God Is Calling
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Embracing and supporting the vocation of priesthood goes beyond mere preservation of sacred traditions; it is fundamentally about recognizing and nurturing those whom God has called to embody Christ as the Head of the Church, a role integral to the life and mission of the Catholic community.

The effectiveness of a priest’s ministry is not solely a product of personal endeavor; it primarily arises from the grace of God. This divine grace is vividly evident in the sacrament of Holy Orders. In the Catholic Church, when men are chosen to become priests, they go through a sacramental ceremony called ordination. During this ceremony, the bishop performs the rite of laying on of hands. By this ritual the ordaining bishop invokes the Holy Spirit to come down upon the one to be ordained, giving him a sacred character and setting him apart for the designated ministry. This practice is a very important tradition in the Church and is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1556-1558). This rite is the passing of priestly authority and blessings, linking back to the traditions established by Jesus Christ and given to His Apostles. It is through this sacramental ceremony that a man is officially made a priest, equipped to serve the Church and its community. Bishops are granted the authority to ordain priests because of their episcopal ordination, a continuation of Apostolic Succession that links them directly back to the original Apostles, who were chosen by Jesus Christ.

Becoming a priest in the Catholic Church is a long journey that starts well before the ordination ceremony and continues far beyond it. This journey begins with a process called discernment. During discernment, a man spends time considering whether God is calling him to the priesthood. It’s a period of deep reflection and prayer, often involving guidance and support from others in the Church. The Church community plays a crucial role throughout this process. This support comes not only from parish priests and other clergy who offer guidance and mentorship, but also from regular church members — the laity. Their prayers and actions, such as encouragement and involvement in church activities, provide valuable support to those considering the priesthood. This journey of discernment and preparation is essential for a man to understand his vocation and to be ready for the responsibilities of being a priest.

Once the individual, known as the discerner, feels prepared to progress in the discernment process, he applies to a seminary. This could be a seminary affiliated with his local diocese or one associated with a Religious Order, depending on his chosen path. After being accepted, he begins the seminary formation program. Throughout this period, the ongoing support of the Church – the people of God – is essential. While the discerner receives formal training and formation from priests and educators at the seminary, the involvement of the laity remains a significant part of his journey. The lay community contributes through ongoing prayer, moral support, and active participation in processes that include seminarians. This collaborative effort ensures that the formation of a priest is holistic, involving both the ecclesiastical structure and the wider church community, embodying the full spirit and communal nature of the Catholic Church.

This concept of communal involvement in the priesthood is evident in the Old Testament, particularly in Exodus 28 and 29. God commands Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons, involving the entire Israelite community. The people actively participate, providing materials for Aaron’s sacred garments as instructed in Exodus 28:1-5, demonstrating their support for Aaron’s consecration. Moreover, their offerings for Aaron’s ordination reflect a deep commitment to the priestly vocation (Exodus 29:1-9).

In the New Testament, this theme of community support continues. Acts 13:3 depicts the early Christian community, through fasting and prayer, laying hands on Barnabas and Saul, signifying not just commissioning, but also the community’s endorsement of their ministry. This practice underscores the critical role of community in affirming and nurturing ministerial vocations, resonating with the Church’s teachings on the sacrament of Holy Orders (CCC 1536-1538).

Today, as the Church, we must remember that priestly vocations are born from a divine interplay between God’s call and the active involvement of His people. Supporting vocations is a collective endeavor, reflecting the unity and strength of our faith. Fr. Carlos Martinez of St. Martha Church in Murrieta, CA, beautifully articulates, “We have a responsibility to ensure we remain a truly sacramental and Eucharistic Church. When we support vocations, we each contribute to our priests’ formation, becoming part of their unique and personal journey.”

Our involvement in fostering vocations is an expression of our communion in Christ, embodying the Church’s essence. Every prayer, word of encouragement, and supportive gesture for those discerning priestly vocations contributes to the Church’s growth. By nurturing these vocations, we not only invest in the future shepherds of our Church but also deepen our faith and strengthen our unity in Christ.

Let us wholeheartedly participate in this vital endeavor. In supporting our future priests, we shape tomorrow’s priests and actively engage in our faith’s enduring narrative, a story shaped by generations past and to be continued by future generations. Through our collective efforts, the Church remains a beacon of hope, a wellspring of spiritual nourishment, and a place where sacramental life thrives, fulfilling our calling to be a light unto the world.

Fr. Hau Vu is Director of Vocations in the Diocese of San Bernardino