Shall I be a Priest?

Source: District of Asia

One desire of Almighty God that we are absolutely sure of is His will to save all men. He wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So earnest is God about this that He thought it worthwhile to become man, to suffer and to die a very ignominious death in order to accomplish it.

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting." And the tender hope of Our Lord Himself was that by dying He might draw all men to know, love and serve Him on earth and be eternally united to Him in heaven.

This, indeed, is the only purpose for which we are created to give glory to God both in time and eternity, and anyone who does not do this is an eternal failure. "And if," says Our Savior, "I am raised up from the earth, I shall draw all men to Myself," and the Gospel adds, "He said this signifying what death He was to die." God, then, craves for the souls of men; He craves for their service and their love. He wants not merely one nation or one generation; He wants all men. Nothing less will satisfy Him. It was for this He died. For this He founded His Church.

But do all men know God? Do all men serve Him and love Him? By no means. We are told that there are more than one billion souls who have never heard the name of God, or who know nothing about God or who, as far as we can know, have no affiliation with any religion that professes to serve God. In our own land we are told that over seventy million people are not identified with any form of religion, belong to no church.

God has done His part. He has founded the Church and established the priesthood with full power to save men. Why then, after two thousand years, are there far more people who don't know God than there are who know Him? The ways of God are inscrutable and we cannot solve all the mysteries of His Providence. But, using the lights He has given us, we may state that one of the reasons for the appalling number of irreligious people in the world is the lack of priests. God could have used many means to enlighten and save souls. He could send angels to teach them the Faith; He could flood their minds with irresistible light which would show them the truth in a flash. But that is not His way. He has chosen a much simpler and much more human plan. He appoints men to teach and sanctify them. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, teaches this truth very forcibly. "Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved," he says, "but how can they call upon His name if they do not believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have not heard of Him? And how will they hear about Him unless someone preaches to them?"

Men, in the ordinary course of God's plans, cannot know of God unless someone teaches them. And this someone is the ordained priest, the ambassador of Christ. That is the reason we have for saying that the present religious state of the world is somewhat explained by the inadequate number of priests. They are needed at home in practically every section of the country. They are needed, terribly needed, in devastated Europe. Asia and Africa have a population of about nine hundred and thirty millions and they have only about one priest for every one hundred and twenty thousand people. Our military and naval authorities are endeavoring to assign a chaplain, priest, minister or rabbi to every twelve hundred men in the armed forces. We have over four thousand priests already serving as chaplains, commissioned and civilian, but at least one thousand more are needed. Furthermore, we hesitate to think of the scarcity of priests resulting from the war. Thousands of them have died or were murdered in European countries, thousands of others who were preparing for the priesthood were killed or maimed on many fronts of the global war.

Perhaps many of you are saying: "If God wants me to become a priest or a brother He will indicate His will by an internal inspiration, by some holy attraction, by some interior call to the priesthood." This is not true. God does not bring boys to His service by this means. His plan is much simpler. He leaves the matter in your hands to a far greater extent than this. All that is required of an aspirant to Holy Orders is a right intention and such fitness of nature and grace, manifested in integrity of life and sufficiency of learning, as will give a well founded hope of his properly discharging the obligations of the priesthood. Consequently, there is the duty of seeking candidates for a vocation rather than candidates with a vocation that is, boys and young men must be looked for who, by their piety and fitness, give promise of being worthy of the divine gift received from the ordaining prelate.

It all amounts to this. If you have average intelligence, a docile and open disposition, good solid piety, a desire to serve God and souls, you can become a priest if you wish. You may not be bound to do so, but you can do so. If you become a priest of God it will be a free gift. He will not draft you into His service. You have the choice. It is for you to take it or leave it.

What, then, you ask, is necessary to become a priest? The question is easily answered. And the answer is the teaching of the Church. You do not need to feel any interior inspiration, or attraction or "call" from God. All you need is a good intention, average ability, sound health, good natural disposition, manliness and the desire to acquire, during your high school, college and seminary course, the sanctity which is necessary in the priest. That is all. If, on the advice of a prudent adviser, you find that you have these gifts of nature and grace, then there is nothing on earth to prevent you from preparing to be a priest.

Thus, you see, it is a much simpler matter than perhaps you thought. There are many, very many, good men in the world today-doctors, lawyers, businessmen, farmers-who, if they had known this in time, would have made good and holy priests and would have saved many souls. There are hundreds of boys in our colleges and high schools who can become priests if they only make up their minds to do so. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, with their manifold works at home and in the mission fields, like every missionary community are praying for these lads.

Perhaps Christ calls you who read these lincs to answer the need. If so, what are you going to do? Refuse? Of course, you are free to refuse, for a vocation is an invitation and not a command; but would you want the sad eyes of the Lord haunting your whole life? You may make your mark in the world; you may one day be featured in magazines dedicated to the great god Success; but, in the end, what? Christ called you to dispense His mysterics to work the wonder of daily bringing down on earth His Body and His Blood by whispering over a morsel of bread and a chalice of wine; to lift the burden of sin from weary and desperate souls with the "absolvo te," to exercise the mystical fatherhood of souls by prayer and preaching and the example of a blameless life. And you shut your ears to the sweet, low voice of Jesus. So, in spite of all your prosperity, you have always felt in your inmost heart an unrest that would never be quieted, longings that deepened as the years sped on and, in the end, there comes over you a feeling of frustration. For you missed your destiny. If the priesthood is the crown God has prepared for you, what a loss, and one day what remorse, if you refuse it !