Common Myths

When discerning, there are quite a few misconceptions about priesthood. Here are just a few!

“I’m not worthy enough.”

When St. Peter told Jesus he wasn’t worthy, the Lord responded very frankly: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.” God isn’t shocked by our sins. The bottom line is that nobody is really worthy for the immense gift of the priesthood. Nobody claims this ministry for themselves. God invites individuals totally by grace! This is incredibly liberating because we can focus less on our failures and shortcomings, and instead pay attention to what matters most: Humbly serving God as He transforms us by grace into Saints. He loves us unconditionally as we are — even as He calls us to a life of greater freedom and holiness in Him.

Photo Credit: Lori Elizabeth Fowlkes

“Priests are sad and lonely.”

One of the top myths is the claim that many priests are “sad and lonely” just because they are celibate. Several studies seem to suggest the opposite, with priests reporting one of the highest rates of satisfaction in any profession. Besides, getting married (as gorgeous a vocation as it truly is) won’t automatically solve that inner ache to be known, appreciated, and loved. It takes hard work not to feel “lonely” no matter your calling in life. Like anyone else, priests need to learn how to effectively build up good friendships that are sources of energy and genuine leisure. The feeling we call “loneliness,” therefore, is an invitation to reach out and nourish positive relationships. “Feeling lonely” isn’t the inevitable consequence of “not having a romantic relationship,” but rather it’s a helpful reminder that “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Gen 2:18)

“It’s up to me to fix the Church.”

This is an incredibly dangerous, not to mention arrogant, myth — the so-called ‘Messiah-complex’ that some people are tempted into. Here’s some honest advice: If you are discerning the priesthood, it’s helpful to always keep in mind that God and the Church ultimately don’t “need you.” True, the Lord may greatly desire you to receive this wonderful vocation, but He can and will accomplish His good and gracious will, with or without your cooperation! Jesus Christ already saved the Church once-for-all when He died and rose again 2,000 years ago. The Church doesn’t need “fixed,” but She does need Saints — saintly priests who are eager to imitate Christ in His humble self-sacrifice.

Photo Credit: Lori Elizabeth Fowlkes

“Your vocation will totally satisfy you.”

This myth is false because only one thing will ever fully satisfy you — God Himself. Your particular vocation, for all its joys, hopes and opportunities, is only the means by which you will love God and neighbor best. Ask any wise and God-fearing married couple, and they’ll be quite quick to point out that their spouse does not totally fulfill them! We are each created in the image and likeness of God, and only a relationship with Him can ultimately quench our deepest thirst, our truest longings. Your individual vocation is the road God uses to draw you and the people in your life closest to Him. It’s the path by which He will make all things new. In prayer, try asking God this question: “Where can I love You and Your people best?”

“I need to be sure before…”

Very few seminarians “know-for-sure” that they are called to be a priest when they first enter seminary. For one thing, the Church has a say in this question as well, so it’s best to take things one step at a time and see where the Lord gently leads! Many seminarians give up stable careers, amazing girlfriends, and all-around very comfortable lives to go to seminary — with no absolute guarantee that they are called! This is ultimately an act of faith and trust that God won’t lead you astray. The seminary is not a place where they pressure people into joining the priesthood. It is an opportunity to sincerely seek Christ’s will and allow Him to shape you into the man you are called to be. If that ends up being the priesthood, then wonderful. But if after entering the seminary, you discover this isn’t the life God has in mind for you — good! You’ll be healthier and holier for your time spent honestly seeking God’s will in the seminary.

“My Family and Friends Won’t Understand.”

This can be a big question for men discerning the priesthood — how will my loved ones react? Will they be confused or angry? Will they be happy for me? Breaking the news that you are considering entering the seminary can be really hard at first, but the most important thing to remember is always be yourself. Your friends and family will eventually realize they only want you to be happy. By following God’s will for your life, you will begin to live out a deeper joy that goes beyond mere superficial happiness, and everyone around you will begin to notice this about you!

Discerning Celibacy Photo Credit: Lori Elizabeth Fowlkes Blessings of Priesthood Ministry of the Priest