In the simplest terms, a vocation means a call. A vocation involves listening carefully to God, and exploring how He is calling you to live your life. Every one of us has a vocation, in that we are all called by God to love Him and to love others as much as we love ourselves. Some of us are called to marriage, some are called to single life, and others are called to priesthood and religious life.
In the Gospel, we are told that Jesus came so that we “may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). God has given life to each one of us, and it is in fulfilling His will that we achieve the joy, peace, and happiness that only He can offer. Discovering a vocation is one of life’s great realisations – in this way, we discover our true purpose, with a deep awareness of how God has set each of us on our own personal path.
Pope Benedict XVI defined the role of the priest in today’s world in the following way:
“The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between people and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, constructions, or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life.”
A priest is called to carry out God’s work in a number of different ways, including celebrating the sacraments, providing care and guidance for the community he serves, and teaching and spreading the message of God’s love.
It is difficult to describe a typical day in the life of a priest, as duties and tasks change daily. The primary role of a priest is to care for the community he serves by responding to their needs, and these needs may be different every day. Some of the responsibilities that a priest might encounter on a day-to-day basis are:
- Welcoming children into the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism
- Providing care and spiritual support for the elderly
- Celebrating Mass in the parish
- Visiting schools
- Guiding couples who are preparing for marriage
- Spending time with those in need
- Working with youth clubs in the community
- Visiting the sick in hospital
- Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation
For those who are called to serve the Catholic faith, religious life leads to fulfilment and inner peace, offering an opportunity to work with others in a way that is both challenging and rewarding.
Is yours a vocation to religious life? If you are thinking about following this path, there are no doubt a number of questions and reflections that you will want to take into consideration. Do you have a persistent sense of a call from God? Do you have a desire to devote your life to the service of your faith? Do you celebrate God’s Word, with an energy and enthusiasm to share the Good News of the Gospel? Do you have an open heart, and a willingness to support those in need?
These are just some of the reflections that can help you to determine the nature of your calling as you explore the possibility of entering religious life as a missionary priest or brother.
“Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace.”
Many people believe that being a priest means being removed from the world, and as such, being distanced from “ordinary” people. This, however, is not the case – we need only look at the life of Jesus to see a man who lived, loved, and shared his faith among all people. Our faith allows for holiness to be an essential part of the workings of our day-to-day lives, without the need to retreat from the world around us.
Holiness is about your personal relationship with God, and the way in which you live that relationship compassionately and faithfully. Holiness is not just restricted to times of prayer – God is to be found in all aspects of our daily lives, be it in moments of peace or in times of complication and disorder. Being holy is about trying our best to act in the image of Christ, in the words that we speak and the actions that we take.
We are all human, and we might not always get everything right. Holiness, however, is about doing the best that we can, finding strength and support in our faith, and always endeavouring to live in God’s mercy in all that we say and do.
“This is what I ask you: be shepherds, with the smell of your sheep. Make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.
Some practical suggestions to help you to discern your vocation
If you feel that these reflections ring true to your own personal experience, you might like to take further practical steps towards exploring the nature of your vocation.
Daily prayer: Today’s world is one of constant movement and activity. Taking time out for reflection and prayer on a daily basis is an essential element in discerning a vocation. Share your hopes and anxieties with the Lord, as prayer will help to lead you to valuable insights and a deeper sense of strength and support in your faith.
Celebration of Mass: Through the combined elements of the celebration of the Word and the breaking of the bread at Mass, we are encouraged in our faith and strengthened in our vocation.
Get involved: There are plenty of ways in which you can get involved with your local Church. From taking part in youth clubs, offering your volunteering services, or reaching out to the poor, to bringing Holy Communion to the sick or going on a group pilgrimage, being actively involved in the day-to-day activities of your Church will help you to gain a real insight into priestly ministry.
Talk to Fr Alan: If you feel like you could benefit from guidance as you explore the possibilities of your vocation, please feel free to contact Fr Alan, our Vocations Director. He will be happy to speak with you as you consider the nature of your calling, and help you to realise your vocation as you understand how, where, and why God is calling you.
If you would like to speak to Fr Alan and explore the potential of life as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, please feel free to get in touch:
Fr Alan Neville MSC
Vocations Director (Ireland and the UK)
Mobile: +353 (0) 86 785 7955 (Ireland) or +44 (0) 75 2676 4236 (UK)