How did you know you were being called to the priesthood?
September 17, 2020
By Fr. Eduardo Rivera, CSB
“Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas.’ The next day he decided to go to Galilee and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.’” John 1:40-43
When people ask me how I heard “the call,” they often want to know if there was a specific moment or feeling that directed me to the priesthood. When did I know that God was calling me to be a priest? Was I a young boy, a teenager, or a college student? In reality, I heard the call to the priesthood through a series of moments. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life is a process or journey, rather than a single moment.
The first disciples followed Jesus, when John the Baptist directed them to the Messiah. They heard the call in a very direct way with Jesus even telling Philip, “Follow me” (Jn. 1:43). Throughout the gospels, we continue to find that the disciples have heard the call to follow Christ, but they still have trouble discerning the fullness of what Christ is calling them to do. Whether the disciples have a difficult time understanding one of Jesus’ parables or making sense of the crucifixion, it takes them time and the help of the Holy Spirit to fully comprehend and carry out their mission/calling.
The first step in discerning any vocation is developing a stable prayer life. If prayer is the way in which we communicate with God, then it is essential to set aside time daily to pray and listen to God, calling out to us. In a world filled with so much noise, prayer helps us to focus and hear God. I heard God calling me while I would be on retreat and in Eucharistic adoration. These were places and times set apart particularly to connect with God. Any kind of retreat can assist us in listening for God’s call. It is because retreats and Eucharistic adoration naturally help us step away from the busyness of our lives. In these moments, I felt a profound draw to serving the faithful through the sacraments.
By cultivating a prayer life, I was able to hear God speak through my daily interactions with other people. Whether I was in class helping a friend who was having a tough day or at Mass, I found that my prayer life disposed me to discovering God in my everyday interactions. People would see something in me that I would not notice. They would ask if I had thought about being a priest. Additionally, I felt called to follow the example of the good priests in my life from my parishes and Catholic schools.
To help discern and make sense of what I was hearing in prayer, I found a spiritual director who journeyed with me. Over the years, I have had several different spiritual directors; each one has walked beside me in my discernment process. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life is never done alone. My discernment journey began in high school and continued to my time in formation as a novice and a scholastic at the seminary. At a certain point, I had to decide if I was ready to apply to a religious order or diocese. I spoke with various vocation directors and priests. When I joined the Basilian Fathers, I continued to discern my vocation to the priesthood and religious life with the help of the community.
The best way to know if you are called to the priesthood is by first building up a habit of daily prayer, set aside time each day to listen to God. Pray that you may be open to your vocation and doing His will. Secondly, find a spiritual director who can help you understand what God is calling you to do. Discernment never happens alone. As the disciples journeyed and understood their calling together, you will only know if you are called to be a priest with the help of other people. Lastly, speak with priests and do not be afraid of applying to enter a religious order or diocese. Remember that discerning a call to the priesthood takes time. From Jesus saying “Follow me” to Pentecost, it took time for the disciples to fully comprehend their calling, but they remained opened to Christ. Be open to the possibility of Christ calling you to the priesthood.
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