Which religious order is right for me?

Good evening to all :wave:
I am a freshman in a Catholic high school, and I have been heavily interested in the religious priesthood. I have looked at most of the orders, and I am very interested in the Capuchins, but I have a few questions that have been difficult to get answered:

  1. What is the difference between the Franciscans (OFM) and the Capuchins (OFM Cap.)?
  2. How do I know if I would make a good priest?
  3. What educational institutions will I have to attend, and how long will it take to get to ordination day?
  4. What is the best order to be able to go out anywhere in the world to evangelize, preach, educate, and administer the sacraments all in one?

Well, I’ll give you a hint. If you’re going into a religious like the Franciscans or Benedictines looking to become a priest, you may be sorely disappointed.

You enter those orders to become a brother in a community. The superior will decide if he needs another priest to serve his community. And he will decide who can best fulfill this need. It may not be you, if you enter the order. And if he does chose you, you’ll have to remember that you’re a brother first, and a priest second or you’ll be sternly rebuked by the superior.

There are some priestly orders or societies. I’m less familiar with those, but if you really want to become a priest I’d check those out, because to become a priest is precisely the last reason you become a Benedictine or Franciscan (or Cistercian). The Carthusians still have two classes of monks, lay and choir (priests or priests in formation). That may be an avenue to look into but you’ll rarely, if ever, leave the cloister or have contact with the public.

I don’t want to discourage you; just be realistic. If you really have a priestly vocation, that’s great, Lord knows we need more priests; just channel your vocation into a direction where the priesthood is part of the charism.

First of all, you must understand that the vocation of the Franciscan is to be a friar. The term friar comes from “frater” or brother. One enters a Franciscan community because one feels called to live the Gospel in the manner that St. Francis lived it, which was in a brotherhood. One does not enter a Franciscan community to be a priest, teacher, nurse or gardener. One can be any of those without being a Franciscan.

Second, there are many priests in the Franciscan family. How does this work? When a man approaches the Vocation Director, he usually expresses his belief that he is called to be a priest who lives the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis. This makes him different from other priests, if he were to be ordained. He’s not just a priest. He’s a very unique priest. He belongs to a family that has a tradition and a history. This family also has a culture of its own, which at times is very different from the rest of Catholicism, but Catholic nonetheless. He is a consecrated man, unlike his diocesan counterpart who remains in the world. This priest is a consecrated man by virtue of the vows of religion.

He is also unique from other priests who belong to religious orders in that he is in a brotherhood of equals. The friar who cooks, the friar who teaches and the friar who celebrates mass are equals in dignity, duties and rights. They serve the Church in different ways. They are not different from each other. In many orders, the non ordained members of the order, usually called the brothers, exist to serve the priests. This is a legitimate vocation. Christ does call people to serve others. Why can’t he call a man to serve priests? That is not the case in a Franciscan community. Franciscans, of any branch, serve the community. The community includes everyone from the postulant to the superior general.

The way that we look at our priests is as brothers who serve the community and the Church through priestly ministry. They serve as priests, because they are brothers and service is what brothers do.

In Traddom, this often confuses people, because the misconception is that the priest is distinct from other Catholics. In a way he is. He’s a priest and through Holy Orders he is changed and that can never be undone. This difference does not mean that he has a special place in every community. In the Franciscan community, priests are very much loved and respected, because only they can consecrate and absolve. They are also expected to clean toilets. In other communities the toilets would fall on the non ordained brothers. In the Franciscan community, if one of the friar priests asked a non ordained friar to wash his dishes, he may end up with a plate being broken over his head, unless he’s old or sick.

If you feel called to be a priest who lives the Gospel in the Franciscan tradition, you will be allowed to try it. You will be sent to school at the same time as you go through religious formation. Periodically, the formation team with evaluate your progress and give the feedback to the superior. As you go, if the superior begins to doubt that you are called to be either a priest or a religious, he will share those doubts with you.

If he feels that you will make an excellent priest, but not a good Franciscan. You will be encourage to leave the community and find another formation program to continue your studies for the priesthood.

If he feels that you would make an excellent Franciscan, but not a good priest, you will be told so before you make final vows. If you decide to make final vows, you’re in for life and there is no guarantee that the superior may change his mind and allow you to be ordained.

Finally, if the superior feels that you are called to both, the priesthood and the Franciscan life. He will then give you permission to make vows and to to ordained.

Let’s look at your other question. There is one Order of Friars Minor. There are three obediences in that order: Observants (OFM), Capuchins, (OFM Cap), and Conventuals. In a short manner. When our Holy Father Francis died, the rule did not address many new situations that came up. The friars had to figure it out on their own. Because they did not agree on how to face these new situations and Francis had not left any instructions, the community divided. Eventually, the popes organized it into three branches of the same order, each with its own government.

All of them follow the Rule of the Friars Minor. The differences are in those things that are not in the rule.

OFM: Live in larger communities, which requires more structure and more money.

OFM, Cap: Live in smaller communities, which allows them to be more relaxed with less structure and they can be poorer. There is a stronger bond of brotherhood.

OFM, Conv: Live in larger communities, with more structure and tend to be more scholarly. They are found more often in urban areas.

You can literally see the difference in the way they dress and in their houses. An OFM and an OFM Conv. will look spiffy in his habit. An OFM Cap will have last week’s spaghetti stains on his habit, a burn mark from his cigar, and a patch where he tore his habit.

An OFM and and OFM Conv will probably have computer, cell phone, books and other things necessary for his work. An OFM cap would have to share these things.

An OFM and OFM Conv house would have a few comforts, such as furniture that is in one piece. The OFM Caps will have furniture that does not match and is patched.

Those are just some differences.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

Well, I feel hopelessly unqualified to follow up after those 2 very knowledgeable posts… by 2 very knowledgeable people (and an Oblate and fully professed Religious Brother at that).

I just finished my sophomore year in college, and I’m discerning whether or not to be a priest. And in particular if I am called to be a priest, then I’ve definitely felt a pull to consider the Dominicans.

And, it’s my understanding from what I’ve read, that someone entering the Dominicans should know whether they want to be a friar or a priest. So, during your novitiate period you should know before that or during that whether you’re called to be a priest or a brother. I think they are different from the Franciscans and Capuchins in that regard [but I could be wrong].

I don’t want to wave the flag for the Dominicans or anything :smiley: But, I would suggest definitely looking into what their charism is and at their spirituality. Dominicans travel like the Franciscans, one of the main things they focus on is preaching, and they also tend to be very well educated so they are involved in schools and teaching. And if you were a priest on top of that you’d obviously administer the sacraments.

[quote= astroalbert]2. How do I know if I would make a good priest?

The saying I’ve heard a lot is “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called”. So, a sure way of being a BAD priest would to not have a calling in the first place. But, if you are called… God’s going to be doing a lot of work to make you a good priest. :thumbsup:

Unrelated to Catholic tradition


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