How does a man know God is calling him to be a priest?
God leads men's steps to the seminary and to the priesthood in many mysterious ways; however, some seem to be very common. Seminarians often describe the call in words like, "Someway, somehow the thought of being a priest entered my mind, and it didn't go away. I tried to ignore it, to avoid it, to run from it and to cover it. But in those quiet moments of truth, when I was honest and unselfish, the thought always came back." Another common description of those who come into apply for the seminary is, "When I got to know the seminarians, I felt at home." Or "When I visited the seminary for a weekend, it seemed like that is where I was supposed to be."
Very often other people see the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood in the person and encourage him to think about it. God speaks through his people. In many cases, the man was deeply influenced and invited by another priest. Lastly, in every single case, the young man is given a deep love for the Eucharist, for the Mass and for the Church. Perhaps, he did not go to Mass for years during college, but at some point Jesus in the Eucharist and the Church became the center of his life.
What kind of men are thinking about and/or pursuing the priesthood today?
First of all, a lot of men are thinking about it. In this past year, six new men have applied and been accepted by the Diocese of Bismarck, and more than that number were not accepted. God is still calling many.
They are more educated than ever before. Eighty percent of those ordained in 2003 had a Bachelor's degree before their five years of seminary education, and 30% had a Master's Degree before entering.
They are men of fidelity; they want an undivided heart for Christ. Their heroes are Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They are not interested in fluff or watered down teaching; they loathe mediocrity. They want to be challenged and encouraged to follow Christ with an undivided heart. The wide, easy road does not appeal to them; they desire to follow the road less traveled.
They are prayerful. Along with daily Mass, daily rosary, praying the breviary, they spend an hour each day in quiet prayer. Faculty and staff at seminaries have been challenged by the students to increase prayer in seminaries.
They want to teach the truths of the Catholic faith. They love to explain and help people understand the faith. Most of them went through a religious education system that left much to be desired, but at some point they were taught the reasons behind our faith and it changed them. They wish to do this for others; they believe the truth of the faith is contagious and attractive.
They are caring men. They have a real concern for others. There is a visible brotherhood and fraternity among them; they support each other, while maintaining a healthy sense of competition. They are men who are truly trying to live a life that is not about them, but about God and others.
They understand the importance of sacrifice. If priests could get married, these men would be less interested. Their thinking is this simple: Jesus Christ, my Lord, was celibate; therefore, it seems appropriate that his priests would be celibate. The sacrifice of celibacy brings meaning to their lives.
They are men in Christ, men of the Church and men for others.