In my life I’ve listened to diverse opinions about what candidates for the priesthood should be like, how they should behave before entering the seminary and how they should lead an impeccable life. Many people believe that those men who feel the call of God to the priesthood have never missed Mass, that they know the hymnal by heart, and that their families are holy. But, the truth is, things aren’t exactly as we might imagine.
A man who’s been called to the priesthood…
It’s nothing to be scandalized about. We all are sinners simply because we have all been stained by original sin. Does God only choose the purest amongst His flock to call them? We know that in many cases He doesn’t. For example, there’s the case of Matthew, the tax collector, whom everyone considered a traitor. No one welcomed him in their home and everyone rejected him. They considered he had betrayed his people by working for the Romans, who abused the Hebrews. Yes, Saint Matthew could have been as bad as he could get, but that didn’t prevent Jesus from getting close to him with His love to call him to his encounter. “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Lk. 5:32).
This sounds nice, but is somewhat difficult to explain. The seminarian leaves everything, his family, his friends, his projects, his studies, in short, he leaves everything behind to follow Jesus. Let’s ask ourselves: How’s he capable of doing that? Is it a momentary impulse? Possibly, but I’d dare say that no one leaves everything behind for “something” he doesn’t believe in. The vocation to the priesthood comes from a personal experience with Jesus, from a face to face encounter with Him. The man called to the priesthood leaves his family and everything else to be “alone with God.” It is necessary to have a time for personal reflection, to listen to God and verify if it’s a divine inspiration or not. A man called to priesthood leaves everything behind for a reality that exists and stays in his heart, something he can’t always explain.
This is a very controversial topic, with many points that must be explained. Man is man by nature. God calls him to priesthood being a man, He doesn’t expect him to become a plant or a microbe. He expects him to be himself, a being created in His own image and likeness. By nature, man is attracted to women, he cannot disassociate from that, but he can commit his life to a single relationship. In this way, priesthood is similar to marriage. When a man takes a wife, he gives up all women but one, his wife. When the priest “marries” the Church, he gives up all women, including that “one” he could have had. God and His Church take her place. So, the priest makes fecund his priestly life, gathering many souls to God.
Many will agree with me when I say that the priest doesn’t give up fatherhood, but becomes a father to all. A father is devoted to his children, he takes care and watches over them just like a priest does. He takes care of his flock, watches over it and its spiritual health, he doesn’t abandon it, and is even capable of giving his life for it. That’s what it means to be a father. God said to Abraham: “No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations” (Gen. 17:5). And He fulfilled his promise! The priest has many spiritual children who ask him for advice and open their heart to him to seek what is good. It’s not necessary to have a biological bond in order to do so, he must only do what a father does; God has granted him that vocation.
Who is worthy of a mission as great as this? No one! We are not worthy by ourselves; God makes us worthy by choosing us, when he calls us to become priests. We have lived a life of sin like everybody else. We have betrayed Jesus countless times, we have denied Him, but God doesn’t focus on our faults, he sees our renewed heart, willing to love more. He calls each and every one of us to a different vocation. Those of us that have been called to religious life or priesthood have firsthand experienced God’s mercy. How is it possible that God called someone as imperfect as me? It is possible! We only know that God calls whoever He wants. Samuel explains it clearly in his first book: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam.16:7). In another verse, we read: “A contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51: 19).
No one is perfect, not even the priest. Priesthood doesn’t take away the priest’s humanity; he’s still a man, still lives on the Earth, makes mistakes, and makes wrong decisions. He’s as normal as any human being. His yearning for perfection, his desire to reach God, doesn’t come from an idea or a desire to achieve personal development, but it comes from God Himself.
Of course! A priest that isn’t happy as such should start to worry. The priest is called to live a different mission, a mission given by God. A priest’s happiness is not like that of today’s world. His happiness doesn’t come from fleeting fun, nor personal pleasures and whims; it doesn’t come from within himself. The priest’s true happiness comes from doing the Will of God and feeling deeply loved by Him. Who dares to say that love does not produce happiness? Those of us who have experienced God’s supreme love know that in it lies our happiness. Let’s imagine we’re small, thirsty birds flying throughout the desert, and suddenly we find an oasis with living water… what would we do? Drink! Wouldn’t that bird be happy with that water? Of course it would! This might not be the best example, but it helps us understand that our little sip of the infinite ocean of God’s love produces happiness. There’s no full happiness outside from God, because He is the source of all happiness.
These were only some of the characteristics of those who have been called to priesthood. It’s now time for you to experience this fullness of love; don’t fixate only on what people say. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:8).
Article written by Br. Edgar Henríquez Carrasco, LC
This post was translated into English by Lorena Tabares. You may find the original article on the Catholic-Link Spanish page, here.
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