How can I know for sure? What's the best way to make a decision like this?
As you contemplate what to do with your life, be confident that God has a specific plan for you, and that you can discover it through prayer. This article provides some practical ideas for praying about your vocation.
What is prayer in the first place? If you've taken your faith seriously, you know that praying isn't as simple as saying a couple of Our Fathers and Hail Marys in a church pew. While that is a good beginning, prayer requires more than just reciting words. Authentic prayer goes much deeper. As St. John Vianney wrote in his Little Catechism, Prayer is nothing else than union with God. In this intimate union, God and the soul are like two pieces of wax molded into one.
In a very real way, prayer helps us to achieve union with God, which is the vocation of all Christians. No matter which vocation God has in mind for you, it is essential that you learn to pray well.
One of the most important ways to pray is spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Church teaches us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC 1324). Because Christ is present completely in the Eucharist, it makes sense that we should want to be where He is physically present. Here are some practical tips on how to begin conversing with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with a special emphasis on discerning a priestly vocation.
If you want to really know what Jesus wants, it is necessary to know what He said and did as recorded in the Bible. Scriptures can spark a great conversation between you and the Lord. Here are a few suggested passages to get started:
•Isaiah 6:1-9 The angel calls Isaiah even though he is unworthy
•Matthew 19: 16-30 Jesus' encounter with the rich young man
•Matthew 9: 35-38 The harvest is rich but the laborers are few
•John 1:35-51 The calling of the first disciples
•Luke 14:25-33 Following Christ no matter what the cost
•Jeremiah 1:4-10 "Say not 'I am too young.'"
Everyone, no matter how holy, can always live more perfectly. As you pray before Our Lord in the Eucharist, think about the things in your life which may be holding you back from making commitments to God. Even things like your choice of music and movies can be detrimental to serious discernment and living an authentic Christian life. Start with the little things - but don't be afraid to tackle the big ones!
If you make the decision to begin studying for the priesthood, your parents may not understand. Your friends may be skeptical. And sometimes it can be tough to put space between you and your female friends. Ask God for guidance in these relationships. Remember that Jesus himself had family and friends who didn't always understand him; He can understand what you are going through.
For a healthy single man, considering a celibate life without the comforts of a wife and family is difficult, since our nature draws us toward family life. Many men are afraid seminary will be too challenging or that public speaking will prove too difficult. Speak to God about these concerns, then ask for courage and peace to overcome them. If you confront your fears now, with God's help, your discernment will be much less complicated.
If God is calling you to the priesthood, He will have given you certain qualities that will make you a good priest. Spend some time examining your personal gifts, then imagine how you can use them to help others as a priest. You may discover you have a lot to contribute to the Church!
In the end, spending time with Jesus in prayer should be like a conversation with Him - just as if you were spending time with a good friend. Speak to Jesus from your heart and then listen. You're likely not going to hear anything with your ears. Instead, "hearing" results in an increase in understanding, acceptance, and willingness to follow God's path for your life. Your prayer should bring you a peacefulness about the path forward.
Prayer is the surest way to know what God wants us to do with our lives - and to gain the grace and courage to do it!