Have you ever considered life as a priest, nun, or member of a religious community? Do you have what it takes to commit to that life? Is God calling you? These are not easy questions to answer. As someone who has been trying to answer these questions for 25 plus years, I can honestly say that they are not and have not been easy questions to answer. There is a reason for that. They are not meant to be easy. Answering God’s call is never easy because we never fully know or understand what He is calling us to do.
From the time I was nine years of age, I have had a very close connection to my Catholic faith. I became an altar boy at that age. Born and raised a “cradle” Catholic, I went to church every Sunday with my family and attended Catholic school, was taught my prayers and made my sacraments at the appropriate times. My faith has always been a guiding force in my life. Have I always followed it? No, I have not. Do I regret falling off the path? Not at all, because at some point I got back on the path and have been on it ever since. My faith is stronger now than it ever has been.
Before becoming an altar boy, I recall a moment where I was attending Sunday Mass with my family. I remember looking up at the altar and seeing the priest and saying to myself, “That is what I want to be when I get older.” Was God calling me then? Who knows for sure. I was far too young and not sufficiently educated to be able to understand such a serious calling. It would be a few more years before another “call” would come through. This time, a bit clearer than before.
I remember looking up at the altar and seeing the priest and saying to myself, “That is what I want to be when I get older.”At the age of 12, I was invited to attend a discernment retreat at a high school seminary in New Jersey. I had no idea what a seminary was. All I did know at the time was that it was a weekend trip, it was free and I would be excused from school the Friday of that weekend. That is all I knew and all that I cared about until I arrived at the seminary. That weekend everything changed for me. I got to see at firsthand what life was like in a seminary environment, and it was very appealing to me. I got to spend time in prayer with the students living at the school. I went home at the end of that weekend feeling something I had never felt before, or at least noticed before. When I got home, I told my parents that that was where I wanted to attend high school. They didn’t believe me at first, but over time and after numerous retreats at the seminary, they allowed me to apply to the seminary, and I was accepted. The journey was started.
God does not call everyone to serve as a priest or member of a religious community. It does take a special person to be able to answer the call to service in the Church. It’s not an easy life, nor is it meant to be. The training is extensive and rigorous, but if you are courageous, energetic, and faithfully committed, the journey is worth it.
if you feel like you are being called by God to be a priest or member of a religious community, the first thing you can do about it is prayHow do you know if you are being called? All I can say is this: if you feel like you are being called by God to be a priest or member of a religious community, the first thing you can do about it is pray. Yes, I said pray. Praying is the way we communicate with God. Prayer will give you answers, although they may not be the answers you were hoping for or even want to hear. We all have dreams and wishes for the kind of life we want but if it’s not what God wants for us, be assured He will let us know. It’s never about what we want; it’s about what God wants.
This is going to be the first in a series of articles about the discernment process for the priesthood and religious life. The next article will focus on what we do after we pray and still feel the call to priestly and religious life. Stay tuned.
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