The priesthood is not a job; it is a vocation! Click the links below to learn more about vocation and what it means to be a priest.
The root word for vocation is vocare, which is Latin for “to call.” God has created each one of us for a particular calling or way to follow Him. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we become a child of God and thus called to live in holiness through love of God and neighbor. It is important to also remember that our true vocation does not come from the world, but rather is an invitation directly from God to follow Him.
Our first or primary vocation is to live in holiness, or in other words, to become a saint! While this is a challenge for us all, it should be the goal of every baptized child of God.
Our particular vocation then becomes our state in life: Priesthood, Consecrated Life, Marriage or Single Life.
Learning what our particular vocation will be requires a process we call discernment. It will be utilized at various stages in our lives, and God will use others to assist us in that process.
Do you have the courage to ask God the question that is seldom uttered in our busy world, “Lord how are you calling me to follow You?”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8
A Priest is a man of Prayer
The priest is first and foremost a man of prayer. The priest lives “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ) so his most important prayer is to re-present the sacrifice of Jesus during Holy Mass. His parish relies on him to offer a sacrifice “holy and acceptable to God.” Throughout the week, too, at parish meetings and community functions, he is often asked: “Father, will you lead us in prayer?” He is seen as a man who knows how to speak with God.
A priest spends each day in personal prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours and time in private meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. His private prayer is essential, for he must know Him of whom he speaks, teaches and preaches; he must come to have an intimate relationship with Christ. The priest becomes “another Christ” for his people.
A Priest is a preacher of the Word
Since the beginning of Christianity, people have come to Jesus through the preaching of the Word. Today, this remains a primary ministry of a priest. Because the majority of Catholics encounter the faith and receive their inspiration to practice it from the preaching of their parish priest, men who can articulate their knowledge and excitement about their faith are a great treasure to the Church. A priest’s duty, then, is to teach his people how Christ’s life is relevant to their own. He answers the question, “How can I live out my faith today?”
“The Church faces a particularly difficult task in her efforts to preach the word of God in all cultures in which the faithful are constantly challenged by consumerism and a pleasure-seeking mentality.” (St. John Paul II)
A Priest is a Servant
A priest is not a priest for himself. The ordained priest shares in the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet and King. As priest, he prays and celebrates the Eucharist. As prophet, he preaches and teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as king, he serves others.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Eucharistic mandate to His apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” but not before the Lord had knelt down and washed their feet. Jesus said, “What I have done for you, you must do for one another.”
A priest must be a servant to God’s people. He brings the love and strength of Christ into the parish, the school, the hospital room, the prison, the inner city…wherever God’s people are and especially wherever they suffer, the priest is there.
Definition of Terms:
Celibacy: The state of being unmarried, specifically for the sake of giving oneself full time to build the Kingdom of God. This is a gift from God, to which a man must be called. Presently, to be called to the priesthood in the Latin Roman Catholic Church is also a call to celibacy.
Chastity: “The successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual person and thus inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” (CCC#2337) Chastity is the virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason. Priests, Sisters, married persons, and single persons are called by God to chastity, to use their sexuality according to God’s plan in their specific state in life.
Are some of these your questions in regards to celibacy?
- “I really like girls!”
- “I have not always lived a chaste life. Can I still be considered for the seminary?”
- “I struggle with purity, so I’m not sure I possess the holiness that is required for a commitment to celibacy.”
- “Celibacy seems like a life of loneliness…will I be happy alone?”
- “I think I still want to be a father?”
“The requirement of celibacy is certainly one of the greatest sources of anxiety and fear in a man who is discerning priesthood. This is especially true in a sex-saturated society and culture. The message we receive from the media and culture is very clear: no person can be happy and fulfilled unless they are having a lot of sex. But this is simply not true.”
“The good news is that God’s grace can accomplish all things! With the power of Jesus’ cross, a man can overcome sexual lust and live his life peacefully in his respective vocation. It can be done. It is possible. There is much evidence. For example, there are approximately four hundred thousand Catholic priests worldwide. The huge majority of these men at one time said these or similar words, “I can never become a priest because I like girls too much.” Well, all four hundred thousand of them are priests now. God will never send us where His grace cannot sustain us.”
Excerpts taken from: To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood by Fr. Brett Brannen (Pgs. 216-219)
For additional reading on Celibacy:
Virginity by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap
Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Priestly Celibacy) by Pope Paul VI
The Courage to be Chaste by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development and Theological Foundations by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler
Discerning Vocations to Marriage, Celibacy and Singlehood by Marie Theresa Coombs and Francis Kelly Nemeck
Why Celibacy: Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest by Fr. Carter Griffin
Priestly Celibacy Today by Fr. Thomas McGovern
When God Asks for an Undivided Heart by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.
To Save a Thousand Souls by Fr. Brett Brannen
The overwhelming majority of priests are extremely happy in their vocations! Why? Because they are doing what the Lord intended for their lives. Most priests will cite administering the Sacraments, preaching the Word, and helping people and their families as great sources of satisfaction.* Ultimately, the source of happiness for any child of God is his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and the priest is given the privilege of acting in the person of Christ at key moments in the life of the Church.
You might ask….do you have any facts to back this up? In a study published in October 2011 by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, “Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests”, reports that 92% of priests say they are happy in the ministry. More information can be found about this study below.*
* Study conducted in 2003 by Dr. Dean Hoge, and Jacqueline Wenger entitled: Evolving Visions of the Priesthood: Changes from Vatican II to the Turn of the Century,that concluded: Would you indicate how important each of the following is as a source of satisfaction to you? Percent saying: This is of great importance
– 90% Joy in administering the sacraments and presiding over the liturgy.
– 80% Satisfaction in preaching the Word of God.
– 67% Opportunity to work with many people and be part of their lives.
– 62% Being a part of community of Christians who are working together to share the good news of the gospel.
A typical priest schedule
Ask two different priests about their schedule, and you will receive two different answers. Like most professionals, how a priest spends his day “at work” is not necessarily a standard answer. Because priests are individuals with distinct talents and interests, a day can look different for any priest, even those that live in the same rectory!
That being said, there are also some similarities and a “typical” schedule to a parish priest’s day. For most priests ministering in a parish, the average day would look something like this:
(A priest will have 1 day off during the week)
6am – 8
Rise from sleep and prepare for the celebration of morning mass. Many priests will take advantage of their morning preparation as also their time of personal prayer…which becomes the foundation for their day.
8 – 10
Typically between these morning hours would be the time that most parishes celebrate the Eucharist. There are also some parishes who celebrate an evening daily mass on one or two days of the week.
10 – 12
If there is a funeral, this would be the usual time to celebrate the Mass for the deceased and their grieving family. A priest would also utilize this time for office work or preparation for his bulletin article, homily prep, staff development, building issues, visiting the parish school, visit parishioners or perform another ministry within the parish.
12pm – 1
Everyone needs to eat, so this also true for the parish priest! A little fuel for the body will give him the energy he needs for the remainder of his day. This might also be a time for rest, exercise, or prayer.
1 – 4
Many people look to their parish priest for assistance and spiritual guidance. During this time, a priest may have several appointments from members of his parish, for reasons ranging from: spiritual direction, staff issues, building issues, school issues, Archdiocesan issues, marriage counseling…..if you can think of a need, a priest will be called upon to offer his help.
4 – 7
It can be rather difficult to work on a homily while in the office, so many priests will take advantage of this time to return to his rectory to work on those areas of his ministry which require more privacy and less interruptions. He may also use this as a time for prayer, meetings, exercise, or rest. Dinner will be on his agenda as well!
7 – 10
Depending on the day, this is the time when a priest in a parish meets with his parishioners for the many scheduled meetings which take place. Examples of a parish’s monthly meetings would be: Parish Council, Worship/Education/Christian Service/Administration Commissions, School Committee, and any variety of parish organization meetings as well. This would also be a very busy time for a priest to again meet with parishioners, engaged couples, etc.
10 – ?
After a long day of working “in the vineyard”, a priest will find his way back to his rectory for some personal time (reading, music, TV, etc.) and then to bed for a night of hopefully restful sleep.
One of his last prayers before his evening comes to a close, comes from Night Prayer in the Liturgy of Hours:
“Protect us Lord as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep, that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in His peace.”
In addition to his personal prayer, a priest will be ready for the celebration of any combination of the following: Funeral, Wedding, Baptism, Confession and/or personal appointment(s). The day will culminate with the celebration of the Sunday Vigil Mass.
Most priests will celebrate 2-3 masses on a Sunday morning with the people of his parish. The Sunday Eucharist brings together all the people of his faith community: parish staff that assist in the management and ministry of the parish and the many dedicated volunteers who assist in the celebration of the Eucharist each and every Sunday. There might also be parish functions that take place on a Sunday afternoon as well. The remainder of the day might be used for rest or time with family or friends….but mostly rest!
What is the next step?
An application for the seminary is one that the Director of Priestly Vocations is happy to distribute, but there are a few preliminary steps that must be completed first. The very first step in this process is to contact Fr. Craig Giera, the Director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit. After the opportunity to meet and discuss in more detail your discernment of the priesthood, the conversation may lead to one of the following options:
- The next step in the application process is to have two interviews with members of the priest-faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary
- Direction given by the Director of Priestly Vocations to work on specific areas for additional growth before the next step in the application process can be taken.
- Direction given by the Director of Priestly Vocations that an application will not be granted.