To Hear God’s Call — We need more priests; how can we help? 

Very Reverend Martin A. Linebach

Every priest’s vocation story I have ever heard includes someone inviting that future priest to the priesthood. Common statements/questions are:

  • “Have you ever considered being a priest?”
  • “One day you may make a good priest.”
  • “You have the traits that would make a good priest.”

It is incumbent upon all members of the church to recognize the traits that would make a good priest and to invite those who have these traits to listen for God’s call. Only God knows who he may call to the priesthood; however, we can do our part, too.

It is important that we identify and look for the traits that would make someone a good priest. Father Brett Brannen, author of “To Save a Thousand Souls,” says there are at least four traits that are necessary to make a good priest: a practicing Catholic, at least average intelligence, psychological and emotional stability and a love of God. 

A practicing Catholic would regularly attend Mass, pray and receive the sacraments. A certain level of intelligence is needed to learn church history, philosophy and theology in seminary, which is equivalent to graduate school. Also, this intelligence will allow them to teach others. 

Psychological and emotional stability will allow someone to focus more intently on the needs of the community. 

Finally, a love of God will show in their willingness to serve others in the parish and the community. 

These traits, or a tendency to these traits, should give people the impetus to encourage a young person to listen for a call to the priesthood.

Father Brannen says a good candidate for the priesthood may also: be joyful, have a good sense of humor, be a gentleman, strive to live a life of virtue, have good people skills, strive to live a life of prayer, have lifestyle stability, have a healthy psycho-sexual development and orientation, have a “priest’s heart,” live and desire a life of service to others, have self-discipline and self-mastery, and be able to accept both success and failure peacefully. 

Keep in mind, this does not mean someone has to possess all of these characteristics from day one. However, developing these traits will certainly help. Much of this will come through formation in the seminary. 

Father Brannen repeatedly says, “God does not always call the best to be his priests, but he does expect the best of those he calls.”

The best way people can promote vocations is to be aware of those who possess many of these traits and then to invite them with a statement such as, “You have the traits that would make a good priest.” 

Don’t invite everyone you meet with these words because it will become a hollow invitation. However, be observant to recognize those who may be called by God, invite them to consider whether they are being called and, finally, pray for that person.

Father Martin Linebach is the Archdiocese of Louisville’s vicar for vocations and vocations director. For more information on vocations or discernment, contact him at mlinebach@archlou.org.

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