Toledo Priesthood
 

Why be a Priest?

THE PRIESTHOOD IS A CALLING.

Christ asks of some men the sacrifice of their lives in following him as his more intimate companions. From all eternity, God calls certain men to the priesthood. Because this call is from their God their Creator, this call will bring these chosen men deep fulfillment as they dedicate themselves to serving the Church.

A PRIEST ACTS IN PERSONA CHRISTI.

Priests act in persona Christi capitas, which means “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.”  That’s why the priest speaks in the first person at Mass, “This is my body, given up for you.” As Pope John Paul II wrote: “The priest offers his humanity to Christ, so that Christ may use him as an instrument of salvation, making him as it were into another Christ.”

A PRIEST WIELDS A SACRED POWER.

When a priest exercises his ministry, he wields a sacred power from God, in Latin, sacra potestas.  Jesus’ divine power works through the priest, as Jesus himself continues to lead, sanctify, and teach his people through the ordained ministry.

A PRIEST’S SOUL CHANGES FOREVER.

At ordination, a man’s soul undergoes an ontological change—a change of being—which indelibly marks his soul forever. Once a priest, always a priest.

 
 
 

What do priests do?

Priests do far more than celebrate Mass and pray all day.  The life of a priest is busy, demanding, challenging—and incredibly rewarding.  The vast majority of priests live happy, fulfilling lives. They love the people they serve, and in turn, are loved by their parishioners.

 
 

Teach

Priests instruct others about the faith.

Shepherd

Priests guide, unite, and encourage their parishioners.

Sanctify

Priests administer the sacraments and encourage holiness.

Individual priests have a very wide variety of tasks within the Church. There are many specialized ministries such as being a chaplain, working at the diocesan offices, or teaching in a seminary.  But the majority of priests serve in parishes. Their duties include:

  • Celebrate Mass and preach the Gospel

  • Lead a parish of Catholic Christians

  • Bring new members into the Church through Baptism

  • Hear Confessions and provide spiritual direction

  • Help teens and young adults come to know Christ

  • Prepare couples for marriage and counsel married couples

  • Teach people how to pray

  • Feed the poor, visit prisons, and advocate for justice

  • Counsel people going through difficult times

  • Visit the sick in hospitals and anoint them for healing

  • Perform funerals and bury the dead

  • Manage the temporal affairs of the parish

  • Pray daily for the People of God

 
 
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Overcoming Fear of Priesthood

Perhaps the priesthood has crossed your mind, but fear pushes the idea away:

These fears are very common, even for men who are already in seminary. But literally thousands of men have had the same concerns and then went on to become holy and effective priests. The first principle to remember is that God does not speak through fear.  Fear is a tactic of the Enemy to keep you from pursuing God’s will; it is like the bite of an animal that paralyzes its prey to keep it from moving.  A man in fear will find it difficult to move toward God’s will.


So How Can You Overcome These Fears?

Here are FIVE ways to help you break through.

1) Turn your fears into concerns.

You may have legitimate concerns about celibacy or preaching—but that is not the same as being afraid.  Rather than feeling fear, look at the requirements of priesthood objectively.  Sure, it’s true that priests need a certain level of self-control and ability for public speaking. These and many other areas require serious self-assessment. Yes, you probably will discover areas that need to change and improve. But go about your discernment with a cool head, not a fearful heart.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall that when Jesus called Peter (Lk 5:1-11), our first pope said, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  Jesus then assured him that there was nothing to fear in following him. Likewise, Jesus knows your difficulties and weaknesses. If you trust him and “cast your net into the deep,” all will be well.

2) Reflect on God’s love. 

Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save a Thousand Souls, recommends this meditation when a man feels fearful: “God is infinite in power and he loves me infinitely. There is no snatching out of his hand. God will never send me where his grace cannot sustain me. If he asks me to do something difficult, like become a priest, he will give me the grace to do it. I will not fail because he is with me. And I will be happy because I am doing his will. Even if I lack some of the needed qualities, God will help me develop them. In his will lies my peace.”

3) Entrust your fears to the Blessed Mother.

Recall that after the angel told Mary to “fear not,” she readily she accepted God’s will for her: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  Entrust your fears to her intercession, and she will help calm your heart and find the will of Jesus.

4) Remember what seminary is for.

From a purely practical perspective, it’s comforting to know that if God calls you to be a priest, ordination is still years away.   Seminary offers a period of intensive formation to help a man address his concerns, grow in holiness, and prepare for an effective priestly ministry. No man enters seminary ready to be a priest!

5) Look to Scripture for Consolation. 

If you have some fears concerning priesthood, know that you are not alone. Those prophets and apostles whom Jesus called in the Scriptures also had fears. See the Scriptural references below to see how God encouraged them.

  • I’m not holy enough: Isa 6:1-9; Lk 5:1-11

  • I’m afraid I will fail: Ex 14: 10-31; Lk 15

  • I’ve made mistakes and I’m a sinner: Jn 21:15-23; Mt 9:9-13; Lk 7:36-50

  • I’m too young: 1 Sam 3:1-18; 1 Sam 16:1-13; Jer 1:4-10; Lk 1:26-3

  • I’m not talented enough: 1 Sam 17:32-51; Lk 1: 26-38

  • I want to have a family: Gen 12:1-3; Mt 12:46-50; Mk 10:28-30

  • I want “the good life”: Mk 10:17-31; 1 Cor 2:9; Mt 13:44-46; Jn 10:10; Mt 16:24-27

  • I’m afraid of making a permanent commitment: Ruth 1:15-17; Mt 28:16-20; 1 Cor 12:5-10

  • I’m afraid of public speaking: Ex 4:10-17; Jer 1:4-10; Jer 1: 9-10

  • I’m not smart enough: 2 Cor 4:7-18; Ex 4:10-17

  • I’m afraid of being alone: Ex 3:4-22; Lk 1:28-38; Mt 28:20

  • I want to be happy: Ps 37:4; Mt 5: 1-12; Jn 10:10; Mk 10:28-31; 1 Cor 2:9

  • I’m filled with fear: 1Jn 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

As Pope John Paul II reminded us so often throughout his pontificate:  Be not afraid!  Don’t let fear paralyze you.  Instead, ask a priest you trust to help you with your concerns. Remain faithful to daily prayer, trust in God, and your heart will be at peace, no matter what your vocation.