Yes, the Church does want you, but the question is how does the Church want you? As a faithful single person, a husband and father, or as a priest? If you believe that God is calling you towards priesthood but you may not have been the most saintly of persons in your past, you can still have hope. Offer yourself up to God’s will as Christ did.
Remember, before being great evangelists through a priestly ministry, St. Peter denied Christ, St. Paul persecuted the Church, St. Augustine engaged in sexual immorality, and Alphonse Ratisbonne was an atheist who vigorously hated all things Catholic. These are just a few examples of wonderful priests who did not start out as saints, but turned their sinful lives around when they recognized God’s call.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, “To build your life on Christ, to accept the word with joy and put its teachings into practice: This, young people of the third millennium, should be your program! There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide. It is this that the Lord asks of you, it is to this that the Church invites you, and it is this that the world — even though it may not be aware of it — expects of you! If Jesus calls you, do not be afraid to respond to him with generosity, especially when he asks you to follow him in the consecrated life or in the priesthood. Do not be afraid; trust in him and you will not be disappointed.”
What Makes a Good Seminarian?
There are four marks that St. Alphonsus Ligouri looked for and two other characteristics that most vocation directors and bishops look for:
1. Purity of Intention. This is basically determined by asking the question: “Why do you want to become a priest?” The typical answer is “Well, I love God and the Church, and I just want to serve Him in some way.” Not a bad answer. But all of the baptized are all called to serve God in some way. Purity of intention comes when a man can answer, or at least begin to come to grips with the fact that Jesus Christ himself is calling him to become a Catholic priest. One does not become a priest to re-invent the wheel, so to speak, or to fulfill a dream that grandma once had for him, or because one looks good in black! Rather, one becomes a priest because our Lord Jesus is personally calling him to become one.
2. Ability to learn. You do not have to be a genius, even though some priests are very intelligent men. But can you think critically? Can you put things together on a philosophical and spiritual level? Can you develop the study skills, if they are not already in place, to learn about the history, the ministry, the sacramental life, and the pastoral dimension of the Church?
3. People skills. St. Alphonsus did not use this term, but it is what he meant. How well do you get along with others? Are you a good listener? Do people trust you, especially when it comes to praying for others? Do you get along with people of various religious, social, and cultural backgrounds?
4. Positive goodness of character. Are you basically a good guy at heart? Do people like you and think well of you? Are you known as someone who can be trusted?
The other two characteristics are first of all, can you see yourself as a hero? Priests cooperate very closely with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the area of saving souls. Lives are literally saved by what a priest can do and say for others if he is truly bringing Christ to them. Do you have a desire to save others for and with Christ?
Secondly, we are looking for fathers. The modern world is in great need of a fatherly blessing because so many biological fathers have not provided such a blessing upon their children for numerous reasons. A priest is a spiritual father to literally thousands of people providing others with the fatherly blessings of presence, protection through prayer, guidance, reassurance, imparting identity as a Christian son or daughter. Can you see yourself becoming a father to a parish community?