How to Discern
“How do I know if God is calling me?” This is the question that every man who grapples with the question of priestly vocation asks himself at some point. Discernment can be a frustrating and difficult experience. But the best first step is to follow the words that appear so often in the Sacred Scriptures, “Be not afraid!” The Lord does not want us to be afraid because fear threatens to distract us from the voice of God. Once you are open to hearing the Lord speak to your heart, a message that will most likely come as a quiet whisper or a gentle nudge, you will be able to truly discern the Lord’s will for your life.
Discernment is the first step in coming to know if the Lord is calling you to serve Him as a Roman Catholic priest. It must involve prayer, the willingness to seek out quiet in an otherwise noisy world, a desire to know God’s will for your life, and a love for the Church and her members.
Importance of the Sacraments
Crucial to discernment is staying close to God in the sacraments. Sunday Mass, as well as holy days of obligation, are vital. It is also strongly encouraged that one who is discerning priesthood try to attend Mass during the week if his schedule allow.
The Eucharist unites us to Christ more deeply. It intensifies our love for Him and it makes us more like Him. Frequent confession is also extremely important. It is good to go to confession once a month or even more often.
Penance and Reconciliation reminds us that we are all sinners and in need of God’s merciful forgiveness. The more we receive forgiveness for our sins, the better we can configure our lives to Christ.
A man who is discerning a call to the priesthood needs guidance. While many people are well-equipped to assist you in your discernment of a priestly vocation, there is no substitute for a priest. Whether it is one of your parish priests, a spiritual director, or a friend, the advice and direction received from a priest will be extremely beneficial in your discernment of a calling to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
If you’d like to have a spiritual director as a guide, tell a priest whom you admire that you are considering the priesthood and ask him if he would be available to meet once a month to discuss the discernment process.
A good habit of prayer is essential for any man who is considering the priesthood. A good prayer to offer to God is, “Lord, help me to know Your will for my life and give me the courage and strength to do it.” Because the life of the priest is centered in the Eucharist, there is no better place to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection than in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. See if adoration is available at your parish and make regular visits with Our Lord.
The Blessed Mother is our greatest companion on the journey of vocational discernment. If you are not in the habit of praying the Rosary, begin today, even if it's only a decade at a time. Pray three Hail Marys before going to bed, asking her for the virtue of holy purity and to help you know your vocation.
Also, contact one of the vocation directors, and ask what resources they have to help you with prayer.
Friendship with Christ
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21) In this beautiful passage from the Gospel of St. John, Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him. When Peter confesses his love for Christ he is then ready to receive his mission as prince of the Apostles and the first pope.
Discernment of a priestly vocation is not unlike Peter’s encounter with Christ. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “The seminarian experiences the beauty of God’s call in a moment of grace which could be defined as ‘falling in love’…. It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation.” Growing in love for Christ is what allows a man who is discerning priesthood to be truly free in his response to the call of Christ. The process of discernment is a period in which one falls in love with Our Lord, which allows him to accept the mission entrusted to him.
When we love someone we want to get to know more about them. As a man discerns he should be seeking greater knowledge and understanding of the Lord whom he is coming to love. In order to feed one’s prayer life it is good to develop a habit of reading a bit of the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, each day. It’s also helpful to read books on spirituality, especially writings by saints or meditations on writings of saints.