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Signs of a Vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life

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“How do I know I have a vocation?” a student asked me once. He had entered our formation house at Makati thinking that the desire for the priesthood was the only sign needed to be assured that he is on the right track to becoming an Augustinian friar. But his academic performance was questionable: he had mediocre grades and had failures not only in one subject but in two. In addition, he was caught breaking some house rules, a fact that made me wonder about his fitness to continue.

Generally, aspirants are admitted into our formation house who are healthy and have an average intelligence. They should have passed our initial admission exams and a local vocation director should have made sure that he had no impediments (like a marriage or a criminal record). A recommendation from the parish priest would be of help, but is not necessary. Once admitted, the candidate enters into our formation program which at its most basic stage revolves around four areas of formation: prayer life, academics, communion and discipline. Subsequent levels of formation will add nuances to these general areas until the time the candidate reaches the novitiate, where a specifically Augustinian set of criteria are made to bear.

During the years that precede the novitiate, the following signs are sought:

  1. Deepening knowledge of the Catholic faith
  2. A deepening prayer life evidenced by a desire for recollection, extra moments spent in meditation and personal prayer and a growing consciousness of the necessity of the sacraments, especially, the sacrament of penance and reconciliation
  3. A proportion between IQ and academic performance
  4. Observance of formation rules
  5. General at-homeness with fellow students and formators
  6. A growing understanding that the priesthood and religious life are two distinct vocations and that having a vocation for one does not necessarily include the other

The above signs are for the formators to see. The candidate shouldn’t worry about them if he truly has a vocation. In fact, from the point of view of the candidate, his main concern is to take care that what he calls “his vocation” is cultivated in prayer, study, the reception of the sacraments and the practise of the moral virtues: justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence. His spiritual director or confessor would be able to help him “read” the pattern of his life-style, whether it is a life-style that is still directed to the priesthood, the religious life or is really for a more devout Catholic lay life.

The student who asked me about the signs of a vocation didn’t have a spiritual director inspite of my repeated exhortations that he and his fellow-students pick one from the many available friar priests in our nearby houses or in the University of Sto. Tomas where they study. He asked the question as a response to a concern I raised about the seriousness of his desire. He had mediocre and failing grades and had been caught escaping from the formation house twice because of one reason: he had a girlfriend. I advised him then to consider the life of a Catholic layman, suggesting to him that his so-called desire to be a priest may have not really been for the priesthood as such but for the benefits that are given to one who is in or associated to the priesthood: a cheap but quality education and the respectability it brings to one’s family name. In response, he admitted that his being in a religious formation house was due to the wish of his mother. His final remark made me decide: “Pack up and go back to your mom.”

Originally posted 2008-07-07 18:05:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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