How do I really know that I have a calling to the priesthood?
It is difficult to generalise about something – like the call to priesthood – that is quite personal and unique to each one. For some, it takes the form of a growing attraction accompanied by the conviction that God is behind this, calling. For others, it can be a nagging, persistent thought that brings inner turmoil and disturbance at first, but then, when confronted, leads ultimately to a sense of ‘rightness’ and peace about it.
Perhaps an analogy will help: how does one know that this person is really ‘the love of my life’, the one I will marry? There are many factors: the fact that this particular person, whether by chance or by providence, has come into my life – this may be accompanied by a sense of awe or ‘wow’ (‘how lucky I am’!); a growing attraction and affection and a sense that this, in contrast to other desires and attractions, is ‘special’, that it has a unique quality that suggests that it is ‘the real deal’ and will lead eventually to permanent commitment. Other factors – more in the realm of ‘thought’ and ‘reason’ than feelings – are: compatibility, a ‘fit’ between the life I am contemplating (being married to this person) and my personality, my gifts and talents and the needs of my future spouse, etc. In short, I can see it working and working well. Weighing all factors up and considering also the counter-indications (e.g. my limitations, the limitations of my partner), I will see that the scales tilt decisively towards a ‘yes’ and this recognition brings inner peace and a sense of gratitude and joy.
Can I know for certain? No! I have to make a prudential judgement that takes into account all factors in the equation. Over time, the decision I take will either be confirmed – I will feel more and more ‘at ease’ with it – or not, in which case I should review my decision and perhaps change course before entering a permanent arrangement. With time, I may come to see things that were not clear to me earlier but which now indicate that this particular path is not for me.
An important ‘factor’ in coming to a good decision about one’s way in life is to speak to a trusted guide, to be open and candid with him or her about all factors playing on one’s mind and influencing one’s thoughts and feelings and desires in regard to the path one is considering.
Most popular questions
- I feel I have a specific charism to youth outreach. Can I live this charism out as a priest, or must I follow the charism of the order I join?
- Why are there so many different religious orders?
- Are religious orders different from one another? If so, how are they different?
- As a priest, will I get to see and talk with family and friends regularly?
- I read stories of religious communities merging or closing down. Are religious organisations dying out?
- What can I do as a priest that I cannot do as a layperson working for a charity or NGO?
- What if I change my mind about being a priest during training or things just don’t work out? How do I pick my life back up again?
- If I request information about joining a religious organisation, will I be pressured into joining?
- I’d like to join a religious community but I like living in Ireland. Can I be sent anywhere or do I have a say in the matter?
- What does discernment mean when we’re talking about vocation?