Monday, April 20, 2009

Discernment - a two-way task

Vocations directors meet lots of men who think they have a vocation to the priesthood. Unfortunately it is not so straightforward and a sizeable number of those who enquire are clearly not suited to be priests. Vocations discernment has two sides to it. The individual comes to the conclusion that there is a possibility God is calling him to priesthood. He must then subject himself to the judgement of the Church. A recent document of the Holy See reminds us that in the end it is the Church who must discern a person’s suitability. In so doing she has to bear in mind that the priestly ministry requires certain human and spiritual qualities which can be compromised or made more difficult given some personal dispositions or the social climate in which she functions.

“Some of these qualities merit particular attention: the positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity, and the capacity to form relations in a mature way with individuals and groups of people; a solid sense of belonging, which is the basis of future communion with the presbyterium and of a responsible collaboration in the ministry of the bishop; the freedom to be enthused by great ideals and a coherence in realizing them in everyday action; the courage to take decisions and to stay faithful to them; a knowledge of oneself, of one's talents and limitations, so as to integrate them within a self-esteem before God; the capacity to correct oneself; the appreciation for beauty in the sense of “splendour of the truth” as well as the art of recognizing it; the trust that is born from an esteem of the other person and that leads to acceptance; the capacity of the candidate to integrate his sexuality in accordance with the Christian vision, including in consideration of the obligation of celibacy”. [Guidelines for the use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood].

It may be true that some of those who present themselves are from the outset clearly unsuitable as candidates for the priesthood but that is not always the case. Part of the Vocations Director’s job is, therefore, to get to know the candidates well before he puts them forward for selection. There is, after all, no point putting someone forward only in order to have them rejected. If you, or someone you know, is thinking of the priesthood it would be good to contact your Vocations Director as soon as possible.

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