This piece is written by Fr. Angel Sanchez, SDB. He is a Filipino Salesian Priest who is a missionary in Papua New Guinea.
We believe that the Lord never ceases to invite and call people—men and women—to follow Him more closely in the priesthood or religious life. Of course, the discovery of God’s call unfolds gradually. Perhaps I was just a small boy of 5 or 6 when someone (a cousin who was seminarian then, now a Diocesan priest) asked me if I wanted to become a priest when I grow up. Certainly, we have to give time for the seed to mature. In my case, it took nearly three decades for that “seed” to become a full grown tree!
Looking back at the journey I went through, let me just share some thoughts which might be helpful. Should a young person feel the inclination to the priesthood or the religious life, what should he do?
- Spiritual and Sacramental Life. Since vocation to the priesthood or the religious life is something that comes from God, the person who feels the attraction to this kind of life must nurture his spiritual and sacramental life. The seed that God has planted can only sprout, grow, mature and bear fruit if it is nourished. An environment (a family, a school, a parish, a community) where there is a healthy spiritual and sacramental life is a garden where good priestly and religious vocations bloom.
- Guidance and Accompaniment. There is a need to discern and consider one’s motivations. There is a need to ascertain whether one is truly being called by God. Therefore, the role of spiritual guides, spiritual directors, and confessors is very essential. The “candidate” must disclose himself and what goes on within himself so that he can be guided and accompanied. Fear or shyness or even inferiority and low self-esteem should not be a hindrance. I remember how, when I was 12, I had to muster a lot of courage just to be able to verbalize and articulate for the first time my desire to become a priest.
- Love and Service. Ultimately, at the root of God’s call is love. God calls a person to follow Him more closely because He loves the person. In turn, the one called responds to God’s love with a love that manifests itself through service of God and neighbor. One does not have to wait for Ordination Day or Profession Day to start “ministering.” Loving and serving God and neighbor begins the moment one feels God is calling him. The “life of service” one wishes to embrace may even start by being a simple altar server at Mass!
In the midst of a materialistic world, and in a society where hedonism takes many youth by storm, some still choose the road less traveled. Some would not let themselves be lured by the glitters of the secular world. If responding positively to the call of God to the priesthood or religious life means going against the tide, then it just proves that the young people of today are capable of embracing something truly noble, higher, and bigger than themselves.