According to Catholicism, How does one know if God is calling him to be a priest?

If one is contemplating being a diocesan priest, what is the normal way one should do things in order to determine his discernment towards this call?

Is there a different approach taken for those who are considered late vocations?

For example take my own circumstances:

Earlier in my life, I ran after the highest level of education and tried very hard to achieve it. But after 20 years of effort, I obtained a certificate. I ran after every secular thing that there is. Nothing seems to attract me. So I am just wondering how does one knows if God is calling him to be a priest and what steps does one normally take to find out in the Catholic Church? What should one do?

  • 1
    This question is probably more or less pastoral advice which is off topic for the site. I think, however, that if you just cut all the personal stuff out of the question, it's on topic. There certainly are a lot of books about vocations to priesthood that could be used as answer and there is a process. – Peter Turner Nov 13 '19 at 17:52
  • I am going to delete all those answers in the comments though, well meaning as they certainly are. – Peter Turner Nov 13 '19 at 17:52
  • I want to look at it from the Catholic perspective. – user42447 Nov 17 '19 at 12:05

The question of whether you are called to be a priest, or really any other specific calling, is not one you make on your own. If you feel you might be called to such a thing you should follow a number of steps. Since we don't give personal spiritual advice, this will be generic advice.

First, pray about it. Ask God to show you whether he is really calling you or not. Pray lots, and keep praying during all the remaining stages.

Second, talk to someone about this. Someone who both knows you and knows something about the position you believe you are being called to. Not necessarily someone in that position, but who is not ignorant about it. Alternatively proceed straight to the next step.

Third, talk to your church leader, presumably your own priest. They will obviously know something about the position you think you are called to and a bit about you. They will pray with you and for you, and will give advice and their discernment of the situation. They also know the process, and if they agree that you may be called they will set the next steps in motion.

If after this these people, and you, agree that you might be called to a position then the next stage will be some sort of official discernment process. Part of this process is for the church to decide, with you, whether you are in fact called to a specific role. The details of the process will vary from church to church so there is no point in me describing it.

Note that this assumes you are in a church with a formalized clergy, which the word 'priest' would seem to imply. If your church is more congregation-based any official process will be very different. But praying about it yourself, and then praying with others, is almost always the best first step.

  • I hadn't realized the time lag there. Comment gone. (+1 had already happened) – KorvinStarmast Nov 19 '19 at 19:55

How does one know if God is calling him to be a priest?

All that D.J. Clayworth has posted in his answer is correct, yet it is somewhat incomplete.

Having been in a seminary for a number of years myself, I can say that the time in the seminary itself is simply a time of discernment for both the the individual and the Church.

The vocation to the priesthood is a calling from God and until the very moment of ordination their is in a sense no absolute way to determine one’s calling.

There are signs or indicators that one may be called to the priesthood:

  • Celebacy is easily maintained
  • A genuine prayer life is naturally obtained.
  • The Divine Office is prayed faithful at the point a seminary enters his theological studies (post philosophy studies years).
  • His scholastic studies are maintained at a certain level.

It should be noted that seminaries will also make a write recommendation to the Seminarian’s bishop for ordination to the deaconite and priesthood. Negative reviews do happen, but in the end it is the bishop and his advisers, who make the call. The only negative review from a seminary that I am aware of, the bishop in question actually proceeded with the ordination anyway: the phrase that the seminarian was too traditional was overlooked!

Even with all these lined up in the right way, on can not absolutely I have an vocation to the priesthood until one is actually called by the bishop to be ordained.

This is seen in the actual Rite of Ordination:

Rite of Ordination

When all has been prepared, the candidates are called forward by a Deacon. THe candidates are then presented to the Bishop by the Vicar for Vocations. Vicar: Most Reverend Father, holy mother Church asks you to ordain these, our brothers, to the responsibility of the Priesthood.

The Bishop inquires as to the worthiness of the candidates.

Bishop: Do you know them to be worthy?

Vicar: After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that they have been found worthy.

After judging them worthy, he elects them for ordination.

Bishop: Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood.

All present: Thanks be to God

It is only after this point can the Church and the individual to be ordained know for sure that they have a vocation from God to minister to the People of God.

Seminary studies are generally for eight years of post secondary school (four years of philosophy and four years of theology). That is lots of time for discernment!

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