Where Do I Begin?

How To Discern

What is Discernment?

Sometimes our vocation is not always obvious to us, and it’s important to seek opportunities to recognize what our life’s mission is to be. That’s where discernment comes in. Discernment is being aware and reflective of your heart, to see how God is moving and leading you. When one takes time to discern, one takes specific actions to reflect and determine one’s calling, including the following:

  • Critically assessing oneself to determine where one’s passions and loves truly lie. 

  • Praying for the ability to understand the answer, and turning to Scripture for guidance. Below are a few recommendations:

    • Matthew 19:16-30 — Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man.

    • John 1:35-51 — The calling of the first disciples.

    • Luke 14:25-33 — Following Christ no matter the cost.

  • Speaking candidly with one’s pastor, ministers, vocation directors and spiritual directors — people who have experienced this same period of discernment and who may ask important questions that help steer your journey. 

  • Taking time to experience the daily life of a missionary, seminarian or other role that is of interest. 

It’s important to acknowledge that discernment does not happen overnight. Indeed, it can take years. Be patient, the answer will come.

Click here to respond to our Discernment Questionnaire.

Three Questions of Discernment

Below are three questions to ask yourself if you are considering discernment:

  • What do others say about me with regard to the priesthood?

  • What happens inside of me when I think about the priesthood — joy, peace, excitement?

  • What are the needs of Church and the World?

Signs You Might be Ready to Discern

1. God has placed in your heart a desire to be a priest.

If Jesus has placed a desire in your heart for the priesthood, no matter what your age, don’t ignore it.  Talk to a priest you admire about how you feel.

2. You have a deep love for Christ and His Church.

A priest functions in persona Christi capitas—in the person of Christ, head of the Church.  Thus a man who wants to be a priest must love Jesus Christ above all else.  And like Jesus, he should have a deep love for the Church, the Bride of Christ.  In general, a man who wants to be a priest will find himself drawn to Church teachings and “all things Catholic.”

3. Other people have mentioned that you would be a good priest.

Often other people will notice a “priest’s heart” in a young man and say to him, “Have you ever thought about being a priest?  I think you’d make a good one.”  In fact, many men report that they grew tired of people making such comments—but that the encouragement eventually led them to seminary!

4. You desire to live a life of virtue and prayer.

Pope Benedict recently spoke about what people expect of their priests.  To paraphrase, he said that people do not expect priests to be experts in anything but the spiritual life. Thus, a good candidate for the priesthood attends Mass, prays frequently, receives the sacrament of Confession, serves others, and strives to grow spiritually.

5. You want to help others grow closer to Christ.

A priest brings Jesus to people and people to Jesus.  For this reason, a man who wants to be a priest must have a deep concern for the people of God.  He wants to help them grow in holiness; he wants to teach them the truths of the faith; he wants to minster to them during the trials of life.  The vocation of priesthood is about leading others to heaven.