Priesthood


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A Priest is a man of Prayer

A priest is first and foremost a man of prayer. The priest lives ‘in persona Christi’ so his most important prayer is to re-present the sacrifice of Jesus during Holy Mass. His parish relies on him to offer a sacrifice “holy and acceptable to God.” Throughout the week, too, at parish meetings and community functions, he is often asked: “Father, will you lead us in prayer?” He is seen as a man who knows how to speak with God.

A priest spends each day in personal prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours and time in private meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. His private prayer is essential, for he must know Him of whom he speaks, teaches and preaches; he must come to have an intimate relationship with Christ. The priest becomes ‘another Christ’ for his people.

A Priest is a preacher of the Word

Since the beginning of Christianity, people have come to Jesus through the preaching of the Word. Today, this remains a primary ministry of a priest. Because the majority of Catholics encounter the faith and receive their inspiration to practice it from the preaching of their parish priest, men who can articulate their knowledge and excitement about their Faith are a great treasure to the Church. A priest’s duty, then, is to teach his people how Christ’s life is relevant to their own. He answers the question, “How can I live out my faith today?”

 “The Church faces a particularly difficult task in her efforts to preach the word of God in all cultures in which the faithful are constantly challenged by consumerism and a pleasure-seeking mentality.” (Pope St. John Paul II)

A Priest is a Servant

A priest is not a priest for himself. The ordained priest shares in the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet and King. As priest, he prays and celebrates the Eucharist. As prophet, he preaches and teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as king, he serves others.

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Eucharistic mandate to His apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” but not before the Lord had knelt down and washed their feet. Jesus said, “What I have done for you, you must do for one another.”

A priest must be a servant to God’s people. He brings the love and strength of Christ into the parish, the school, the hospital room, the prison, the ghetto…wherever God’s people are and especially wherever they suffer, the priest is there.

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Who is called?

God has called men of just about every personality to be priests, from fiery spirits like St. Peter and St. Paul to quiet men like St. John and St. Francis of Assisi. He has called fishermen, scholars, farmers, writers, noblemen, commoners, doctors, lawyers, slaves, soldiers, and tax collectors. We have seminarians who joined our program right after high school and others who were in IT support and chemical engineering. You name the background; God has called priests from it to serve him.

Sometimes you may be surprised by whom God calls, especially if he calls you.  You may think, “God, you know me. You know what a sinner I am. You know my weaknesses. You don’t really want me to be a priest; there are other men who are much holier than me. Why don’t you call them?” But of course God does not need advice about his choices. In his divine wisdom, he calls those whom he wants.

Among other things, men differ in personality, background, and habits. God has called men of just about every personality to be priests, from fiery spirits like St. Peter and St. Paul to quiet men like St. John and St. Francis of Assisi. He has called fishermen, scholars, farmers, writers, noblemen, commoners, doctors, lawyers, slaves, soldiers, and tax collectors. You name the background, God has called priests from it to serve him. To hear if God is calling, a man needs to develop virtuous habits such as humility, courage, generosity, and patience. Growth in such areas will prepare him well for whatever path God desires him to take.

There is no single personality type that is “best” for the priesthood. The Vocations Director will meet and talk with you. He is basically looking for a good, well-rounded guy. He will look at your aptitude to gain skills to fulfill the requirements of the priesthood. St. Peter was an impulsive, emotional man with natural leadership skills, while St John was a quiet man with a tremendous contemplative mind. Pope John Paul II was an outgoing extrovert while Pope Benedict XVI is a shy introvert. If it is God’s will that a man be a priest, then every talent God has given him will be used in his priesthood.

Husband or Priest?

Having the natural instinct or desire to be a husband and a father, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a priest. They aren’t, in themselves, contradictory. It only seems that way, because you can’t be married if you are a priest. But the Lord (and the Church) needs men who have all the natural desires to be husbands and fathers. With the grace of ordination, the Lord is going to focus these important attributes to make that man into a spiritual father who provides for, protects and nurtures the family of the parish. If you think about it, the natural love and care a father gives to his children are very important assets that a priest carries over to his calling.

I feel strong sexual desire for women.

It is normal and healthy for you to have these desires. God made us man and woman and by nature we are made for the sacrament of marriage, which is a gift from God. These feelings do not preclude us from being called to the priesthood. Being called to the priesthood is challenging in many ways, one of which is setting aside the natural gift of marriage and accepting the supernatural gift of vocation for the priesthood. A Priest’s duty is to join his brother priests in the church and lift up the married people and their children to heaven. God needs men like you that will say, “I will do it. I will set aside the gift of marriage and obey a special calling to work for the salvation of others.” Being a priest is a sacrifice, formed in the image of Christ, because that is the life that Christ led. Are you ready for the challenge?

I want a wife and kids.

It is natural and healthy to desire a family. God places this inside of us. Parents love, care for, protect and teach their children. A man who is uncomfortable with the thought of being a parent to a child will make a terrible priest. After all, a priest serves as a spiritual father to the whole body of Christ, the Church. A good priest guides his spiritual children on the path to eternal life, guards them against the snares that might trip them up and like a good father is ready to lay down his life for his children. It takes a humble yet remarkably courageous man to be a good priest. It is a life of sacrifice because it is a life modeled on our Lord Jesus Christ’s life.

A priest does not stop being a man when he becomes a priest.

Priests are men. Whether you are called to married life or priesthood, chastity invigorates manliness and unifies the mind, body and heart. In contrast, an unchaste man soon finds his mind, body and heart at odds, leaving him feeling ashamed, weak, pulled apart. Perhaps more clearly than any other sins, sins against chastity tear apart the soul. Living chastely strengthens you. A priest needs strength and courage to be a provider, to be generous, to promote life. A man brings all that to the priesthood and the Lord’s grace takes all of those natural instincts, drives and desires and makes him into a Godly, Holy Priest. A Godly Priest, then, provides spiritual nourishment via the sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist), he generously avails himself for the needs of his parish family, and he presents and defends the truth so that his flock “might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.

Priesthood FAQ

A priest’s life is never boring! They celebrate Mass on Sundays and during the week, hear confessions, anoint the sick, baptize children and adults, witness marriages, and conduct funerals. They also teach the faith, listen and provide counsel to those in need, and promote works of charity. Priests visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, bring hope to those in prison, and mentor young people in schools. They also oversee parish staff, buildings, and budgets. Priests are called, by the grace of God, to be all things to all people! And they can only do this to the extent that they are in a loving relationship with the Lord. That is why prayer is the bedrock of a priest’s life.
The answer is yes and no! Because they want to serve God within the Church, diocesan priests make a formal promise of obedience to their bishop. It binds them to do God’s will as discerned by the bishop (who is responsible for the entire diocese); they renounce the freedom to do always and everywhere what they like or want to do. On the other hand, the freedom of the priest is not a freedom from responsibility; rather it is a freedom for the good! By freely choosing to limit their exterior freedom, priests gain the peaceful, deeper interior freedom that comes from knowing that they are doing exactly what God made them to do!
Priests in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church choose to freely renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom in response to the call of Jesus to his disciples: “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12). He makes this choice in response to careful discernment of how God has made him to love others most fully in this life: as a married man or as a celibate man. Jesus himself lived a celibate life in total dedication to Father and to doing His will. It is therefore most fitting for the man who stands in persona Christi capitis, that is, in the person of Christ, the head, to live a life most conformed to Christ’s own. Celibacy for the Kingdom sets the priest free to follow God with an undivided heart. As St. Paul explains, “the unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Finally, priests serve as a living reminder; as a kind of “sacrament” of eternity in the midst of time. That is, the unmarried priest reminds the world of the words of Jesus: “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). These words were not popular when first spoken by Jesus, and are still not popular today. Celibacy does not do away with a priest’s male sexual identity. Nor is it a condemnation of the marriage covenant. Rather, it is a structure of committed, covenantal love for God and His Church, which is made possible by grace and perseverance. While it is not a dogma, it is a great gift for the Church which has produced countless Saints for almost 2 millennia!
Certainly; everyone, even married people, is lonely from time to time! Contrary to what we see in romance movies, loneliness is a common part of life. In fact, many Saints have taught that loneliness is a means through which God draws us closer to Himself. In the end, our relationship with God is the only “cure” for loneliness–only His infinite love can satiate our infinite desire for love.
Yes, diocesan priests receive a modest salary from the parish or other institution they serve. Since priests are ordinarily provided with room and board, their salary is sufficient for their personal expenses such as clothes and transportation. While diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty that religious order priests take, they are encouraged to live a life of simplicity and to be generous to the poor. The black clerical clothes typical of priests are an outward sign of this modest life.
The Lord took his apostles apart for some rest after they had worked very hard preaching and healing (cf. Mark 6:31-32). Diocesan priests work hard too, and the Lord takes them apart from time to time to rest. Most priests take one day off each week and have time off each year for vacation. It is also wise for them to have hobbies and special interests to turn to for relaxation, just as they make time for daily prayer. Diocesan priests also make an annual retreat each year to help renew their relationship with and commitment to the Lord.
If you feel called to a religious or consecrated vocation, be not afraid!
Pray daily, seek the sacraments, and talk to a priest. The Vocation Directors are happy to help you discern your vocation.

For general inquiries to the Vocation Office, click: vocations@davenportdiocese.org

Fr. Jake Greiner
563-888-4255
Vocation Director