Most priests are extremely happy in their vocations. The life of a priest is a very rewarding life. The media often give an incorrect impression of priests; that they are largely unhappy, frustrated and angry. This is simply not true. Priests are far happier in their lives than most of the population and well over 90% would do it again if given the chance.
In many ways all Catholic priests are the same. Each priest has gone through years of education and preparation at a seminary before his ordination. All priests are ordained to preach the Gospel and serve God’s people in the person of Christ. Most importantly, they administer the sacraments of the Church and help people get to heaven.
The differences are most easily seen by contrasting the vows made by religious priests and the promises made by diocesan priests. A diocesan priest makes three promises at ordination:
- To pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily
- To obey his bishop
- To live a celibate life
The diocesan priest lives and works in a certain geographical area – the diocese. Most often, a diocesan priest is assigned to a parish by the bishop, and he lives and works in that area. He does not make a promise of poverty, and usually owns a car and other possessions in order to do his work and live independently. His main work is preaching the Gospel, offering Mass, anointing the sick and dying, baptizing, celebrating marriages, burying the dead, and consoling those who need his help. He is focused on the needs of those in his parish.
In contrast, a religious priest will have made three solemn vows, before he is ordained, to live:
These three ways of living are called the Evangelical Counsels because they are recommended to Christians by our Lord as part of His Gospel. Interestingly, the Catechism teaches that every Christian is called to live the Evangelical Counsels according to his state of life, though religious priests live them in a “more intimate” way (CCC #916).
The religious priest chooses a religious community based on its lifestyle and mission. Some communities live very austerely while others do not. Some have missions with the elderly, youth, or the poor. Some serve as teachers in schools or evangelists in other countries. Most often they live in community with each other instead of among people in a parish.
Is one “better” or “holier” than another? Absolutely not. A vocation director is familiar with both types of priesthood and can be very helpful in guiding a man as he discerns what life God is calling him to.
A priest is a Catholic man called by God to proclaim the “Good News” of salvation to the world and to lead God’s people in worship, especially in making present the saving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross in the Eucharist. He is also privileged to bring Christ to people in the Sacraments: he gives the life of Christ to people in Baptism; he forgives their sins in Reconciliation; he anoints the sick; he officiates at weddings. In general, the priest brings Jesus Christ to people in their spiritual needs.
Just as Jesus Christ is fully and really present in the Eucharist; so too through the Sacrament of Holy Orders is Jesus Christ fully and really present in the priest, above and beyond what we all can claim as Christians; the priest when He acts in the person of Christ – is in fact, in the person of Christ.
In the Acts of the Apostles after Easter, we hear the story of the Apostles receiving thousands into the Church; baptizing whole families! I’m always amazed at the power of Christ; the power of the Holy Spirit but I know that the same Holy Spirit works in a powerful way to this very day! I know because I was a recipient of that outpouring of grace.
On April 19, 2003 at the age of 31, I was received [baptized & confirmed] into the Roman Catholic Church. I was one of the many people who came from no religious background (perhaps loosely Christian) but really a “pagan” receiving the gift of faith. And it didn’t stop there. My calling was first and most importantly to become a Christian man, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ; becoming His disciple. That was hard enough!
I was a bus driver at Mississauga Transit with almost ten years on the job at that point; making good money, I couldn’t have had more job security. I was even convinced that I was called to be married; a husband and father. There were lots of fine Catholic ladies that I wanted to date! Beginning to live as a disciple – my mind couldn’t have been further from priesthood.
But the Lord had other plans. The invitation came from others; first, my RCIA instructors, and then the priests in my parish. I wasn’t open to this idea at first, but when one is committed to prayer and to God’s presence and His signals – it’s hard to close the door too quickly. Later in 2003, I went to a Franciscan Discernment weekend in New York; a Come & See weekend at St. Augustine’s Seminary and remained committed to my involvement in my parish. By September 2005, after many challenges (my mother died in August of 2004) I made the first step of going to Serra House and beginning my formation which lead me through a rewarding yet challenging seven years of formation.
I was ordained a priest on May 12, 2012 at St. Michael’s Cathedral and spent my first year and a half of priesthood as the Associate Pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham. I absolutely love being a priest! It’s rewarding, God’s people are well worth it, and I joyfully give my life to ministering to them. I made many life-long friends in the seminary, and find that my life is more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I have learned a great deal, I am doing things now I NEVER would have imagined myself doing – all by the Grace of God!!
I know the Lord of the Harvest called me; and He might be calling you!! If He is – be not afraid!