Field Guide 8: Holy Orders-Called
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest”-Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 110)
“And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.”-2 Timothy 2:2
“For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you,”-Titus 1:5
Like marriage, Holy Orders are also a vocation. Men are called by God to serve His Church as deacons, priests, and bishops. While not a sacrament, the call to religious life as a sister or brother is also a vocation.
This is often a difficult journey of discernment. A recent study shows that six in ten recently ordained priests were discouraged from pursuing Holy Orders by a friend, and half of these men were discouraged by a parent or family member.
In addition, this study showed that only about nine percent of men in the millennial generation ever even considered becoming a priest or brother. The number was slightly higher for women, with eleven percent in the millennial generation saying they considered religious life.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is a problem! This gets back to the idea we discussed when talking about marriage and discernment. All our lives, we’ve been asking the wrong questions! As a child, parents and teachers ask “What do YOU want to do/be when you grow up”, when they should be asking “What does GOD want you to do/be when you grow up?” Imagine the world of difference that could be made just by changing this simple question. By doing so, we instill the idea that it is God who calls us to our vocation, and that God has a plan for us. Our job is to discover that plan through prayer and study.
I firmly believe that in the last forty years, God has called many more men and women to serve as a priest or religious than have answered. Some men and women heard this call and ignored or rejected it, but I think that an even greater number didn’t even hear the call in the first place. How could they? Our world has become a noisy place, and not many people know how to stop and listen for the still, small voice of God. Not many people even know that they should!
Many people talk of a “vocation crisis” or a “vocation shortage”. It is through the priesthood that we have access to the sacraments, and the religious communities of the world are some of the most powerful prayer warriors you could hope to have on your side. If these groups aren’t receiving new members, then we are definitely in trouble.
Luckily, I believe that the tide is turning. More and more young men and women are considering and pursuing these vocations, but we can still do better. We have the power to help these vocations grow, either directly or indirectly.
The first (and probably best) way is for you to discern for yourself whether or not you are called to the priesthood or religious life. Have you ever considered it? It takes some serious prayer and discernment to discover this call, but it’s worth the effort!
Another way is to encourage your friends or family members who are considering these vocations. Imagine how many more amazing priests and religious brothers and sisters we would have if more friends and family encouraged discernment. These are absolutely beautiful callings, and we should always encourage those who are trying to follow God’s plan for their life.
Finally, strong Catholic marriages are the key to future vocations. As we talked about before, if we have strong Catholic families, who are open to life and to teaching their children about God, then we will naturally see some of these children being drawn to the priesthood and religious life.
So how do you discern this call?
The most important part of any discernment is prayer. You need to get away from the noise and confusion of modern-day life, take some quiet time, and talk to God. The very best place to do this is in Eucharistic Adoration. Go to the chapel and spend some time face-to-face with Jesus. Sixty-five percent of men who become priests say that they participated in Eucharistic Adoration. Is Adoration the cause? Only God knows, but it certainly can’t hurt!
You also need to examine your life and your gifts, your dreams and your desires. Has God given you an ability to comfort those in need, to give advice and counsel to friends who need it? That might be a sign you are called to the priesthood. That’s a gift that certainly is helpful in a priestly vocation.
Finally, talk to someone. Men, find and priest and ask them about their vocation. Women, ask a sister. Go on a vocations retreat with a diocese or religious community. I have not met a single priest or religious who, when asked, said they would chose a different life. In fact, most of them say that even if they had a hundred lives to live, they would chose to serve God in this way every single time. It is a life of service and sacrifice, to God and to our fellow man, which brings happiness.
A recent survey of “job satisfaction” shows this to be true. In fact, clergy have, by far, the highest job satisfaction of any occupation. Over eighty-seven percent of clergy report being very satisfied with their job. Firefighters have eighty percent reporting that they are “very satisfied”, and physical therapists have seventy-eight percent. All three of these occupations are focused on helping people. I wonder if there’s a connection…
Don’t be afraid of these vocations. Most are comfortable with the idea of marriage because we see it all around us, it’s familiar to us. Many people today don’t have any sort of personal relationship with a priest or religious. Trust me, they aren’t scary. Most of them are the most happy, joy-filled people I have ever met. It’s probably because they have dedicated their lives to Christ, and God is never outdone in generosity.
If you feel at all like you might be called to the priesthood or religious life, take the chance and investigate these feelings. You might find that you aren’t called. You might find that you are.
Please read the following (in this order):
- Genesis 14:17-20
- CCC 1536-1538
- Exodus 19:6
- 1 Peter 2:5-9
- CCC 1539-1543
- 2 Corinthians 2:17
- CCC 1544-1547
- Luke 10:16
- 2 Corinthians 2:10
- CCC 1548-1553
- Acts 1:20
- CCC 1554-1561
- 2 Timothy 2:2
- Titus 1:15
- CCC 1562-1571
- Hebrews 5:1-10
- CCC 1581-1589
- Romans 15:14-16
- CCC 1590-1600
- Hebrews 3:1-4