God has a definite plan and purpose for all of our lives and some men are called to serve God's Church and his people, and be a priest or deacon.
Some of us are called to be doctors and some to drive buses, be a musician, or work in IT, but we are all called to serve one another and to share our gifts and abilities. Some men receive a unique call to be a Catholic priest or deacon. Their purpose to is to bring people to God, and God to his people, and to share the peace, forgiveness, healing and love of Jesus with all
‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’
- Matthew 20:28
A vocation is not just a calling to serve, but also a personal beckoning from God to evolve into the person that he has always intended you to be, with all your unique skills, gifts, interests and characteristics. God does not ask you to become what you are not, but longs to see his own design – you – fulfil its true potential, through and in him.
First and foremost, as Christians we all have a vocation, which is the call to holiness: to love God and each other. Along the path to adulthood, we may well get distracted by the world and all it has to offer, but God’s call is like the bass line of a song: often heard in the background, providing the framework of the music and allowing others parts to sing the tune: God is the unwavering constant and by stilling our minds, we can open ourselves up to God, allowing him to speak clearly into our hearts, helping us to discover his light within us and the path we should take.
The Path of Discernment
It can sometimes be challenging to know God's plan for your life and in particular, whether you are being called to be a priest, deacon or religious.
Although some receive a dramatic calling, for most it involves a period of discernment, which allows time to listen to the prompting of God's voice, to notice events, circumstances and perceive deep inner guidance about where you belong.
If the idea serving God through a consecrated life fills you with hope for the future, it is good to share your thoughts and feelings with others who can help you determine your path.
A few signs that you are being called to serve
- the thought of the path you are considering fills you with joy
- a sense of personal calling from God
- love for Jesus and a longing to bring others closer to him
- care for others and an ability to listen to people
- a deep inward desire to be a priest or deacon
- a wish to serve others
- a desire to live your Christian faith deeply and wholeheartedly
- heartfelt resonance with the Church and her teachings
- a wish to lead a life of prayer and reflection
- be internally orientated towards the divine and outwardly towards expression and action
- be inspired by the lives of the saints and have admiration for moral figures
- other people have said 'you would make a good priest, deacon or sister'
This is not an exhaustive list, but if you recognise a few of these signs, you may want to consider exploring the idea of a vocation.
The discernment of one’s vocation, whether to priesthood, married life, as a religious or single person (whether consecrated or not), is often found through experience, Spending time in prayer can also reveal answers to the big questions of life, and all clergy will have spent time in contemplation as they discovered their path to ordained ministry.
As part of the discernment process for priests and deacons, Southwark Diocese offers attendance at Galilee Groups. These regular monthly meetings of prayer and fraternity are for men considering what God is calling them to do with their lives.
Once it is safe to resume meeting in person, these gatherings will take place in Balham (South West London), Lewisham (South East London) and Canterbury (for those who live further into Kent).
Each person considering a vocation is encouraged to set aside time every day to deepen their prayer life, which may include spending time reading the Bible and engaging with a reflection, praying a decade of the rosary or to a saint who offers personal inspiration. It is also important to spend time in prayerful silence in order to hear God speaking to your heart.
Pope Benedict had this to say on prayer when he visited the UK in 2010:
“I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with Him and to hear His voice. Deep within your heart, He is calling you to spend time with Him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires time for making moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the busyness and stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of His Church, and the redemption of our world.”
Greeting of Pope Benedict XVI to young people
18th September 2010
It is important to recognise that alongside those who discern their vocation over a period of time. some men receive an unexpected and sudden call to ordained or consecrated life. This is often described as an undeniable moment of knowing that a particular path is the right one. The sense of needing to investigate a route you had never previously considered can come as a surprise, but God can offer us unexpected gifts and moments of great insight, even when it seems to involve a challenge.
If you would like to talk to someone about discerning your vocation within Southwark, please speak to our Vocations Director, Fr Paul Kyne, or another member of the Vocations Team, who will be happy to listen and offer guidance.