Is God calling me?
Identifying signs of a vocation to the priesthood and fostering it
Discernment is one of those ‘churchy’ words that often does not have exact equivalence in the day-to-day experience of most 21st century people. But it is an important one because one’s whole life and future ride on it. It is different from the more worldly ‘figuring out what I should do”.
Discernment involves trying to ‘figure out’ what is on the mind of God and His Church. Discernment is trying to hear the whisper of God’s calling for you in life. One does not decide that they want to be a priest; rather one accepts the invitation of the Lord to be a Priest of Jesus Christ.
The Wisdom of the Saints
The saints provide us with some ways of understanding this process that are important. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits has some specific advice on this. When he was laid up in bed nursing his war wounds he trained his mind to be sensitive to his internal feelings. He read books on soldiering and also lives of the saints. He noticed that both types of book held his interest and got him excited. But the feelings generated by the soldiering books left him immediately after he read them. But the feelings he got from the lives of the saints intensified even after he put down the book.
Guides for Discernment
- For someone ‘discerning’ whether he has been called to the priesthood, it is imperative that the decision not be taken at either a low point (I’m out of a job) or a high point (this retreat changed my life). If it is truly a call from God then it will have ‘staying power’ as St. Ignatius found out. You should feel the excitement in you about the thought of Priesthood when you are on a high and on a low and more importantly in the flat plateaus where we spend most of our lives.
- A second guide for discernment is the opinion of our family and friends, taken on the whole; not simply those who may be pushing you to say yes or those who think the priesthood is a waste of time and talent. Trusted advisors who see you soberly and have a positive faith perspective are needed.
- Thirdly, one must remember that the Church must also discern whether you have a vocation. There have been some who were convinced that God was calling them, but they got one ‘no’ after another ‘no’ from orders and dioceses. An aspirant to the priesthood must always remember that the Church is also called to a discernment process regarding an individual and that the approach of anyone to this great vocation needs to be both humble and obedient.
- When one continues to feel the call, and trusted people encourage them they should submit themselves humbly to the judgment of the Church. It is only through this process that one can adequately discern one’s future in the Lord.
"May I always be worthy of His calling."
Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, started out as a beautiful crisp and clear day. I was getting ready to celebrate a Funeral Mass when I heard something on the radio about a plane and the World Trade Center. I turned on the TV to see what was happening. I was shocked at what I saw. I changed from my clerical clothes into my NYPD work uniform. I knew I had to get to the site right after the funeral. As I celebrated Mass, I noticed a lot of commotion in the rear of the church. The funeral director was in and out of the building. As I completed the funeral and reached the doors of the church, I was told about the second plane in the WTC and the planes in Washington and Pennsylvania. They also told me about the collapse of the buildings. I expressed my condolences to the family and they told to "go and help those poor people.”...