Catholic Vocations
Archdiocese of Melbourne

What is a Priest?

A priest is a Christian, a member of the Church, called by God to proclaim the "Good News" of salvation to the world and to lead God's people in worship, especially in making present the saving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross in the Eucharist.  He is also privileged to bring Christ to people in the Sacraments:  he gives the life of Christ to people in Baptism; he forgives their sins in Reconciliation; he anoints the sick; he officiates at weddings.  In general, the priest brings Jesus Christ to people in their spiritual needs.

 

What exactly is a Vocation?

A vocation is a call from God to do something specifically for God and for His kingdom.  The primary vocation of every person is to be holy!  It is the divine calling to love and serve God, to obey his commandements, and to cooperate with Christ in the work of redemption by loving and serving others.  Evereyone is called to live the vocation of holiness, but everyone lives it in a special and unique way according to the plan of God.

 

What are some vocations I may be called to follow?

Many people are called to the vocation of marriage, while others may be called to the vocation of priesthood, the religious life as a sister or brother, or to the diaconate.  Equally Christ calls some to the commitment of single life.  Remember:  It is normal to desire marriage and family.  Just because you have this desire down not exclude the possibility that you have a vocation to the priesthood or religious service.

 

Can I be happy in my life if I don't follow God's Plan for me?

If you do not follow the vocation for which God made you, you can attain a certain degree of happiness in this world and still attain salvation (go to heaven).  However you can never be as happy as you might have been, had you followed your proper vocation.  This is why it is so important that you discern correctly.  The discernment of your vocation is likely to be the most important decision you will make in your entire life!  Of course, there are trials and tribulations in every vocation.  To become a priest does not take away all suffering.  But there is agreat joy in laying down one's life for Jesus!

 

Are most priests happy in their vocation?

Most priests are extremely happy in their vocations.  The life of a priest is a very rewarding life, both in this world and in the next.  The media often gives an incorrect impression of priests; that they are largely unhappy, frustrated and angry.  This is simply not true. Surveys of the job satisfaction of adult males in different roles consistantly find that priests always score very highly.

 

Is the daily life of a priest interesting?

There is never a dull moment for those in the priesthood.  It is a great challenge but it is also extremely rewarding.  When each day comes to a close, a priest can say, "Lord, today I spent myself for You."  What a wonderful thought with which to end one's day!

 

Can priests do anything they want for recreation and fun?

A priest can do anything he wants for recreation, as long as it is consistent with the Christian life.  Many priests play golf, basketball, tennis and engage in other sports.  Others enjoy movies, plays and reading.  Some like to go to the football, go swimming or fishing, to travel and every other imaginable entertainment.

 

Do priests get paid?

Priests do not get paid in the sense that people in the business world are paid.  Because a priest does not have a family and because he lives a simple life, he does not need a lot of money.  However, diocesan priests receive a stipend which enables them to buy their necessities, to buy and maintain a car, to take a vacation, and to do normal recreational activities.  Also, priests are given free room and board by the church for which they work, so their expenses are minimal.

 

Isn't it lonely being a priest?

Loneliness is a part of every vocation, at one time or another.  It is part of the human condition.  Married people get lonely at times, even though their spouses and children surround them.  Priests are always surrounded by people.  This is one of the joys of being a priest.  We are involved with people at the most profound moments of their lives.  Loneliness can be part of the life of a priest too, but when we do experience loneliness, Jesus can fill that void, as He does for people in every vocation.

 

Why can't priests get married?

Catholic priests do not get married so as to dedicate themselves completely to Jesus and to His people.  The sacrifice of celibacy is a sign to the world that only Jesus can give us the happiness that we all crave.  Giving up something as important as marriage and family is a powerful sign to the world that Jesus Christ is real!  He is worth living for and sacrificing for.  No, it is not easy, but neither is marriage.  The fact is, every vocation requires great personal sacrifice.  And there is great joy in sacrifice when it is done for Jesus and for others.

 

How do I know what God is calling me to do?

You must pray every single day, asking God to reveal His plan for you.  Do not ask yourself... You must pray every single day, asking God to reveal His plan for you.  Do not ask yourself, "What do I want to do with my life?"  This is the wrong question!  Rather, you should be thinking and asking:  "Jesus, what do You want me to do?"  And listen for the answer!  Listen with your heart, not just your head!  The discernment process in the priesthood must also include the Church.  Your bishop is the one who will ultimately decide who is and who is not called to be a diocesan priest.  He is assisted in this by the vocations office and the seminary staff.

 

What are the qualities that the Church looks for in a candidate for the priesthood?

A good candidate is a practicing, believing Catholic.  He attends Mass at least weekly, prays everyday, obeys the commandments, and tries to serve others.  He must be mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.  He must be open to the will of God and willing to learn and grow.  Do you have these qualities?

 

If I am attracted to the priestly life, does that mean I'm called to the priesthood?

Possibly, but not necessarily.  A man must pray a great deal, listening with both heart and soul to know what God wants him to do.  If you feel some attraction at this point, just continue to pray, go to Mass, and live a Christian life.  If you are living a Christian life, Jesus will let you know when the time comes.  Also, go talk with your parish priest or with the vocations director.  Try to come to diocesan-sponsored retreats and discernment nights.  The vocations director can help you determine if in fact God is calling you to the priesthood.

 

I'm not all that holy. Can I still be a priest?

Holiness (to be like Jesus) is a lifetime endeavour for every person in very vocation.  Don't worry if you don't see yourself as very holy right now.  God will form you slowly, day by day and week by week, so that you will be ready to be His instrument when the time comes.  But for now, use the sacrament of Penance regularly.  Repent of your sins, receive the sacraments, and pray every day.  You will be surprised at how Christ-like you can become!

 

How does someone become a priest?

After being accepted as a candidate by a diocese, a man who wants to become a priest will go to the seminary.  In the seminary, he will receive the preparation, both spiritual and academic for priesthood.

For most seminarians, it takes seven years from entry to Corpus Christi College to ordination to the Priesthood. In special circumstances, some men do a shorter course, some take longer.
Each year is a blend of human, spiritual, academic and pastoral formation. The prayerful and careful study of the Word of God begins in first year and continues through the whole course. However, every year has a special character and emphasis

Don't let the length of the course discourage you.  God always gives us the grace to do what He asks us to do.

 

If I decide to go to the seminary to 'give it a go', am I committed for life?

No you are not.  Most vocations directors agree that the only way to really know that you have a vocation to the priesthood is to go to the seminary and try.  It will become more and more clear to you once you are in an environment where everyone is also discerning the priesthood.  There is no obligation to stay in the seminary if you discover that priesthood is not for you.  Some people go to the seminary and eventually become priests while others discover different ways of serving the Lord.

 

Why do seminarians have to do so much study?

It is very important for a priest both to have a well-balanced education as well as a deep grasp of theology and the spiritual life.  Priests must be at least as well educated as the people they serve; otherwise they will not be respected when they speak of spiritual things.  Every soul is precious to God and therefore to the priest.  A priest is called to help the most educated as well as the least educated to find and follow Jesus.

 

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about the priesthood?

The following is taken from paragraphs 1591 - 1600 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


1591 The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the "common priesthood of the faithful." Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.


1592 The ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi).

1593 Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1).

1594 The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter.

1595 Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops' prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office.

1596 Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of their bishop.

1597 The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands followed by a solemn prayer of consecration asking God to grant the ordinand the graces of the Holy Spirit required for his ministry. Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental character.

1598 The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.

1599 In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God's kingdom and the service of men.

1600 It is bishops who confer the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees.

 

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