What Does the Call Feel Like? (warning: It's very long)


Hi everyone.

I suppose I'm directing my question especially to those of you are are discerning, or already discerned, a call to the priesthood.

I've had what I can only describe as powerful and unusual experiences lately that have left me with a lot of confusion and fascination. I'd appreciate anyone's insight about these things.

First of all, I am blessed to have had more than one experience of "sensing" the Lord in a real, life-changing way, during prayer. I gather these experiences are like what we call Conversion experiences or what our fundementalist friends would call being "born again."

I was raised Catholic and though I wandered away, I never turned against the Church.

Earlier this year, I returned to the Church fully- Sacraments and all. It started with an overwhelming pull on my heart that got me back to Mass. After my first confession in many years, I was energized and started soaking up books about the Church and the Bible as fast as I could. I began to pray more and more as well. I started attending Mass at least twice a week.

At this point I began to experience a fascination with the priesthood. At Mass, I would be more and more amazed by what is happening on the altar. I felt like I was noticing every detail about our priests: how they dress, how they behave, how people interact with them, etc. I realized, while sitting down for coffee with my priest one night, I wasn't just seeking his advice but I was curious about his work, his life and activities.

One night, the vocational film "Fishers of Men" came on after a program I was watching had ended. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I had butterflies in my stomach. I fought back tears through half of it. I found myself thinking, if I was a young man I would speak to a vocations director. Say what?!

In the months that followed, my prayer and reading continued. I kept feeling like God wanted me to do something but I couldn't imagine what. Because of my age and my situation, I don't consider myself to be priest material!

Following a novena to the Holy Spirit, I experienced a week during which almost any prayer, hymn, or thought of Christ would bring on intense crying and sobbing. It was dfficult to be at Mass and keep it together. I accept that experience as a true blessing but I still felt clueless about any calling or path.

I almost always go to Mass on my day off (in addition to Sunday) because I "miss" the Blessed Sacrament.

Does any of this sound familiar to you guys? Or have I lost my mind?

Thank you for reading this very long first post!

Thanks be to God.


The "call" doesn't "feel" like anything. One develops an interest in the priesthood, one decides one might like to become a priest, one tries a vocation by applying to enter his diocesan seminary. If he maintains his interest and his grades are acceptable, he may then, at the end of his formation program, be called to major orders by his bishop. The calling by the bishop to enter into major orders is the vocation, not anything that has led up to that moment. Not tears, not emotions, not reactions to motion pictures. The bishop's invitation to take Holy Orders is the only proof of one's vocation.


I think the first answer is a little legalistic. Try visiting the Vocations Boom! website.

PS My son is in his first year at St John Vianney Seminary in St Paul, MN


You don’t give your age but I take it that you are over 30. If so, the Sacred Heart School of Theology near Milwaukee, WI specializes in “second” vocations. Click on this link:


I'm female so I'm not discerning a call to the priesthood, but I imagine it must be something similar to what you described :)


What you described isn't uncommon from some other men I have talked to, and from a few women I have heard share their stories. The emotional and spiritual high is easy to respond to, but the real test of a vocation comes in persevering through it, especially during the low times. And they will come. Sometimes they'll be up and down in a day, sometimes you'll be flying or dragging for weeks or months. It is natural. The Lord allows us to be tested (i.e. purified and strengthened, not in the sense of 'quizzing' us) through consolations and desolations.

Like someone mentioned, it sounds like you are older, but you don't give your age. Perhaps you're not as old as the phrase "when I was a young man" makes it sound, but that can, and I stress only can be a factor. A vocation director will be able to make a better determination. If your diocesan vocation director says flat out that the diocese doesn't take seminarians over your age, don't fret, there are some that do. Especially if there are extenuating circumstances, such as education background, that can help.

Another thing that comes up is it sounds like you are a very recent "revert." That's not a bad thing, but it is important to know that the exhilaration following full reception into the Church can sometimes be temporary. Most dioceses prefer to wait two years after confirmation before a prospective seminarian enters. Some don't. Mine ended up being a year and a half, and that was their choice. Be prepared for that, either way.

I'm a seminarian now, in pre-theology, and I'll tell you something I learned, which shouldn't be all that surprising: we discern our vocation up until the day of ordination, perhaps even beyond, but I hope not. The Church discerns with us, to authenticate that calling. She may decide at some point that no, we do not have a calling.

Talk to your vocation director. If you haven't already, talk to your pastor or priest with whom you seem to be fairly close.

As for Fishers of Men, it is a wonderful wonderful program. However, because I think it is so wonderful, and it's hard not to be moved by it, I wouldn't consider it a real test of a vocation. Hopefully a catalyst, but not a measurement.


Thanks for the thoughtful repiles everyone.

And Andrew.. all the best and may God bless you in your holy work!


From one who is discerning a calling to the priesthood and religious life(e.g. the Jesuits), it alternates between joy and torment. I am excited about the prospect of serving God in such a way. Yet, at the the same time, I really wish that I could have a lot of children with a lovely wife children some day, a desire that will apparently never come to past.


The call is certainly an emotional response initially. I do not agree with the first reply at all. But as already mentioned it's important to make sure your emotions don't sway you back and forth. We need to preserve even onto seminary if we are indeed considering a vocation to the religious life. For me it felt like a gentle enlightenment and the more I thought and considered my life as a priest, the more at peace I felt committing my life totally to God. I'm still discerning the priesthood myself but I am trying to stay as close as I can to Him through Mass, confession, the scriptures, and prayer. Through experiencing Christ in this way we learn our true calling. I'll be praying for you and your discernment. Please also do the same for me!


Many responses. Another angle to think about; Do you feel this "calling" at the lowest of times as well as the high times. When it seems you are not connecting to others around you when speaking of your faith, do you still feel it?
This is an indicator that you vocation may not just be a fleeting feelling that you hold onto when things are looking up. But, something your truly believe in when things are not going your way.


I feel it all the time.

I feel it when I'm at my job and I'm supposed to be focused on money and sales and margins.

I feel it when I'm praying with my elderly dad.

I feel it when I'm alone, reading my Bible.

I feel it when I'm in Mass.

The more I concentrate on it, the more it "resonates," like when you strike a tuning fork and the vibrations create the hum.

Twice, after being given advice that I am probably NOT receiving a calling and should move on, I have prayed for the grace and wisdom to accept God's will and stop obsessing about the priesthood. Both times, I was immediately overcome with deep saddness for a day or more.

Lately I've had dreams in which I'm at church and a voice gives me short, clear instructions. But I'm not able to understand the metaphors in them.

One day, I awoke hearing "Agnus Dei" over and over in my mind. I didn't know what it meant at the time. I do now.

Obviously, there are some who think emotion should not play a large role in discernment.

It's been a rough ride.


Can you attempt to describe just what you feel? Is it a strong emotional pull, a sense of feeling almost love for it?


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