Do you feel like God may be calling you to the priesthood, but you don’t know how to find out for sure? If so, you’re in good company! For most of us, discernment is a process. It takes time to learn to recognize God’s voice and to learn how to follow where He leads.

Discernment is a time of prayer and study with the purpose of gaining clarification on the calling to the priesthood.  A priest is called to a virtuous life of poverty, chastity, obedience, penance and prayer and the time of discernment is an opportunity to examine these aspects more fully. Discernment occurs at different rates for different people. It is not to be raced through, but accepted as a gift of time for reflection and thought.

Are you experiencing the call? Do you:

  • Have recurring thoughts, feelings or an attraction to the priesthood as a personal way of life?
  • Discover Bible passages that appeal to your heart or you feel are speaking directly to you?
  • Admire priests or priestly life and have a desire to follow in their footsteps?
  • Feel a strong call to glorify God through serving others?
  • Have a deep appreciation of the Catholic faith and want to share it with others?

What to do while you’re discerning

Discernment is a deeply personal process, yet it involves several steps that can work for everyone: prayer, information gathering, and reception of the sacraments.

  1. Ask God regularly what your vocation is, and pray for guidance and insight.
  2. Ask Jesus to be part of major decisions in your life, and be attentive to the fruit of the Holy Spirit (joy, peace, gratitude, etc.) to make sure what you desire is what God desires.
  3. Ask people who live different vocations (married, religious, priests, deacons) about the blessings and challenges of their vocations.
  4. Ask people you trust and respect, including your pastor, for guidance as to how they think God might be asking you to love.
  5. Be active in the life of the Church.
  6. Participate frequently in the sacraments (particularly Mass and confession), study the faith and grow in your own personal prayer life.
  7. Be of service to your brothers and sisters and engage with your community.
  8. Learn and follow the Church’s primary teachings for growing in holiness.
  9. Develop and understand your particular gifts, and where those overlap with the greatest need in your local community. (Successful discernment also includes discovering where you don’t have gifts.)

— Source: Archdiocese of Seattle

Recommended reading and videos

“To Save a Thousand Souls”
by Fr. Brett Brannen

“A Priest in the Family”
by Fr. Brett Brannen

“And You are Christ’s”
by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

“The Priest is not His Own”
by Ven. Fulton Sheen

Remember: God is in charge every step of the way, and you are not alone on your journey. God loves you and wants to lead you to fulfill His will for your life. This takes time, so strive to stay close to Him in your sacramental life and in prayer. He will guide you to where you need to be, so be not afraid! Many people are here along the way to help you. Start by talking with your parish priest, or reach out to our vocations staff:

Contact Us

Rev. Brian Becker

Vocations promoter

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (John 15:16).


Prayer is communication with God and therefore is essential for growing closer to God. As the Saints remind us, it is through prayer that the Holy Spirit leads us into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “Am I a man of prayer? Do I spend any time in prayer? Yeah, maybe I get to Mass on Sunday, but do I spend any other time in the morning and the evening just engaging the Lord in some prayer.” Prayer is absolutely essential, because one of the things a priest must be is a man of prayer.


Penance helps to conquer sinful habits and builds generosity, humility and patience. Are you able to confess your sins? Are you able to get in touch with your shame? Are you able to acknowledge your sinfulness before the Lord? These are key questions for you to consider for improving yourself and building an honest relationship with the Lord. One part of penance is to accept the little and big crosses that come your way, to offer your own suffering in reparation for your sins. The other part of penance relates to forming a detachment from the things of the world allowing you to give up these things as penance for your sins. That’s why the Church has tools like fasting, alms giving and prayer. These things generate concern for the poor.


Obedience frees us from slavery to our fallen nature. Obedience means simply to submit your will to the will of another. You are a wise and obedient man when you have a listening heart. The world is cluttered with choices. Many are offered to you through provocative means intended to convince you this is the best choice for you. Listen for God’s voice and obey what He asks of you and you will find the Lord. If you submit to the will of the Lord and not your own will, then you will go in the right direction. Consider Jesus’ obedience, in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father to take the cup of suffering and pain of His passion and death but is ready to gladly accept the cup if it is His Father’s will. Jesus’ obedience overturns the disobedience of Adam and Eve, which brought about all of the pain and suffering into the world. Obedience requires patience and humility and leads, ultimately, to satisfaction and freedom.


Chastity unifies our body, mind and heart. Sexuality is a beautiful thing given as a gift from the Lord, but it is reserved for married people, where their engagement is sacred. That’s it; it is not for anyone else. Active sexual practice outside of marriage is sinful and should not be a part of a single person’s life. St. Thomas Aquinas said that there are worse sins than sexual sins, but sexual sins most quickly take away the taste for the things of God. Ask yourself, “Are you chaste?” Sexual sins (e.g. fornication, adultery, masturbation, pornography) have a way of ripping apart a person’s soul, while chastity has a real unifying aspect to it. It unifies the body, mind and heart. That is why Chastity is so important. You don’t want to battle being a chaste man while you’re trying to discern priesthood as a vocation. Celibacy is related, of course. Celibacy simply means that you’re not going to enter the married state and can be the biggest decision a man makes in choosing between priesthood and marriage and family life.


Poverty of spirit separates us from undue attachment to anything of this world, freeing our will and our soul to seek God first. Poverty is the first beatitude. “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” The virtue of poverty is about achieving detachment from worldliness, detachment from things, states of affairs, and relationships, so that you do not require any of these things to be happy. St. Ignatius called this “indifference.” The “Ignatian indifference” will help you to become emotionally calmer with regard to any kind of a goal; be it the priesthood or marriage, a career or charitable endeavors. The virtue of Poverty will help you to become emotionally disentangled from the pressures of the material world so you may more clearly and reasonably consider where the Lord is calling you to go.

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