What is a vocation?
The word vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare” which means “to call”. Throughout history, God has called his people. As members of God’s people, we believe he calls us too. God made us and He knows why He did so. God has a plan for our lives. His plan is our vocation. For some, that vocation means marriage, for others it’s in priesthood and religious life, for still others through the single life. But for all of us our vocation is to live as God desires us to live, to be holy.
How do I know what my vocation is?
Knowing one’s vocation is a process of discovery. We discover our vocation as we come to learn more about God, about ourselves and about others. As we come to know God through our prayer, the sacraments and our living of our Christian life, we come to hear his call. We learn to hear his voice and what he is inviting us to do.
As we come to know ourselves, discovering our gifts and talents, our likes and dislikes, we come to find particular desires in our heart. A desire for a family may point to a vocation to Marriage. A desire for service and ministry may point to a vocation to Priesthood or Religious Life. Finally, as we grow in our relationship with others, we begin to find our vocation. Often other people serve as “mirrors” to us. They help us to see ourselves, our gifts and talents. People may ask us, “Did you ever think about becoming a priest?” Such a question can help serve as a great consideration to one who is discerning.
“I think I might be called to the priesthood, but how will I know?”
We only know our vocation by coming to know God. He is the source of everything, the author of life and it is He who gives our life direction. Therefore, in coming to know our vocation, it is important to come to know the Lord. This is prayer. Prayer is the act of bringing everything before God — our ideas, thoughts, concerns and situations. As we bring these things to Him, he begins to reveal himself to us and will show us the way through consolations of the Holy Spirit.
We can also take steps to investigate our interests: Participate more in parish events, talk to a priest, visit the seminary, read a book on the priesthood. As you take these steps, you can be discerning your own spirit, how the Lord is leading, where he is leading you now.
“I know a lot of guys that I think are holier than me. Could I still have a vocation to the priesthood?”
Yes. God’s call, as evidenced in the Scripture, is not based on our holiness. Rather, his call is for our holiness. God calls us not because we are holy, but he calls us to make us holy. We see that this is what God did this with all the Saints (i.e. Peter, Paul and Augustine) and he does so with us. Therefore, the main question is not who is more holy than I, but rather, how is it that I am called to be holy. For some, that being made holy comes through the gift of being a priest.
“I think God’s calling me to the priesthood but sometimes I feel attracted to girls.”
Attraction to girls is a normal thing and is not an obstacle to the priesthood. But like all of our attractions, we need to learn how to direct them properly. Our attractions are not obstacles but they can become obstacles if we allow them. A husband for instance, even though he is married, may be attracted to other women. This can be an obstacle to his marriage. As men, we need to learn how to love and respect women properly. This comes in time and with God’s help. The virtue that helps us here is Chastity. As a priest, a man’s wife is the Church. He must be faithful to her, and he must love her as Jesus did. With this is mind, the priest’s attractions are directed accordingly.
“I’m concerned what my friends and family might think or how they will react if I tell them I’m interested in the priesthood.”
Being concerned about your family and friends is a valid concern. More often then not, however, it is those who are closest to us who see the signs of priesthood within us and are not surprised by our interests. I would suggest that in thinking of priesthood you do not have to tell your entire family or friends at first. But rather, you can begin to share your thoughts about the Church, priests, or the Eucharist. In this way, you can begin to grow stronger in your thoughts as you share them with others. Those who love you may not totally understand but they will support you in your good desires.
“How can I find out more about the priesthood without feeling like I’m obligated to join?”
The best way to find more information is do what you are doing looking on the internet. Beyond that, it would be good to talk to a priest who you can trust. You may even be interested in visiting the seminary itself. Discernment is never a matter of obligation. It is a matter of Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See”.