Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Priesthood
How to Get There
I’m going to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about priesthood. “When” does it happen in your life. “How” one becomes a Catholic priest. “What” happens once you are inside the doors of a seminary. And the never ending question of “why” do I want to become a priest. First of all, I’d like to thank the essay writing service for help in writing my articles.
One of the most wonderful things about Catholics–we have no secrets! We are not a cult!!! We are an open book and all one has to do to discover us is ask the right people. I’ll tell you how to do that in the days to come. This picture is one that is very old that I found in an ancient bible of my mom’s. Funny she must have known all along.
WHY? I know that I listed this last, but I’m starting with it first since it is the hardest stumbling block for most of us to get past. First things first, immediately dismiss from your mind that you are not worthy! None of us are! Only God makes us worthy, sinful though we are anyway. When he asked Simon to “come and follow me” Simon fell to his knees and could only say to the Lord–“leave me for I am a sinful man”!!!! So are we all and yet the Lord still calls us by name. So to answer the nagging question of “why” is a fruitless exercise in mental gymnastics that leads to nowhere.
Deep down within your guts you know if the Lord is calling you to lead his people into righteousness. No one has to tell you, you just know it. What you have to do is begin the hardest part of the journey—deciding to go for it! If you are called to priesthood, nothing, nothing, nothing will stand in your way if God wants you there. I could tell you a thousand stories and reasons why I would and should never have become a priest, except the Lord just wouldn’t let go of me until I said yes! If he wants you as priest, then at some point you must say yes!! Read Jeremiah 20!!!
WHEN? Boy, that’s a tough one. When? I knew that I wanted to become a priest when I was 14 years old. The thought hit me square in the head while I was necking with my girlfriend up in the mountains. She lived right across the way from the Jesuit novitiate and we were sitting on the porch watching these guys in black cassocks playing basketball and riding horses and they just looked like they were really enjoying their lives. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even Catholic, didn’t know much about them, and being a fundamentalist, thought they were all going to hell anyway, so I didn’t much care about them. So why that thought came to me is purely God’s stuff, not mine. Of course you realize now that that thought never left me. Oh consciously I may have shoved it way in the back of my brain, but the Lord wouldn’t ever let me forget it entirely.
For you? I think that is entirely a personal experience between you and our God. For some of you it will come early in life. For others it may come much later. Today seminaries will take all of us; i.e., young and old alike. The real kicker is to find a bishop that will sponsor you. More about that later.
How? Now that is much easier to answer. You begin by discovering the wonderful richness of attending daily mass. When the Lord calls you and you finally say yes, then that discernment process begins in earnest when your stomach and heart is full of the Lord. We need this spiritual food for the journey of life and the prayer time before and after. We need to be around His people. We need to know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God and you find that in the midst of God’s people. It is here that you’ll find your confirmation and affirmation that you are seeking to answer the call of God to become a priest.
Next–find a good priest as friend and confessor. One who has been through the ropes and can help you discern your way through the whole process. Ask him to walk with you on this journey and if he will, then you’ve got one step in the door to the seminary. Here in Sacramento we have a “discernment” house set up for guys considering priesthood. You live in community and the vocation director and other priests are there to help you through the discernment process. What you must remember is that it is not enough for you to want to become priest. God must want you! The Church must want you; i.e. the bishop! And hardest of all–the seminary must want you! If you can make it thru all of those steps you will become priest and no man or woman will stop the process, especially, if God wants you. I’m living proof of that!!! I could tell you stories of how that process closed doors on me and God opened others for me. So if the Lord is calling you just keep knocking until someone opens that door for you.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE YOU ARE INSIDE THE SEMINARY? If you are really smart you’ll get your BA degree first before considering entering the seminary. I know I was really awful in philosophy in college and so got several other degrees instead. Philosophy degree isn’t necessary, but it sure helps once you are inside the doors of the seminary. If no philosophy degree, then you’ll end up taking two years (minimally) of it anyway, so there is no way out of it.
You can enter without a degree. They will send you to a “minor” theology seminary. Usually run by an order of priests to obtain your BA in philosophy before you can enter the “major” theology school. That’s takes four years as in any other degreed program.
Once you enter the “major” theology school you will take various classes in scripture, preaching, moral theology, theology of God, more preaching, liturgy, and more scripture classes in Old and New Testament and more scripture classes. By the time you finish theology will be your middle name.
In the seminary the hardest thing I had to learn was learning to live with other guys in a “cell”. My room in the seminary was only 6′ by 9′. Go measure that out and you’ll discover just how small it is. Sharing bathrooms and showers was far too much like the military for me, but that is incidental to the learning process, though very necessary. Necessary, because when you finish you’ll have to live with one or more priests after ordination until you become a pastor of your own parish.
At some point in your seminary training you’ll have to take a break and spend a year living in a rectory with a priest as part of the learning process. You won’t be able to do much, but always remember that “seminarian translates into slave” until you are ordained. It’s a good experience and an eye opener about what we have to do in our daily lives as priests. This usually happens between the 2nd and 3rd year of the major schooling.
You will also have to spend 10 weeks going to CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience). It’s a program usually done in a hospital setting, but not always, where you learn to handle critical, emergency situations of dying and death. Ministering to families and those who are going to the Lord. It can be very rewarding and it can be very heart breaking, but you will grow through it all. Oh did I mention that “to grow” will always mean someone will put you through pain that you won’t like, but it’s all part of the formation process. It’s what will make you a God-man people can relate to in their need because you will have been there.
In our diocese and in most you will have to learn Spanish. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters are the largest non=English speaking minority in the US. Each diocese sends their seminarians to somewhere in Mexico for part of their training. Usually it is a total immersion program where no one speaks English and you would be far ahead if you started early in college taking Spanish classes. When I went I was totally lost since I only took French in High School and College and would really screw up my Spanish by throwing in a lot of French words that only drew odd looks from my Mexican family. This is usually thrown in somewhere during the summer time so no school time is lost.
Conclusion: I know this is a lot of information, but then it takes a lot to become a priest. At the end of the process and you are standing in the vestibule of the Cathedral or your home parish and you are watching all the people who have gathered just to see you ordained all of it suddenly becomes worth it. In spite of the oftentimes bad press, people still love their priests very much. They especially love their priests who love them back.
Good luck and God Bless you in your discernment. If I can answer any other questions don’t hesitate to email me. Fr. Terry