Often, one of the first stages of enquiry for a Catholic man discerning a vocation to the priesthood or permanent diaconate, is a chat with the vocations director in his local diocese. Contact details for diocesan vocations directors can be found by clicking here.
The Second Vatican Council taught very beautifully that every human being is called to a life of great holiness. Holiness can often be assumed to be the job of nuns and priests. But when Jesus asked us to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48), he wasn't just talking to a few people. He was talking to every human being on the planet. He was talking to me. And he was talking to you!
What is holiness?
The Church encourages us in these words: "all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father himself is perfect" (Lumen Gentium 11).
The vocation we each have is first and foremost to be holy. It's to sanctify the world around us by means of our relationship with God and our becoming more like Jesus Christ every day. The priest, the monk, the mother, the businessman, the teacher - these are all called to be saints, to live a life of holiness, to be strengthened by prayer and the sacraments.
And so what is a 'vocation to priesthood'?
To live this vocation to holiness more perfectly, God calls each one of us at baptism to a particular 'route' to holiness, what we call a 'divine vocation'. These are distinct from a 'secular vocation', like being a nurse, a teacher, a policeman, often based on natural gifts we see within ourselves. These are wonderful ways to serve the community, but they are always built upon a more fundamental 'divine vocation'. The Church has recognised four of these:
- Religious life
- Marriage and family life
- Consecrated celibacy
These sometimes combine - for example, some priests are married; some men who enter religious life are then ordained as priests; some married men are ordained as permanent deacons. But when we discern our vocation, we enter into God's plan for our holiness, our fulfilment, and the happiness and holiness of those we'll serve as a result.
There is no one vocation better than another. God calls as He wills, and we give thanks to God for raising up such a rich tapestry of people in the Church to praise Him and to serve His kingdom in different ways.
You might be reading this because you feel God is asking you to be a priest. Give thanks to God for that! And now read on for more about the priestly vocation.
Weekends for Enquirers
If you're in the Archdiocese of Birmingham and currently discerning a vocation to the priesthood, you are invited to the seminary for one of the 'Discernment Weekends' that take place here a few times each year. To find out more, please email the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese Fr Dominic Chukka.