February 15 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Considering the priesthood? Then do not wait for a ‘lightning bolt moment’

Finding your vocation is a journey of discernment, but God will not make that decision for you, Fr Michael Kane writes.

Class visits within any secondary school can be a daunting task.

One of the techniques I’ve found helpful is to organise ‘ask the priest’ sessions.

This gives pupils an opportunity to ask the priest anything they like and most pupils seem to relish the opportunity. Such Q&A sessions are predictable after a few class visits.

The same questions reappear: why don’t priests get married? How much do priests get paid? Are you allowed to drink alcohol? Do you wear your collar in the gym? All these questions rank among the top 10.

There is also another question which usually makes an appearance, instigated by the curiosity of the priestly vocation: “Father, how did you know you should be a priest?” Or: “When did you know you should go to seminary?”

I suspect a great number of people expect a very dramatic answer. Some are disappointed to learn that I was not awoken one night by the presence of an angel sitting at the end of my bed telling me my next steps.

I am happy to share with the young people that there was no lightning bolt moment in my journey towards priesthood. It wasn’t a Hollywood movie!

I describe this vocation journey much like other vocations. God calls us from different places and in different circumstances, but for most people it is a relatively unspectacular process which involves human co-operation with God’s promptings.

First, God plants a seed by asking a question of us. His prompting makes us consider a particular path. And so begins a time of prayer and discernment when we ask crucial questions about this way of life: is this prompting really from God?

Am I capable of living this kind of vocation for the rest of my life? Do I have the necessary strengths to live this kind of life? Am I willing to forsake all other vocations? Will I be happy and fulfilled if I embrace this way of life?

These are just some of the questions which come to the surface when conversing with God about our vocation question.

And then we repeat. We keep asking the same questions, day after day, month after month, year after year.

And here is the crucial part. If you keep asking the same questions, and keep getting the same affirmative answers, then I believe God is speaking very directly to you.

God’s voice, and I believe His will, is found in the pattern of our self-reflection and discernment.

He does not seek to overpower or compel us, but leads us gently towards a concrete realisation of where our happiness truly lies.

This has been my experience. I started out in seminary immediately after secondary school and began to ask those important questions. After many years of asking and discerning I was convinced that my call lay in priestly service.

I suspect that this is the same experience for all vocation journeys, whether for single people, Religious or those called to marriage.

God doesn’t ‘tell’ us what we must do but his promptings help us to arrive at some certainty about our vocation and place in this world.

At times I find myself thinking about the problem of the lack of young men joining our seminaries in the western Church. I wonder if part of the problem is that too many young men are waiting for that lightning bolt moment which never seems to come.

How easy it would be if God simply made the decision for us. Such expectations, of course, are misplaced.

A decision to follow the Lord is personal and free. God will not make the choice for us.

I meet lots of young men who are forever discerning the path to priesthood. They are perpetually waiting for the bedside angel who will never come! This is certainly a problem for our contemporary Church.

Returning to our young people in the secondary school, I only hope and pray that they will find their own happiness and fulfilment in life.

I pray that they will be open to God’s promptings and to pray and discern God’s plan for their lives. And for the record, no, priests don’t wear the collar in the gym!


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