For a diocesan priest, most days differ in the details, but the structure of daily prayer and service to parishioners is similar. Most priests have Mass in the morning and spend time in prayer. There is always office work that needs to be done; this consists of preparing homilies, RCIA classes, preparing for wedding and various letters and other paperwork. There are a number of meetings with individuals; this can include visiting the homebound, helping a married couple in crisis, or providing spiritual direction. There is of course weekend Masses. On many weekends there are Weddings and Baptisms. On an annual basis, there is First Communions and Confirmations. Priests also have four weeks of vacation each year and a week of retreat.
The vast majority of people take several years to know God’s call. It would be a mistake to think that we need to know quickly or that one needs to be assured of being called to the priesthood before entering the seminary. You know that you are being called by time, prayer and action. It is only by spending time developing some of the habits needed for the priesthood that one discovers if one is called. In order to know if you are called to the priesthood you need to adopt some of the habits of a priest and see how they fit. If you enjoy the habits then it is a helpful sign to show that you are acting with grace to a potential call. If you do not enjoy the habits and they are burdensome, then it is a helpful sign that maybe you have not received the grace for this call.
Everyone gets lonely at times in their life. Loneliness can occur even in the midst of a room full of people. Loneliness is solved mainly by having ourselves known by others; loneliness can be combated by knowing how to have solitude. The seminary trains a young man how to have moments of solitude in one’s life. Solitude is needed for prayer and reflection on God’s Word and Action. Most priests seek out moments in their lives when they can be alone and quiet. As a priest, I have moments where I have felt alone, but I can honestly say that most of the time I do not get enough solitude because of my involvement in other people’s lives.
Priests get a salary. This varies from diocese to diocese. While the salary is not staggering, it really ends up being discretionary income because the priest does not pay mortgage, utilities or most household expenses. The parish is responsible for the rectory and other household-related expenses of the priest. So the salary of the priest is usually used in the purchase of a car and clothes that he needs. The salary, when seen in this light, usually gives him far more freedom than many families. Also the priest is called to live a simple life. This means filling his life with items that are necessary instead of items that are luxuries.
A wise priest once told me that most people work two thirds of their day and that is what a priest should do. So a priest has time for leisure. How this off time is spent differs from priest to priest. Some actually like to play video games, others like to hike and be outdoors and others spend a lot of time reading. The point is that there is time to enjoy the things in life that make you who you are. We have approximately the same amount of leisure time as most adults. Obviously, because priests are unique individuals, we won’t all choose the same types of recreational activity, and no one of us choose the same activity every time.
Yes, we are. Nothing happens to us at the time of entering the seminary that eliminates normal human needs, feelings, or desires. What does change by the end of formation is your love for God and being faithful to your call. This love along with grace motivates a young man to be faithful to this call. So while a priest might be momentarily attracted to a woman, his desire to remain faithful to his calling and grace quickly moves him beyond the moment. Seminaries pay special attention in the proper training in the area of celibacy, so that it can lived in a mature and responsible manner. The programs are designed not only intellectually, but also in the practical application. Just as a married man must always act in faithfulness to his spouse, a priest must learn how to act in faithfulness to his spouse the Church.
The process can be a bit intimidating, but you are not alone during the process! Applications are required for both the seminary and the diocese. Letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, work/school history, family history, sacramental records and an autobiography are necessary. A doctor’s physical examination is required. Most importantly, the Church requires psychological examinations as well. This examination is quite lengthy and very comprehensive. Obviously, the Church relies on the expertise of professionals to assist her in determining the suitability of a candidate. But, in addition, the experience will also help the candidate grow in self-knowledge which is important for maturity and spiritual growth.
Seminary life is quite similar to college life; both follow the same academic schedule, both require discipline and focus, and both are great opportunities for growth, personal development and, quite frankly, both are very enjoyable. But the seminary also offers great opportunities for silence and reflection, for prayer and meditation, for contemplation of theology and philosophy. The seminary provides spiritual directors, formation directors, academic direction, conferences and retreats. Most importantly, the seminary offers a man the privilege of daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and the Liturgy of the Hours. Finally, the friendships which are made in seminary will carry a man throughout his priesthood as well as his life. Seminary can be difficult, but it is a challenge worth accepting.
Well, certainly pray about it. But as a Church, don’t forget, we’re also here for each other. So, you can contact the Vocations Office of the Columbus Diocese. It is their job to help someone just like you. So you might as well take advantage of the help and information the Church has to offer. Remember, especially if you are a little afraid, it’s ok. The Diocese of Columbus 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 the Vocations Office a call or an e-mail.
It is better to enter the seminary sooner rather than later in the discernment process. Since the seminary specializes in discernment and formation, getting into the seminary is going to best help you arrive at an answer. Discernment requires prayer and action; the seminary is designed to put both of those in gear. Too often, we remain stuck in thought and fear; motion is needed. Of course, you must have graduated high school and you can only enter into the seminary in the fall. Ultimately this answer needs to be dealt with through a small group of advisors, such as parents, pastors, vocation director and trusted friends.
The decision is not final until the Bishop lays his hands upon your head at your ordination. That can be eight years (if you start seminary without previously acquiring a degree) or six years (if you have already completed undergrad work). A man must also consider his responsibility he has toward the good people of God who are supporting him with prayers, hope and financial contributions. If he does not believe God is calling him to the priesthood, he should abandon the seminary and move on with his life. Otherwise, there is plenty of time for formation and maturation. Transparency and openness with ones spiritual director, vocation director, rector and bishop, will ensure your decision is authentic and of God.
Many men today have four-year undergraduate degrees (and, in some cases, masters-level degrees) in disciplines outside the liberal arts. Because Theology or “Major” Seminaries require a minimum number of undergraduate credits in philosophy (24 hours) and theology (12 hours), men enroll in a Theology or “Major” Seminary and complete a preliminary priestly formation program termed “pre-theology.”
God doesn’t usually use thunder and lightning when answering prayers. The Lord answers in gentle, quiet ways, so first, pray for the love of God to be in your heart. Pray for the grace of holiness. Invoke the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Be patient.
Every Priest struggles with the awareness of his own sinfulness, especially when considering the awesomeness of saying the words of consecration during Holy Mass or giving absolution. Don’t worry. None of us is worthy of this. It is the Lord who makes us worthy. Humility is an important quality, so if He wants you to do this, if He is calling you, He will give you abundant graces to fulfill the call.
Everyone should have a bit of daily prayer, though a priest has a great responsibility in his daily prayer. He needs to be praying himself because people will be coming to him to help in their daily life with God. He also needs to be praying for his parish; these are the people that he is morally responsible for in leading them to God. The Church helps here its requirements. The priest has the sacraments. The priest will be saying Mass on a daily basis and visiting the homebound and sick. He is also required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which consists of the office of readings, morning, daytime, evening and night prayer. So praying is a large part of the day. The Church has a number of prayers that it requires of the priest along with their own daily time for prayer.
It really is not that prayer is easy. One must develop a habit of prayer so that it takes place. We are very good about scheduling our classes, work and fun in our calendar, but we are careless in not scheduling time for God. Since God is not found on our calendars, we can find ourselves struggling and frustrated by the lack of our time with God. Praying is easy. I am frustrated sometimes by my inability to enter into prayer or by the fact that God does not respond as quickly as I would like Him to.
The Catholic Church, in various official documents, has established the full program of preparation for priesthood. Requirements include a theological education, as well as an intensive program of spiritual formation, human formation, and pastoral preparation. This comprehensive priesthood program is generally four years in length. Prerequisite courses in philosophy and undergraduate religious studies are required in order to complete a four-year theology program. If these courses have not been taken previous to entry, this requirement may add one year of pre-theology to the program for a total of five years. An undergraduate degree (BA or BS) is required to begin a master’s level (MDiv) program in a seminary.
A previous marriage does not, by itself, present a problem. In fact, in many cases, one’s marriage can be a significant factor contributing to a grace-filled priestly ministry.
Generally, it is advisable to wait one or two years after the death of a spouse before entering the seminary. This provides opportunity for grieving, transition and preparing oneself to enter a new, celibate state of life.
In itself, a divorce is not an impediment to priesthood. If the former partner is living, an annulment must be granted before admission to the seminary. Some dioceses and religious communities will not accept divorced candidates, but, after careful examination, many others will.
It is important that children be at least 18 years of age and financially independent of their father before entrance to a seminary.
Priesthood is not just for saints. Actually, the ability to regularly seek forgiveness and guidance from God is an asset in one’s vocational discernment. It is important to fully disclose one’s history in the application process so that those assisting in your discernment can be most helpful. Some actions, however, are impediments to acceptance into a seminary and ordination, for example, voluntary homicide, procuring an effective abortion or positive cooperation in either. The same would be true for one who has been guilty of apostasy, heresy or schism. There are other crimes or activities, which will prompt hesitancy on the part of any potential sponsor. In addition, if one has had some other seriously detrimental behavioral pattern, e.g., alcoholism or sexual activity, a suitable period of probation must be demonstrated to assure than one can successfully live a sober and celibate life. A spiritual director is often of significant help in discerning one’s readiness for seminary life.
The answer to this basically depends on the agreement between the candidate and the sponsor. Each sponsor has policies relative to how much of the cost they will pay and how they will support the candidate. For some, it will be a loan; for others, all room, board and tuition is paid, plus required books. Health insurance is also a factor to be negotiated with the sponsor.
In general, it is best not to sell anything initially, particularly a house, until one’s vocational decision is established. Diocesan priests are not required to take a vow of poverty, while religious are. Nonetheless, each case is different. Some diocesan candidates have kept their house and used it as a place to go during seminary vacations or for taking a day off, once they are ordained. Some also intend to keep it for retirement purposes.
Generally, a sponsor will be looking for some stability or progress in one’s work record. Often a person’s past experience can become a strong asset after ordination, e.g., experience in a helping or teaching profession, or financial/administrative experience. On the other hand, if a person has not been successful at other jobs, it does not present much promise that one will be able to deal successfully with the challenges of priesthood and parish ministry.
The needs of the Church today are many. Depending on one’s background, training and previous employment, a great variety of pastoral opportunities are available. Sponsorship implies that one will be serving as a priest in that diocese or religious community. It is important that both the candidate and the sponsor see this as possible. Important factors might be the area of the country (climate, topography, etc.), the particular nature or charism of the sponsor (e.g. rural or urban, ethnic or language needs, unique ministries; and theological orientation).