Think you might have a calling to the priesthood? Every man’s journey of discernment is different, but you can often recognize that you are at a stage in the process of discernment, and this could help you know what to do to continue pursuing the vocation God is calling you to.

If you are in this stage, you have just had the first attraction to the idea of being a priest. For many, this happens as a child, but it also happens often for adults, and it is often an awe-inspiring experience. You may begin to think God may be calling you to be a priest, but you have little information on where you must go from here.
At this point, you have been thinking about priesthood for a while. You may have found out what information you can on your own, without letting others know that you have thought about priesthood. Often an adult will have a period of denial, dating women and hoping he will fall in love and that his thoughts of priesthood will pass.
If you are in this stage, you may be realizing that this attraction to priesthood is not going away. You may read books specifically about discernment, go on retreats, and even let the Vocations Office know you are discerning. You may have looked for a spiritual director or spoken to a priest. You may still be dating, perhaps even hoping that priesthood is not God’s plan for you, and trying to assess if you could live a chaste, celibate life.
In this stage you are moving quickly towards surrendering yourself to the will of God. You have made (or perhaps should make) the decision that you can no longer date while you are focused on discerning the priesthood, knowing that it is not fair to either the woman or to God. In meeting with the vocations director and/or your spiritual director, they have said they recognize the signs of a vocation to the priesthood. You may be coming to realize that in order to properly discern, you must go to seminary, even if you for now you are still pushing against that commitment.
In stage 5, you will have been accepted as a seminarian. You may find yourself telling people that you know seminary is where you belongs, even if you aren’t sure if you will end up a priest. You are peaceful about priesthood and answer questions of your friends and family about your possible vocation. You are developing a spiritual plan of life: going to Mass every day, praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and seriously studying the faith.
After a few years in seminary, you will have matured in your faith and in your person. Your relationship with Jesus has deepened and you spend time praying daily. You will have had several summer assignments and pastoral assignments in parishes and love working in a parish. You know that you can fulfill the duties of a priest, and know that it is very likely you are going to become a priest. You are focused on the hard work of seminary formation and are looking forward to your ordination.
This is essentially the end of discernment. Before you are ordained, you will have come to a peaceful place where you are no longer questioning whether or not you will become a priest, but simply focusing on how to be a good, holy priest. You will continue on this path unless you receive a clear sign that you belong elsewhere. You are confident, with the grace of Jesus Christ and your seminary formation, that you can do what is asked of a priest.

The information above was taken from To Save a Thousand Souls, Ch. 9, by Fr. Brett A. Brannen. For a free copy of this book, visit www.gopriest.com


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