness. To union with God who makes us participate in His happiness and loves us totally and unconditionally. The common vocation of all Christ's disciples is the vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.
God invites each one of us to follow a specific path in life with him. Some are called to a priestly vocation, others to religious life, and the laity are called to encounter him in ordinary life.
How do I know if I have a priestly vocation?
God calls everyone and some with a specific mission, designed personally for them: "Each one on his own way," says the Council. Each believer must discern his own path and bring out the best in himself, that which is so personal that God has placed in him, and not wear himself out trying to imitate something that has not been designed for him.
The tool we Christians have to discover our vocation and whether it is a vocation to the priesthood or not, is prayer. Prayer is absolutely necessary for the spiritual life. This dialogue with God allows the spirit to develop.
Prayer for vocational discernment
In prayer, faith in the presence of God and his love is actualized. It fosters the hope that leads us to direct our lives towards him and to trust in his providence. And the heart is enlarged by responding with one's own love to divine Love.
Our example is Jesus, who prays before the decisive moments of his mission. With his prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, to discover the will of our Father God and to identify ourselves with it. Moreover, as the Catechism recommends, at the moment of vocational discernment, the figure of a spiritual director can be of great help, that is, a person to whom we can entrust ourselves and who helps us to discover the will of God.
The duty to awaken vocations is incumbent upon the entire Christian community. In CARF we support this commitment.
In the priestly vocation there are no absolute rules. One can, however, take into account some general aspects or traits that help to discern whether a man is being called by God to the priesthood. Canon Law describes some signs of a priestly vocation.
- Life in Grace 100% 100%
- Absence of irregularities 75% 75%
- Evangelical Resignation 80% 80%
- Bishop's Appeal 90% 90%
Taste for the things of God
Love for the Church and the Eucharist are the clearest signs of the call to the priesthood. The taste for the things of God, can come suddenly as a magnificent discovery from an encounter with Christ, or having felt it all our lives since we were children, instilled by our family.
Love for the Church:
The priest works full time for the People of God, all his life, in a passionate dedication to the Church.
Love for the Eucharist:
Long periods of time before the tabernacle, participation in Holy Mass, daily communion, would be the process towards the priesthood.
Life in grace
We can say that the purpose of the priestly ministry is to achieve that all men may live in the grace of God and thus be saved eternally. For this purpose Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again.
It is not a question of knowing if the vocation to the priesthood is higher than the common path; but to know if I will serve the Lord better in such a state.
Absence of irregularities
It has been mentioned that the candidate, because of his love for the Church, participates in the apostolate. The apostolate becomes the main value in his life. We can say that apostolic zeal is a sign and a way of the priestly vocation.
When you have the responsibility of a parish or the direction of a school on your shoulders, when the problems of the people come from all sides, when even temptations lie in wait, it is necessary to possess an equanimity and a self-control that is foolproof.
In giving myself up, I have to accept the renunciation required by the practice of the evangelical counsels of a life of chastity. Many Christians, following the example of St. Paul, remained celibate in order to dedicate themselves completely to the service of God.
To be able to receive and fulfill a priestly formation in order to better assist all the people who are in the exercise of their pastoral work.
Late vocation to the priesthood
Each one has his own history and receives in a particular way the call of the Lord to follow him. In my case, since I was young I belonged to various movements and apostolic groups within the Church in my country and to one in particular, Encuentros Familiares de Venezuela, in which I served God for several years.
Interestingly, this movement focuses on the family and on the personal commitment to create a future family. My life project was focused towards this path, while I always felt God's presence in my professional project, which made me believe that this was also what God wanted for me.
I graduated as a Petroleum Engineer and practiced my profession in this field and as a University Professor. I was at the peak of my professional project: my family was very happy with the results I had obtained so far and my friends admired in a way my achievements at such a young age. I thought that this would be what would make me completely happy, but in reality it was not. I felt a bit empty and I also felt that I was called to something more. It was quite a blow to realize that my project had failed despite the success I had achieved so far and it was then that I set out on a quest.
From that moment on, several events began to happen in which I clearly saw that the Lord was asking me to surrender myself totally to follow Him: to leave my job, my profession, my studies, even my family. My family's reaction was at first a severe rejection. Obviously they did not understand the change that it would mean to leave everything I had built up over the years to embark on a new path.
Julio César Morillo Leal
Seminarian of the Diocese of Cabimas, Venezuela