How do I know if I have a vocation or not?

Just recently, I have decided to follow the path to become a priest but not because God gives me a sign or appears in my dream or something similiar but because I want to do the right things, to serve God and anyone in need. Now, how do I know if God is truly calling me or I’m hallucinating myself that he is calling me ? This also makes me think about why someone can fail to be a priest. If I fail to be a priest in the future, is it because God never calls me in the first place or because he does call me but my strength is not enough to answer his calling ?
Any help is appreciated, thank you for reading.

I’ll send you some video links that might help. May take some time. Only thing I can say is ask God point blank if this is what He truly wants of you to give you the Grace of wisdom, clarity and discernment to know without a doubt.

Scroll on down through these replies and there are 7 videos for Father Mike on you tube that might help.

thank you so much for these replys, I’m gonna watch it now

Hello @hagen,

As a seminarian, I believe I can answer your question.

We never know 100% if we are called to the priesthood until we are ordained to the transitional deaconate. We can hope, pray, and be pretty sure but in the end we just have to put our trust in God that he will lead us to our correct vocation in life. The vocation is literally just what the word means: it is a “calling”. We can listen with all our might and think we have heard correctly but we are fallible human beings and we make mistakes.

Even if you aren’t meant to be a priest and eventually you leave the seminary after a time of prayer, it doesn’t mean that your time was wasted. God may have been calling you to experience that aspect of seminary life to help you in your true vocation down the road.

Christ is the Way. His vocation for us is a road in and of itself. It may have twists and turns but it always leads to Him.

Leaving seminary does not mean that you ‘fail to be a priest’ in any respect. I have great respect for those who discern that the priesthood is not their vocation and leave the seminary to pursue their true vocation.

If you think you may be called to be a priest, go for it! I have found that God will more readily tell someone ‘no’ than ‘yes’. If you think you may be called to be a priest, don’t wait for a sign. Pursue your vocation. It is only extremely rare circumstances when God commands someone to be a priest. Now, if you aren’t meant to be a priest, God will stop you from being a priest. It is not a shameful experience, but a liberating one.

Take my example. I was dead set on being a member of a religious order. I was “positive” that I was meant to be one, but God had other plans and gave me pretty blatant signs to leave and join the diocese. It was nothing like dreams or supernatural signs, but God made his intent known through my situation and the people around me.

If you think you may have a vocation, call the Vocations Director for your diocese or a religious order. They have usually been doing their job for a while and will be able to help you on your next step of discernment, whether that be toward the priesthood or away from it.

God Bless! I will be praying for you!
Ben

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Thank you so much for your reply and your praying Ben, but your reply raises my another question.

To be very honest, I do not want to live like a priest, I want things that almost anyone would want like fame, power, richness and sexual relationship etc BUT in my mind the priesthood is the true and the most righteous way to live a mortal life cause I get to serve God and help so many poor people in need even for the dead ones. It’s like soldiers going to war, nobody with a sane mind would want to suffer the horrors of war and not living a peaceful life but people still volunteer to go to war because they believe it’s the best way to protect their loved ones at home ( I’m talking about the “good” soldiers not the evil ones ).

Now, this makes me think that do I need to truly love the hardship of the priesthood with all my heart to become a priest like a soldier needs to love the horrors of war to become a soldier ?

Another thing is this part “leave the seminary to pursue their true vocation.” But what true vocation can be greater than the vocation to be a priest, to serve God ?

Marriage and other Consecrated vocations are also true Vocations. You should not persue a Vocation because it’s what “you should do”, but because you truly are attracted, and discern that God is calling you to use your innate talents there. There can also be providencial signs but these are rare and must be discerned with a Spiritual Director.

An exception to this might be a monk, as monks traditionally made themselves one to achieve sanctity and save their soul. But even in that case, you have to feel called to the Spirituality of the monastery or order.

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Any vocation to which God calls a person is greatest in that person’s life. If a person is called to the married life, then this is not lesser than the vocation to the priesthood. It would, in fact, be a lesser vocation to ulti.ately pursue the priesthood if God was calling that person to married life. Vocations are never decisions between a good and a bad path. It is the definition vision between a good and a best path. Objectively, the vocation to the priesthood is equal to the vocation to the married life. Both can serve God equally in different ways. The path of discernment, however, is figuring out which of those two are best specifically for you.

One of the greatest inhibitors to discernment to the priesthood is viewing priesthood as a vocation which is ultimately higher than all other vocations. In doing so, any discernment you do will be skewed towards priesthood itself. To truly discern, you need to take your personal inclinations out of the picture and focus on where God is leading you, to Himself, regardless of whatever form that path manifests itself.

I would suggest reading The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. ALL Christian’s, regardless of whether they are priests or lay people are called to service. Being a priest doesn’t make this task easier or more impactful. I can guarantee you that Ven. Pierre Toussaint helped more poor and was a more effective soldier for Christ than many of the priests of his day, and he was a lowly slave hair-dresser in 1800s New York City. He, however, lived out his vocation to the fullest and served God in the way in which he was called.

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Thank you everyone for your replys, I truly appreciate it. I will work through it now so I can dertermine my path later.

To be clear, most men do not receive a big sign telling them God is calling them to be a priest. Most vocation directors would be a little leery of a candidate who said God spoke to them about being called to Holy Orders. Not that it doesn’t happen, but is more likely an exception versus the normal course. I’ve personally spent the last 5 years of diaconal formation praying to God to leave me a sticky note on my mirror saying "Yes, I’m calling you“, but God doesn’t appear to work that way.

So if God doesn’t write us notes, then how do we know? That is what the process of discernment is about. It is a time of reflection by both the candidate and the Church to determine if the candidate is called. It is important to remember that discernment goes both ways and it is not just the candidate that reflects on the call.

That discernment will look different for each man, but some common elements in my experience are:

  • if others ask you about being ordained even if you’ve never mentioned or considered it
  • A sense that God is calling you even though you had other plans
  • A feeling of unease when setting the idea aside

Those are by no means universal or complete, but an underlying thread is that it is not a feeling of what you want so much as a sense that doing otherwise is the wrong path.

One possible counter indicator is if it’s done as a sense of it being the last choice. For instance, if a man has multiple failed relationships that is not necessarily God’s way of telling him he is called to be a priest. Holy Orders is a sacrament of service to others so there should be some level of humility versus simply a feeling of resignation or, worse, entitlement.

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Is that so? Is God so “blunt” at communicating that He lets us know what feels wrong but not what feels right for our life? It’s a sincere question, as I am also discerning and this seems contrary to all the Spirituality saying that God gives peace and Hope when you follow His path.

The rest of your post was really insightful. I’ve bookmarked it to remember it later.

He can be. This resonates what I wrote above. God more readily tells us ‘no’ than ‘yes’. He is ultimately a shepherd. The shepherd goes after the lambs who have gone astray and generally does not intervene when those sheep are doing what they are supposed to. With regards to vocation, that feeling of wrongness is the Lord’s shepherd’s crook gently guiding us away from dangerous cliffs or infertile grazing land. He then allows us to seek out the direction which he has left open to us.

This is not to say that this feeling of wrongness is automatically evident to us before we apply to seminary. It takes maturation in our spiritual life to become sensitive to these faint urgings from God. For a many, this spiritual maturation only occurs during their time in seminary.

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I had all three of these things. I talked to my pastor and he turned me down flat. I didn’t pursue it further, but it nagged at me for years. Even to this day, I am notorious for sitting in Mass, hearing a priest’s sermon, and murmuring to myself “I wouldn’t have put it quite like that — I could preach a better sermon than that guy did!”.

Bottom line, you have a vocation at that moment when the bishop — who, as far as you are concerned, is God’s vicegerent on earth — calls you forward to be ordained. Everything short of that is just preliminaries. I would challenge @CRM_Brother’s comment that a man knows he has a vocation when he is ordained to the traditional diaconate. It’s a strong indication, but still, it’s not totally out of the question that Almighty God, for His own reasons, could will that a man serve as a deacon for life, and proceed no further. We have permanent deacons all over the place (and thank God for that!). And I have to think a deacon can be laicized, if that’s the word, far more easily than a priest can.

Incidentally, I was reading very recently that the very same priest who turned me down — and there was no finer priest on the face of the earth than he was, he told people what they needed to hear and didn’t care who it ticked off (and he “ticked off” plenty! — pricked at their consciences would be more like it) — told another young man, just out of the clear blue sky, that he thought God would one day call the young man to be a priest. He is now the pastor of that priest’s parish (requiescat in pace).

Thank you! I always understood God as a Father, but I never really thought about Him as a Shepherd.

I would say it’s less about how God communicates to us as how our human failings can cloud our judgements. Coming to the right decision can certainly bring peace, but you really have to discern if that peace is external from God or from the internal voice of the ego simply agreeing with your decision. That is part of the reason that discernment is not just something left to a candidate.

One thing I was asked to think about is how I felt about being in the sanctuary during mass versus being in a nursing home or working with the homeless. It was really about getting us to think about the fact that we aren’t ordained for our own salvation, but that of others.

What the vocation director was trying to get at is many may be drawn to what seems like the “cool” part of the clergy (i.e. giving homilies, wearing vestments, being in the sanctuary, presiding over the sacraments, etc), but if they do not have a love of God’s people then they are missing one of the key purposes of ordination. That love might not be immediately apparent, but it tends to manifest itself when we open ourselves to what God is calling us to do. For example, I was terrified of doing a hospice rotation since I had never really been around people who were dying and really struggled with not wanting to do the rotation. It was a few weeks in before I found how Christ was able to work through me and give me the graces to sit with people who were scared and sometimes abandoned by their families to die alone. The pastoral ministry that I was most resistant too was the one where I found the clearest calling of God’s voice.

One book that I found was a great help, was St Bernard of Clairvaux’s “Four Degrees of Love”. It really gets to the heart of where our love is directed.

ETA - Mea Culpa… the book by St Bernard is actually called “The Love of God” in which he speaks about the four degrees of love.

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Thank you for the in-depth answer. What you said about the "cool ministries and the other ones is very true, I will try meditate it.

And the book also seems interesting, I’ve never read St. Bernard, I didn’t think his writing could be useful for discernment :thinking:

I read a book called Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery by Fr. Richard Butler when I was questioning whether or not I was called to religious life. It really clarified things for me, and though the book talks mostly about the vocation to religious life I think it might help you with your considerations regarding the priesthood. The attraction theory of vocation is actually a relatively recent phenomenon and not in keeping with the traditional view of how one is called to a vocation. Fr. Butler explains this more in the book, but it helped me to get past fuzzy feelings that were confusing and unreliable for discernment. Ultimately, I decided not to pursue a religious vocation because my health problems would burden a community, I’m medically unable to fast, and because I realized I would regret giving up the chance to raise holy children. Anyway, you can find the book on Amazon. It’s less expensive as a Kindle book, just so you know. The paperback is about $25.

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