Monday, September 5, 2011

Should I Be A Priest?

(You may want to read this post, as one more directly on the topic.)

That is a question many young men ask themselves at some point in their life. And certainly there are many reasons for and against the proposition. But the real answer to the question lays not in some quantitative analysis of the pros and cons, it is in a discussion between a man and his God. What we others can do, however, is not interfere in that discussion.

I have mentioned before that I am blessed in that my small parish has many programs supportive of young men and women who might be considering religious life, and parents actively speak with pride of sons and daughters in religious orders or on spiritual pilgrimages around the world. There are thirty from the parish presently in religious formation programs to be priests or nuns.

I recently supported a young woman who taught at an orphanage in Ghana for a year, and yesterday a bishop from Uganda presided at mass in my parish and told us of the great blessings wrought by our support of a sister parish in Uganda. He was at our parish visiting one of his young priests, who was in a study program nearby. Uganda is a largely Catholic country. In his archdiocese, he told us, there are 95 men in study for priesthood, he sends 10% of his priests as missionaries to other African countries, and more recently he has answered the call of a U.S. diocese, and sent four priests to work in America. He was thanking us and not asking us for money --- although, he opined, you could offer to pay for the studies of one of his seminarians, almost all of who come from very poor families. He laughed as he said his little “however,” and so did we, but he did bring up a serious point: money is a serious impediment to many young men and women entering religious life, even here in the United States.

It was totally by accident that I heard of a man and his wife who have started a non-profit organization to raise money for men and women who cannot afford to enter religious life. Even as we pray for more vocations, there are some people who believe they may HAVE vocations, yet are prevented from entering religious orders because of money problems: they have college debts. Most religious orders, with a vow of poverty, cannot afford to help pay the college debts of potential new members, and so they turn away potential vocations, telling them to come back after they have paid off their loans. Of course, after working for years in secular jobs, most don’t come back. A call from God, an answer to our prayers, an opportunity, lost.

The Mater Ecclesiae Fund For Vocations is a non-profit organization which takes on the college debts of young men and women wanting to enter religious life. As long as they continue pursuing their vocation, it assumes payment of their debt, paying it off entirely shortly after they make their final vows. It is a wonderful idea of cooperation between the laity and the newly religious, however … even here, there are money problems. Each year the Fund turns away many applicants for aid because it does not have sufficient resources to help all who seek aid. I don’t know if they have surveyed what happens to those they turn away – I’m afraid to ask.

Starting next year, when the Fund does its deliberation on which applicants it can accept, and considers how much money it has available before it must turn applicants away, I have asked it to move the cutoff line one person over, to accept just one more request for assistance it had planned to deny. I will commit to support payment of the debt of that young man or woman while they enter religious life and discern if they have a vocation. I understand it is a multi-year commitment, while they study, and so I offered to include any commitments in my will. The Fund was willing to work with me and my offer.

How could I be praying for an increase in vocations every day, if I am not willing to help those God has chosen? I believe He answers our prayers; how could I not be grateful for His answer? But even with my offer, the Fund will be turning away many others. I am not asking that any who might read this support the Mater Ecclesiae Fund, but as the Ugandan bishop politely said: however ….

This is the prayer I say daily for vocations.

Litany and Prayer for Priests
God, the Father of Heaven and Earth, Have mercy on us.
God, the Son Lord Redeemer of the World, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, etc.
Holy Trinity, One God, etc.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, etc.

That you see fit to preserve our Holy Father the Pope and all ranks of the Church,
We beseech you, hear us.
That you see fit to call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from the truth,
We beseech you, hear us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Intercede for us, pray for priests.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc.
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, etc.
Gate of Heaven, etc.
Our Lady of Guadeloupe, etc.

Archangel Michael defender of the faith, Intercede for us, pray for priests.
Saint John the Baptist, etc.
Saint Peter, etc.
All you holy angels & archangels, etc.
All you holy patriarchs & prophets, etc.
All you holy apostles & evangelists, etc.
All you holy martyrs, etc.
All you holy bishops & confessors, etc.
All you holy doctors, etc.
All you holy priests & clerics, etc.
All you holy monks & hermits, etc.
All you holy men & women, etc.
Saints of God, etc.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we trust in You.

Let us pray --
Father, You have appointed Your Son Jesus Christ as eternal High Priest, guide those He has chosen to be ministers of word and sacrament & help them to be faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received.

Let us pray that no man who asks the question: “Should I be a priest,” answers that he can’t afford to be.


  1. Thank you for supporting vocations by donating your money towards their college costs, Tom. That is so wonderful and inspiring! Your prayer is beautiful, too. Do you mind if I add it to my Monthly Prayer Request for Priests website?

  2. Yes, it is a beautiful prayer. I am not surprised to read that about Uganda. My confessor is from there and a wonderful, holy priest. He has his rosary in his hands whenever I see him. May Our LORD grant us many more vocations through such donations and prayers! God bless you for your generosity!

  3. I wish there were some way I could better promote the Mater Ecclesiae Fund, but I am not a marketing person; my strength is finance and statistical analysis. Relative to my support of them, as I indicated, this is just doing what I pray for to be done. If my front lawn needed mowing, why would I ask for someone else to pay for it to be done. If anyone is to pay, it should be me, but perhaps even better would be if I did it myself.

    Evangelization and promoting vocations are all our responsibilities. Thanking me for doing what I am able to and responsible to do is not necessary. I only wish more understood things this way.

    I'm glad you enjoy the prayer; it has great meaning for me each morning. Please share it as you wish.