1. What does a call
from God sound like?
There are many
different ways God calls people. You don't have to wait for a lightning
bolt or a supernatural vision. Most often the call from God is found
deep within your own heart (planted there by God left to be discovered
by you!). It might manifest itself in different ways such as a desire
to want to help others or a desire to know God more deeply. If you like
being with people especially during some of the bigger moments in their
lives... their weddings, the birth of their children, the death of a
loved one... the priesthood could be for you. No two callings are the
same, just like no two priests are the same. The important thing is,
if you think you've been called, check it out. What have you got to
2. What do you priests
do all day (especially during the week)?
to be taken up with many things such as Sunday Mass, weddings, baptisms,
youth ministry, etc. As for the rest of the week, it's may be spent
working with church groups (e.g. religious education, future planning,
outreach to the poor, financial matters of the parish, etc.) or with
individuals (preparing for marriage, dealing with loss, the sick, those
in need of spiritual counseling, etc.). Of course it is always important
balance one's responsibilities with prayer, leisure, and maintaining
good health. Sometimes priests or religious have one main occupation,
such as teaching, parish ministry, social work, or hospital work, all
of which have somewhat regular hours and predictable demands. Each has
its own rhythm. Obviously a parish setting is different from a high
school setting. In some ways, it is hard to answer this question exactly
because the focus of a religious vocation is serving the needs of those
God brings into your life. This requires certain openness to the unpredictable
or the unexpected. One thing for sure, it's never boring!
3. Do priests and
religious get time off? If so, what do they do?
and sisters have approximately the same amount of leisure time as most
adults. All priests in our diocese, for instance, are given a weekly
day off and vacation times throughout the year. Each individual is then
free to pursue one's favorite leisure activities whether that be reading,
sports, travel or computers. Whether it's going to a concert or watching
one's favorite teams on TV, priests and religious are free to pursue
leisure activities they enjoy.
4. How important
and religious have chosen a way of life which says by its very nature
that God is most important, prayer has a central role in their lives.
Prayer is communication with the Lord! Just as a marriage cannot survive
without communication, it is impossible for a priest or religious to
survive without prayer. Communication is essential for any two persons
who expect their relationship to continue. Can you imagine having a
best friend to whom you never spoke?
is so important, most priests and religious spend approximately two
hours a day in prayer-part of that time with others, at Mass and in
common oral prayer; part alone, in reading and quiet attentiveness.
Probably the main benefit of prayer is that it makes us more sensitive
to God's activity in the people, events, and circumstances of daily
5. Is prayer always
not! There are lots of times we don't feel like doing things that are
basically important to us. For example, an athlete doesn't always feel
like practicing, a student doesn't always feel like studying, a wage
earner doesn't always feel like working. However, in all these cases,
because the activity in which we participate is important, we act on
motives deeper than feelings and do what we know needs to be done.
6. What's the difference
between a diocesan priest and a religious priest?
priest ordinarily serves the church within a well-defined geographical
area (a diocese). He serves the people within that particular diocese
as a parish priest, but may also be involved in other forms of ministry.
Most diocesan priests live and work in the same diocese for most of
their life. Diocesan priests make two promises: obedience to the bishop
and celibacy. This means that they promise to work with the Bishop and
do what he asks them to do for the needs of the people of the diocese.
Celibacy (chastity) is the promise they take that means that they will
not get married, so that they can spend most of their time serving the
people of God. Being part of a diocese or an order is like being part
of a family. The men are like brothers to each other and usually turn
out to be some of your best friends.
priest, on the other hand, is a member of a community which goes beyond
the geographical limits of any diocese. A religious priest seeks to
live a vowed life within a community of men for mutual support and the
accomplishment of some work. There is an emphasis in the community on
shared ideals, prayer, and commitment to Christ. Religious priests work
in a wide variety of ministries. Religious communities were founded
at different times in history and often focus on a special ministry
(e.g. the Jesuits are involved in education and missionary work, the
Salesians work with the young. See our Religious Link for more specific
information on specific Religious Communities in our diocese). As members
of a worldwide order or group of men, following the ideals of their
founder (e.g. the Franciscans follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi),
they make vows to live their lives in the same manner. The vows that
religious priests make are poverty, celibacy (chastity), and obedience.
The vow of poverty means that the priest will not own anything of his
own. A religious, for instance, would not personally own a car, but
more than likely would have the use of one provided by his community.
All of his property will be shared by the brothers in his order.
7. What are the
differences between Brothers, Priests and Monks?
A brother commits
himself to Christ by vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, lives
in religious community, and works in nearly any job: teacher, cook,
lawyer, and so on. Brothers are not sacramental ministers; they are
not ordained and so do not preside at mass, reconciliation, or the anointing
of the sick. The role and ministry of a brother is as diverse as being
a nurse to a teacher to working in the missions to being a CEO of a
Monks on the
other hand can be either priests or brothers. A monk is the term that
is used in abbeys as the members of the abbey refer to one another.
A monk is a member of a certain monastery or community. Most often the
focus of a monk is on the interior life through personal and communal
prayer. They may be involved in retreats, spiritual direction, educational
endeavors, or simple work.
8. How long does
it take to become a diocesan priest?
takes five to six years after college or nine years after high school
to become a diocesan priest, the same as for many professions. The actual
amount depends on how much and the type of education you have received
prior to entering the seminary. Your Vocation Director can let you know
exactly how long it should take in your specific case.
9. How old must
one be to enter the seminary?
There is no
certain age to start preparing for the priesthood. Some people enter
the seminary after high school; others transfer into the seminary from
college. Some come after completing college, or after working for a
number of years. The age is not the most important question. The most
important question is, "Am I doing what God wants of me at this point
in my life?"
10. What is
a seminary or house of formation like?
or house of formation is a place to prepare and train men for the priesthood
while they continue to discern God's call and will in their lives.
In a house of formation, academic instructions takes place elsewhere,
whereas in as a seminary is also an academic institutions and so like
any other place of higher learning, one takes classes, and works toward
receiving fully accredited college degrees. A college seminary focuses
on undergraduate studies and so is very much like any other college
in terms of curriculum. Usually seminarians are asked to seek an undergraduate
degree in Philosophy. A major seminary is a Graduate school and so offers
Masters degrees in Theology. The Diocese of San Diego utilizes the St.
Francis Center for Priestly Formation to prepare candidates for entry
into a major seminary. In addition to classes, there would be
times of daily prayer (such as mass). At times things are very busy
at the seminary (exam week!). Candidates have free time, which they
may use to study, pray, exercise, play sports, read, watch TV, go to
the movies, or simply hang out with their friends. There are also opportunities
for pastoral and community service. Another part of seminary is formation
which is the guidance and direction one receives from those running
the seminary. This may be internal (e.g. Spiritual direction) or external
(recognizing one's gifts or areas of growth). In formation, we meet
with others to help us understand our calling and to see if priesthood
is for us.
11. If I'm thinking
about giving seminary a try, what should I tell my girlfriend?
Girls and dating
are a part of life, and it's ok to enjoy their company. When someone
becomes a priest, he takes a promise of celibacy so that he can give
himself totally to God and the people of the parish. Chaste dating before
you become a priest can be helpful. Not only does it help you to grow
in trusting another person and knowing what it means to build intimacy,
it also helps you to understand what it feels like to fall in love,
to experience a broken heart, to say goodbye to someone you care deeply
for. So, back to the question...what do you tell your girlfriend? Tell
her that what you learned dating her will make you a better priest and
person. Ask for her prayer and support as you enter this new stage
of your life, and promise to pray for her as well.
12. What do sisters
choices for a woman religious arise from the founding purpose of her
community, a prayerful discernment of her gifts, and an assessment within
her community of the signs of the times. A woman religious and her community
look together at the needs of the church and society in order to determine
where to direct their energies.
The way a particular
sister spends her day depends on the kind of community to which she
belongs. Contemplative nuns often work to sustain their community in
food and shelter doing tasks such as gardening, baking, computer data
entry or handiwork. Active (apostolic) communities are involved in a
great variety of ministries - usually with an emphasis on some type
of special service such as education, social work, or parish pastoral
13. How do congregations
or orders differ?
of religious were founded at a time in history when travel and communication
were very limited. Many congregations were founded at the same time
for the same purpose, but at different places by people who didn't know
each other. Founders had a specific spirit or charism they wanted to
develop in their community (such as hospitality, simplicity, or unity).
The charism, the community's specific ministries, and varying emphases
on prayer and community life are the basic differences among religious
communities. All are alike in their primary concern: to spread the gospel
14. Why do some
priests and religious wear habits or clerical garb?
Those who maintain
habits or clerical garb do so for various reasons. One is that religious
dress is a sign - an instantly recognized symbol of faith in God and
commitment to Christianity. Another frequent rationale is that religious
garb is simple dress and therefore a way to live out the vow of poverty.
A sister, brother, or priest who wears religious garb can own two or
three changes of clothing and be free of the expense of a more extensive
contemporary wardrobe. Other communities say the habit is an important
sign of penitence. Some communities have opted to wear street clothes,
saying the most valid sign of Christian faith is lifestyle rather than
garb. Those who have discontinued wearing habits often say the original
reason for religious garb was to wear the dress of the common people,
and street clothes are the common people's dress nowadays. There is
certainly room in the Church for both expressions of religious life.
15. Do I have to
agree with all church teachings to be a priest or a member of a religious
vary in gravity and centrality to the faith. To be a priest, brother,
or sister is to be a public person in the Church. So if you have serious
differences with matters essential to the faith, then vowed or ordained
life for you would involve an inherent conflict. Consult the Catechism
and some trusted people - vocation directors, priests, religious, theology
teachers - to ascertain what the Church actually teaches. Many times
the doubts we might have can be answered and overcome with greater study,
reflection, and dialogue.
16. How does one
join a religious community?
To become a
religious sister, a religious brother, or a religious order priest,
there are several stages. While these vary from community to community
in name, length of time, and format, the following outline gives a general
view of formation programs.
A person of high-school age or older who is interested in religious
life but is still searching for the answer to the question, What does
God want of me? Can I join a program of contact with a religious community?
The formation program is usually very flexible. The person meets monthly
with a priest, brother, or sister and shares in experiences of prayer
and community life with the congregation in which he or she is interested.
A more formal relationship with the community occurs when a person becomes
a candidate. The candidate lives within the community while continuing
his or her education or work experience. This period enables the candidate
to observe and participate in religious life from the inside. It also
gives the community an opportunity to see whether the candidate shows
promise of living the life of the community. A person may be a candidate
for one or two years.
The novitiate is the next stage of formation. This is a special one-to-two-year
period that marks official entrance into the community. Novices spend
time in study and prayer, learning more about themselves, the community,
and their relationship with the Lord. At the end of the novitiate, novices
prepare for temporary promises, or vows.
Promises of poverty, celibacy, and obedience may be taken for one, two,
or three years, depending upon the decision of the individual. These
promises are renewable for up to nine years. Final vows can be made
after three years of temporary promises.
men studying for religious priesthood must also undergo seminary training,
where he studies theology, the Bible, the teachings of the church, and
the skills he will need to be a priest.
17. What is a religious
vow? What vows do diocesan priests make?
A vow is a
solemn promise made freely as an individual gives his or her life to
God. Many religious communities make vows of poverty, celibacy, and
obedience. Some communities have other vows. Diocesan priests do not
make vows. For ordination, they freely make promises of celibacy and
obedience to their bishop.
18. Do priests get
No one becomes
a priest because of the money, that's for sure. You obviously can't
put a price tag on the spiritual rewards of being a priest and dedicating
one's life to God, but diocesan priests are not expected to live in
destitution either. Diocesan priests are paid a salary as they are responsible
for their own expenses (e.g. buying a car, putting gas in it, purchasing
clothes, paying taxes, etc.). Obviously, priests are not concerned with
earning enough for a spouse and children. This combined with the fact
that many of the basic necessities are provided (such as housing, food,
insurance, etc.), I have found that my salary is more than adequate
to pay for my expenses.
19. Are priests
allowed to drink (other than at Mass)?
answer is yes. Priests are over 21, after all. It's important to remember
that priests are human and do what other people do. So yes, priests
can drink alcohol and some do. But because we're called upon to live
a holy life, we do it in moderation. There is a big difference between
having a beer or two and getting sauced every Friday night. Any Christian
who chooses to drink alcohol should always do so in moderation. The
same moral code applies to priests and lay people alike. So as long
as we have fun and don't get too carried away we can celebrate like
20. How tough is
the schooling one has to complete to become a priest?
portion of seminary is any important part of seminary training. After
all no one would want to have a surgeon operate on him if he barely
passed medical school. The work of priests is at least as, if not more,
important than the work of doctors. After all, the most a physician
can do is delay death; the work of a priest brings life eternal! After
a priest has completed seminary, he has at least a Bachelors and a Masters
degree (maybe more depending on the program). The classes in the seminary
help us not only to be good priests, but it is from this theological
and philosophical foundation out of which we will minister to God's
people. At the seminary, one takes classes on everything from the Bible,
to Church history, to Dogma, to how to prepare and give homilies, and
all sorts of other interesting items that relate to the Church.
21. What if someone
goes to the seminary and then decides he doesn't want to become a
are not people who have everything figured out. In fact what they are
doing is seeking God's will, by putting themselves in a setting where
they can truly discern God's will. Spiritual direction and seminary
formation are important components of this. If an individual decides
priesthood is not for him, he is certainly most free to leave. Seminary
is not a prison! The job of seminary is not to try to brainwash people
or convince them that they should become priests, but rather to help
them to truly discover God's will and, if that is priesthood, to make
them the best possible priests. Sometimes people are afraid to give
it a try for fear of failure. There is no way to avoid risks in life.
Everyone who goes to medical or law school doesn't necessarily stay.
I guess the old saying is true: Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
22. Do priests in
a diocese have to be parish priests?
There are a
variety of ministries where priests in our diocese serve. Most do serve
in parishes, some as pastors, others as parochial vicars. Other priests
serve as chaplains in hospitals, or work in schools. Some work in prisons
or are involved in the administration of our diocese. Some work with
young, others with the elderly. There are many ways to serve God as
23. What if God
calls someone to the priesthood or religious life, but they don't answer
it and choose another vocation?
knew that God was calling them to the priesthood or religious life,
why would they say no? Would it be out of fear? I don't have what
it takes. Would it be out of selfishness? I don't want to give up
this or that. Would it be out of confusion? I'm not sure if this is
for me or I could do it. God calls us all in one way or another. Certainly
not everyone is being called to be a priest or nun. I think St. Therese
said it best when she said, “God calls those he wants!” Why would
we say no to God? What God has in mind for us is so much better than
anything we could imagine for ourselves (I am constantly amazed at all
that is part of my life as a priest!). Our happiness and well being
may very well depend on our response to God's call!
24. If someone has
lived an immoral life can they still become a priest or religious?
God is very
loving and forgiving. Redemption can take place anytime throughout our
lives. Sometimes after people have turned their lives around, with the
help of God, and dedicate themselves to Christ, that they may be aware
of a still deeper call from God. Generally speaking, it is less important
what someone has done in the past than what one is willing to embrace
in the present and future. There are limits of course to how we live
our lives. Honesty is always the best policy. Speak to your Vocation
Director about any concerns or reservations you may have. When we enter
formation and work towards ordination we assume the roles of living
a celibate lifestyle and living a moral life with our God.
25. Why are priests
called Father ?
St. Paul wrote
to the Christians at Corinth, saying “I became your father in Christ
Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). We use this term “Father”
when addressing most priests simply as a sign of love and respect. Truly,
even though every priest sacrifices a particular family, he gains a
much larger family in the Church. People most often look up to
their priests, ask for their help, guidance, and counsel. These and
many others indeed are qualities of a father who cares for his parish
26. Why do priests
and religious have to remain celibate?
Religious Sisters and Brothers make the choice of celibacy for two principal
reasons. It is so they can be totally available to serve God and the
Church, and also to be a sign to the world that God's kingdom is real.
Many people assume that this must be a very difficult, lonely, way of
life. If God were not in it, it certainly would be. Prayer is so important
to living this way of life. Celibacy frees the individual from immediate
responsibilities of a particular family and opens the individual up
to the needs and concerns of the larger family of God. It seems to me
no coincidence that we use family words (father, sister, and brother)
to refer to those in a religious vocation. People don't choose celibacy
because they don't want to get married (quite the contrary). They
choose to live this way out of devotion to God.
Still More Questions?
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