How do I know if I am called?
First things first…you are called. Everyone is called. Priests are called. Married people are called. Single people in the world are called. The trick is to understand our call within our call. We've all been called by our Baptism. Now, as we look at our gifts and talents and desires, we've got to decide how we will live out our baptismal call in the world. That takes time and prayer and discussion and understanding oneself. So, to begin, since you're reading this, something has piqued your interest about the life of a priest. You need to pay attention to that. And as a Catholic male, you have a responsibility to at least think about the possibility of priesthood. So, think, reflect, pray, and then talk to someone you trust about it. You might be very surprised at what your trusted friend has to say.
What about celibacy?
This is certainly the big one for most people, and that's ok. It is a big commitment, and it should be thought through extensively. There is no doubt that there is a sacrificial side to celibacy, but there is also no doubt that one can live a rich, full, happy life within a celibate commitment. A healthy, celibate lifestyle would include deep, intimate friendships with both men and women. It would include taking care of oneself, physically and intellectually. And, of course, a fundamental part of healthy celibate living is a healthy prayer life. We ultimately make the commitment for Christ, and so a solid relationship with him is essential.
How long does it take to become a priest?
Well, it depends. Some men decide to enter the seminary right out of high school. For them, it would take a minimum of eight years, four getting a degree in a college seminary, and four years at a major seminary. For someone who already has a college degree, it usually takes five years. One year is spent taking some preliminary philosophy and theology courses, and then four years are spent in the major seminary. There are all kinds of other possibilities, depending on one's educational background, but that would have to be figured out on an individual basis.
What do you do at the seminary?
Well, you do a lot. It's a wonderful opportunity to study and pray and discover all sorts of things about yourself. It is a time of formation, being formed in the likeness of Christ, and at the same time having the opportunity to become more fully oneself. So, in major seminary, the first few years a seminarian studies the basics of Catholic theology, helping to form a healthy and orthodox foundation. At the same time, the seminarian is continuing to discern and discover God's call in his life with spiritual direction, daily Eucharist, periodic reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, retreats, and many other opportunities for prayer. One also meets some great guys, men who will be friends for life. The last few years of seminary are spent truly looking forward to ordination to the priesthood. The seminarian takes more advanced classes, along with courses that teach him how to say Mass, how to preside at the other sacraments, how to counsel and comfort people well, and how to preach effectively. In the midst of this, there are many opportunities for service and ministry in parishes and hospitals. There is also plenty of time for exercise, healthy living, travel, and fun. It's quite an opportunity!
Sounds pretty good. But what if I'm not sure?
You'd better not be sure! This is a life-long commitment that involves loving sacrifice and service. No one is expected to be sure right off the bat. That's what the seminary is for. The Diocese of Nashville only expects a serious interest in priesthood and a commitment on your part to be open to God's call in your life. That call very well may lead you to priesthood, but it may not. That's ok. We're not here to make someone a priest. We're here to help a possible candidate understand God's call in his life. So relax!
Ok, I'm interested. But it sounds expensive. How much?
The Diocese of Nashville pays for your education and also takes care of your health insurance and other needs. Basically, the diocese expects you to use this time developing yourself and your prayer life, not worrying about money. The Diocese does expect that you don't come with a lot of debt. But you shouldn't let that stop you from talking to us. There are all kinds of ways to deal with financial issues.
What does a priest do all day?
That's a really hard one to answer, because a priest's life is so varied from one parish to another, and from one day to the next. There are some constants, though. A diocesan priest's life in many ways revolves around the sacramental life of the Church. He says Mass. He celebrates the sacrament of Reconciliation. He anoints the sick. He baptizes. He presides at weddings. But it certainly doesn't end there. That's where it begins. Personal prayer is a fundamental part of a diocesan priest's day. A priest provides comfort and counsel to people who are hurting. He teaches all kinds of different classes on all kinds of different subjects to all kinds of different age groups. He spends time with youth. He visits the elderly. He administers the parish. In a word, he shepherds God's people. He is a visible sign of Christ's loving presence in the world.
Does a priest ever get a moment's rest?
Sure. As a matter of fact, rest and recreation are vital parts of a healthy priest's life. So, as long as a priest makes it a priority, there is time for exercise, reading, watching TV, playing on the computer, golfing or fishing, going out with friends, visiting family, or whatever else any normal, healthy guy might do with his free time. A diocesan priest in Nashville is also given four weeks of vacation every year, along with a salary that should be enough to travel and enjoy this world we live in. Priests often go to Europe, especially Rome, but also go to Florida or out West or just about anywhere else one might be interested in visiting.
Ok, I want to take the first step. What would that be?
Well, certainly pray about it. But as a Church, don't forget, we're also here for each other.
So, either call or
Tom Samoray, the Vocation Promoter for the Diocese of Nashville. It is his job to help someone just like you. So you might as well take advantage of some of the tools the Church has to offer. Remember, especially if you are a little afraid, it's ok. The Diocese of Nashville is only interested in ordaining guys to the priesthood who are truly being called by God. So it is in everyone's best interest to help a guy like you truly discover what it is God is calling you to do with your life. So give
Tom a call or drop him an e-mail. There's so little to lose…and so much to gain.