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Discerning the Priesthood

“The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

– St. John Vianney

If Jesus was merely a human being, then priesthood wouldn't be important or necessary for human salvation; we would merely be celebrating the death of a person. However, praise be to God, that is not the case. Jesus, the one who gave himself up on the cross for the whole world, was truly the Son of God. He gave himself up completely on the cross for the redemption of the world and is the ultimate sacrifice. He rose from the dead and commanded the apostles to go out and preach the Good News. Therefore, in order to continue what Jesus asked, priesthood is essential to the Church. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis...” (CCC 1548).
What is the priesthood and why is it important?
Jesus, the great High Priest, instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the last supper when he commanded the apostles to "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). This is what we participate in every time a priest celebrates the Holy Mass. Without the priest, there would be no Holy Eucharist in the present Church. Power is given by God to priests to do the greatest miracle a person could witness - transubstantiation.

Who is the Catholic priest?
A priest is a man called by God to serve Jesus the High Priest and to shepherd his flock after receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He makes a promise of lifelong celibacy and becomes a spiritual father to those who are entrusted to his care. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the priest serves the faithful by building up and guiding the Church in the name of Christ, who is head of the body" (CCC 1547).
Why should I consider priesthood?
The sacred priesthood is a precious gift form our Lord Jesus to minister His people as good shepherds and to guide them along the path that leads to the fullness of life. A priest's life is dedicated to God and His Church. He is called to live a simple and humble life. A priest is privileged to accompany people in some of the most important moments of their lives, celebrating their joys and sorrows. At times, he provides comfort to the dying and sees healing miracles in the anointing of the sick. At other times, he witnesses the joy of a couple getting married. He baptises children and adults and he celebrates the most precious gift God has given to His Church: the Holy Eucharist. 
What does seminary look like?
Our diocesan seminary is St. Mary's College, Oscott in Sutton Coldfield. Seminarians usually study for seven years. Formation begins with the propaedeutic year at the Royal English College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, Spain. The Archbishop then decides whether a seminarian will continue his formation at St. Mary's College, Oscott, the Beda College, Rome or the Venerable English College in Rome. Whilst in seminary, seminarians receive human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral experience - a programme with a routine of prayer and liturgy. alongside time to relax, exercise and enjoy their hobbies. 
What qualifications do I need to become a priest?
Primarily, the priesthood is a calling from God which involves the discernment of God's will for your life. A man considering this call would have a genuine interest in serving God and His people wholeheartedly. Typically, he would have completed his studies at 'A' Level or equivalent, and would be an unmarried, practising Roman Catholic who is involved in the life of his parish. The Vocations Director at the Diocesan Vocations Office is here to help you discern if you are called to be a priest. 

How do I discern?
Discernment is a process of finding out God's desire for us. Discernment involves reflecting upon your life, speaking with others and praying through what God is calling you to do. God reveals His desire to us in His infinite wisdom by His means and in His time. Our Lord encourages us to discern His will for our lives; He wants us to heed His call so that we achieve our purpose in life, contribute towards the life of the Church, and give glory to God. 
There are many ways for you to discern your calling in life, most importantly through prayer. Your parish priest, religious sisters or people who lead a holy life are some of those you can speak with and get advice from. Spending time in adoration is a great way to meditate and listen to the voice of God. Attending Holy Mass, reciting the Holy Rosary, studying the lives of saints and regular confession are also important ways of discerning where God is calling you. The Diocesan Vocations Office provides discernment weekends for men considering priesthood. 

What does a discernment weekend look like at St. Mary's College, Oscott?
The Vocations Director invites men who are discerning their vocation to priesthood to attend these weekends. There is the opportunity to speak with seminarians, meet fellow discerners and share thoughts, questions and concerns. At the seminary, you experience the environment and formation programme which help you work out if this is right for you. You will get to meet the seminarian community of staff and students, and see where they live, study and pray. This is the best way to get a taste of what seminary life is like. 
​How to overcome worries and concerns
  • Speak with God in prayer,

  • Speak with the Vocation Director,

  • Meditate on Scripture passages where God calls people,

  • Attend a discernment weekend,

  • Speak with your parish priest and other priests to get advice and direction,

  • Speak with a person you look up to in the Church,

  • Ask others to pray for you as you discern your vocation.



  • The book To Save a Thousand Souls by Fr. Brett A. Brannen is a guide to discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood. Buy here.

  • The book Called to Communion: Understanding the World Today by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger speaks about the true meaning of the priesthood as a Sacrament and not only as a ministry. Buy here.

  • The book The Priests We Need to Save the Church by Kevin J. Wells speaks about how a priest can grow in great holiness, abound with sincerity, supernatural faith, and be on fire with God's love. Buy here.

  • The book How We Love: A Formation for the Celibate Life by Br. John Mark Falkenhain OSB, a Benedictine monk and clinical psychologist. He provides a well-researched and thorough guide for celibacy formation. Buy here.

Useful Links

  • St. Mary's College, Oscott

For more information on seminary life, discernment and much more, please visit our seminary website:

  • God Calls

This app and website are designed to help you grow in faith, develop in discipleship, and follow God's call: 

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