I get asked a lot, why join the priesthood? Many have known me as an atheist. This 360 does not make sense to them. How can an atheist with a love for the sciences consider God or even the priesthood for that matter? This is a question that really does not have an easy answer.
Considering the priesthood is not an easy choice. This is why discernment is necessary. A male thinking of becoming a priest must not do so only because he “feels” called. There is much more involved in a vocation than a mere sensation. The decision must be one made with good faith, reason, good conscience and full consent.
A guy can find himself going through all kinds of sensations and even doubts when considering the priesthood. We are guys and we are wired to do many things, for example, find a female to start a family with. This is a drive that is not easy to live with while living a celibate life. The attraction to the opposite sex is also another sensation that cannot be turned off. In today’s age where women’s fashion has forgotten the definition of modesty, it can be very hard to steer arousal into grace’s path. A guy must be careful that he does not come across as flirtatious as well. This is very difficult to do since the simplest of gestures such as a smile can be interpreted many ways. Similarly, younger priests who are in shape must be careful not to make himself a billboard of masculinity and sexuality. He should be aware that a youthful body that is in shape can cause arousal in women and in men who are homosexual. Modesty is a must. We cannot become an occasion of sin to others. This is why a prayer life is important. Nothing cannot be done without prayer. God is the designer of the male body. Only He can show us how to control this “machine.”
Any seminarian or priest who thinks he can serve in an area and not be affected by the presence of women is only deluding himself. Moreover, if the seminarian or priest is homosexual (who should not join the priesthood in the first place), it will be even more difficult since homosexuals seem to have a big problem with self-control in regards to interacting with an attractive male. Imagine a seminarian or priest who has homosexual tendencies living with other men. This is a recipe for disaster and why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.”
Then there is the drive to be “someone” in life. This drive may even bring about other sensations such as jealousy or envy against those who have a family or a good paying job. Things like this happen. I have met older priests who regret being ordained. They have felt that they did not “succeed” in life while others they knew did in accordance to the world’s definition of success. This is unfortunate indeed because the priesthood is not a career nor an opportunity to become a “made-man,” so to speak. Those called to the priesthood should not join it thinking it to be some profession. Clericalism is something in the Church that has tarnished the image of the priest. In many cases, the priest has become a 9-5 job. I have seen priests ignore visits from parishioners in order to watch a game, go out to the movies or do absolutely nothing. All of this was done in the name of “I’m off duty.” Priests are never off duty! The priesthood is a way of life. Even while on vacation, a priest should be ready to administer any rites if the need arises such as with the case of the terrorist attack in Boston.
Being a priest is not easy. Similarly, being a seminarian is not something that goes smoothly. Doubts will arise, frustrations, regrets, sometimes one may remember times in the world that brought happiness such as times with family or friends, or even nostalgia of a relationship with a girlfriend. All these things and more happen and are part of the human experience when it confronts a supernatural one.
If you are a guy reading this and may be considering the priesthood; or perhaps you may be a seminarian or even ordained; my advice is to not give up. Take your struggles and offer them on the cross with Christ. God will not give you any thing you cannot handle, so trust in Him. He will give to the grace to handle each hardship. Yes, you will suffer, yes you will feel deep emotions, disappointments and so on, but in the end it is all worth it. The mere fact that Christ is entrusting you His priesthood says much.