What does a priest do?

For a diocesan priest, most days differ in the details, but the structure of daily prayer and service to parishioners is similar. Most priests celebrate Mass daily and spend time in prayer and personal study.

There is always pastoral and administrative work that needs to be done; this includes the preparing of homilies, formation sessions, preparing couples for marriage, and various letters and other paperwork. Parish priests generally spend a lot of time meeting with the people under their care; this can include visiting the homebound, helping a people in times of crisis and in sharing their joys, or providing spiritual direction.

How do I know if I am called?

The vast majority of people take several years to know God’s call. It would be a mistake to think that we need to know quickly or that one needs to be assured of being called to the priesthood before beginning the process of discernment with a spiritual director or vocations director from your diocese. You know that you are being called through time, prayer and action. It is only by spending time developing some of the habits needed for the priesthood that one discovers if one is called. The first step is one of increasing the time you spend in prayer and reflection. It is in these moments of prayerful listening that God speaks to us.

Does priests get lonely?

Everyone gets lonely at times. Loneliness can occur even in the midst of a room full of people. A priest’s life can go from the extreme of being very much in demand to periods of solitude. It is important to learn how to treasure both ends of this spectrum.

Solitude is needed for prayer and reflection on God’s Word and continuing call. Most priests seek out moments in their lives when they can be alone and quiet. As a priest, I have moments where I have felt alone, but I can honestly say that most of the time I do not get enough solitude because of my involvement in other people’s lives.

Do priests get paid?

Remember that a priest is called to live a simple life in the pattern of Christ. But this does not mean that they have no money in their pockets. Priests get an allowance. This varies from diocese to diocese. While the allowance is not staggering, it really ends up being discretionary income because the priest does not pay a mortgage, utilities or most household expenses.

The parish is responsible for the rectory and any other household-related expenses of the priest. So the allowance of the priest is usually used for the purchase of personal items. The allowance, when seen in this light, usually gives a priest far more freedom than many families.

Do priests get time off and what do they do with their time?

A wise priest once told me that most people work two thirds of their day and that is what a priest should do, although our working hours are different (there are no Sundays off!). But a priest has time for leisure pursuits. How this ‘off-time’ is spent differs from priest to priest. Some actually like to play video games, others like to hike and be outdoors while others spend a lot of time reading. The point is that there is time to enjoy the things in life that make you who you are. We have approximately the same amount of leisure time as most adults. And in addition to days off and holidays, priests also get the opportunity to go on retreats and sabbaticals to enrich their spiritual lives and deepen their knowledge of the faith.

Are priests ever attracted to the opposite sex?

Yes, we are. Nothing happens to us at the time of entering the seminary that eliminates normal human needs, feelings, or desires. What does change by the end of formation is your love for God and being faithful to your call, and this is what makes the requirement of the celibate life one that is not burdensome but a natural expression of a priest’s love for God. This love along with grace motivates a young man to be faithful to this call. So while a priest might be momentarily attracted to a woman, his desire to remain faithful to his calling and the grace of God quickly moves him beyond the moment.

Seminaries pay special attention to proper training in the area of celibacy, so that it can be lived in a mature and responsible manner. The programmes are designed not only intellectually, but also in the practical application. Just as a married man must always act in faithfulness to his spouse, a priest must learn how to act in faithfulness to his spouse the Church.

What is the process of entering a seminary?

The process can be a bit intimidating, but you are not alone during the process! Applications are required for both the seminary and the diocese. Letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, work/school history, family history, sacramental records and an autobiography are necessary. A doctor’s physical examination is required. The Church also requires psychological examinations as well. These processes are quite lengthy and very comprehensive. Obviously, the Church relies on the expertise of professionals to assist her in determining the suitability of a candidate. But, in addition, the experience will also help the candidate grow in self-knowledge, which is important for maturity and spiritual growth.

What is seminary like?

Seminary life is quite similar to college life; both follow an academic schedule, both require discipline and focus, and both are great opportunities for growth, personal development and, quite frankly, both are very enjoyable. But the seminary also offers great opportunities for silence and reflection, for prayer and meditation, for contemplation of what you learn in your theology and philosophy studies.

The seminary provides spiritual directors, formation directors, academic direction, conferences and retreats. Most importantly, the seminary offers a man the privilege of daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and participation in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Finally, the friendships which are made in seminary will carry a man throughout his priesthood as well as his life. Seminary, as with any community environment, can be difficult at times, but it is a challenge worth accepting, and one which you will be guided through by Christ.

I want to take the first step. What should that be?

The first step is always one of prayerful discernment. This process is not something you have to undertake alone. The Church is the one Body of Christ that brings us all together in communion and your parish priest and other priests and religious will also be able to support you as you discern your calling.

So once you feel ready, you can contact the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese. It is their responsibility to help someone just like you. So you might as well take advantage of the help and information the Church has to offer.

Remember, especially if you are a little afraid, it’s OK. The Director of Vocations is interested in guiding those who feel that they are being called by God. So it is in everyone’s best interest to help a person like you truly discover what it is that God is calling you to do with your life. So give the Vocations Office a call or drop them an e-mail at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When is the right time to enter seminary?

Discernment requires prayer and action; a seminary is designed to put both of those in gear. Too often, we remain stuck in thought and fear; motion is needed. Of course, before entering a seminary there is a period of discernment where your bishop will have to decide if you are ready. The first step is to get in touch with your diocese’s vocations director, you will find that the process flows naturally from there. Be aware that all things will come to fruition in God’s time. Trust that, if the Lord is truly calling you, the way ahead, though not necessarily always smooth, will be a journey made with Christ and in harmony with His Church.

When is the decision to be a priest final?

The decision is not final until the moment of your ordination. It usually takes eight years of seminary formation before being considered for the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

A man must also consider his responsibility he has toward the good people of God who are supporting him with prayers, hope and financial contributions. If he does not believe God is calling him to the priesthood, he should abandon the seminary and move on with his life to serve God in the most authentic way possible. Otherwise, there is plenty of time for formation and maturation. Transparency and openness with one’s spiritual director, vocation director, rector and bishop, will ensure your decision is authentic and of God.

What should I do when I pray for direction but don’t seem to get any help?

First of all you need to be aware of the many ways in which God can speak to us in our lives. Not everyone is blessed enough to have ‘flash-of-heavenly-light’ type experiences, like the conversion of St Paul. More often than not, God speaks in the silence of our hearts at prayer. The Lord answers in gentle, quiet ways, so first, pray for the love of God to be in your heart. Pray for the grace of holiness. Invoke the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Be patient.

What if I feel unworthy?

Every Priest struggles with the awareness of his own sinfulness, especially when considering the awesomeness of saying the words of consecration during Holy Mass or giving absolution. Don’t worry. None of us is worthy of this. It is the Lord who makes us worthy. Humility is an important quality, so if He wants you to do this, if He is calling you, He will give you abundant graces to fulfill the call.

How often does a priest have to pray?

Everyone should develop the practice of praying daily; indeed St Paul exhorts us all to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is the very foundation of our relationship with God. However, in keeping with a priest’s role as pastor of Christ’s flock he has a special care for prayer, which extends beyond his personal relationship with God. In addition to praying for his own spiritual and temporal needs, a priest would also need to pray for the people under his care.

A priest’s prayer life combines both private and public prayer and worship. A priest generally offers Mass daily and is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the prayer of the Universal Church at specific hours throughout the day. These form the public acts of worship in which the prayers of the priest unite with the prayers of the whole Church.

Is prayer always easy for a priest?

Asking this question is similar to asking whether it is always easy for someone to talk to their friends. The answer lies in building a relationship. Talking to friends is only easy if there is a spirit of trust, genuine affection and respect that is developed through engaging with that person over a prolonged period of time. The same is true of a priest’s relationship with God through prayer. It requires effort to develop and maintain relationships; it requires honesty, trust and love. Prayer helps to build these bonds with God, and whilst priests (like any other people) will experience periods of distance from God, the habitual practice of prayer will always help to bring them back into the arms of the best friend a man can have … Jesus Christ.