WHY SHOULD I THINK OF BECOMING A PRIEST?
In his book The Joy of Priesthood Fr. Stephen Rossetti writes:
“Many generous young people want to commit themselves to a life that stretches them and that will in the end mean something. (…) Priesthood, when lived with integrity, is such a life” (Ave Maria Press, p. 13).
Recently I heard a priest saying that people often asked him why he became a priest? He said that for him this is the wrong question. The correct question is “why are you still a priest?” he goes on to recall the many challenging situation into which he has been called to minister. He speaks about the privilege of working with young people and with older people. He talks about how he has been honoured to share faith and celebrate the Eucharist. These and many other reasons he concludes are why I am still a priest! Why should you think of becoming a priest? Because you feel called to proclaim the gospel and lead others to Christ; you feel called to a life that will stretch you but will make a difference.
HOW DO I KNOW IF GOD IS CALLING ME TO BE A PRIEST?
I would guess that this question above all others is the one that vexes most people who might be considering, even tentatively, the idea that they would like to serve as a diocesan priest. For if God doesn’t want me to be a priest then I am happy to leave the idea to one side but if this is what God wants for me then I am sure that I will be happy and fulfilled as a priest. If this is what God wants I am eager to serve.
The question is of course a good one, even a gifted one, because it demonstrates an openness to God’s will and an acceptance of the idea that God may be offering a direction for my life. Whether or not I will ever become a priest the idea that God wants to be involved in my future is important.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT GOD INTENDS FOR ME?
The answer to the question lies in my experience of God and in an appreciation that God has gifted me for a purpose and that purpose must surely be the building up of his kingdom in service to those I meet. Perhaps you could think of the priests that you have known? Can you appreciate their gifts and do you share any of those qualities? Can you see yourself serving in a similar role?
The gospels make clear that Jesus surrounded himself with a variety of different people. Some of those called he invited to become his closest associates. That varied group of men and women shared a variety of backgrounds, qualities and gifts. Peter, a fisherman who is sometimes strong in faith but at others strong in will; floundering and searching for the truth. Matthew, a tax collector who must have had to overcome some opposition as he strove to align his life to Christ and to follow him.
Thomas who was hesitant in faith and needed to see the evidence for himself. If the variety of priests has not convinced you that there is no such thing as a typical aspirant to priesthood then just look at the scriptures for a similar range of characters.
BUT HOW DO I KNOW THAT GOD IS CALLING ME?
In a homily at a Chrism Mass in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI said the following,
“Being a priest means becoming an ever closer friend of Jesus Christ with the whole of our existence. The world needs God – not just any god but the God of Jesus Christ, the God who made himself flesh and blood, who loved us to the point of dying for us, who rose and created within himself room for man. This God must live in us and we in him.” (Priests for Jesus Christ, p. 16, Family Publications).
So knowing what God asks any of us flows from us knowing God. Later in another homily the Pope went on to say, “This is not a matter of mere intellectual knowledge but of a profound personal relationship, a knowledge of the heart, of one who loves and is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows to be trustworthy.” (Priests for Jesus Christ, p. 41, Family Publications).