Discerning by discussing

Discernment is difficult. One particularly tough part of discernment is answering the question, “Why do you feel called to the priesthood?” This question is simple, yet deceiving. I discovered this first hand.

On a Sunday night in January of last year, I stood in my kitchen talking with my mom about the coming day. This night was particularly special because I had just decided that I would apply to Old College. As I talked with my mother, I felt nervous because I could not seem to articulate why I felt called to the priesthood. “Well,” I thought, “there are so many reasons I feel called to the priesthood.” Yet for some reason, I could not name one.

Prayer in Log Chapel

After about 20 minutes of fragmented thoughts, I had a few reasons why I felt called, but none of my reasons seemed to be as concrete as they had been in the months leading up to my major decision. At this point, I had some major doubts. Was I supposed to be applying to the seminary? Had I made the right choice? Was all of my prayer based on some emotion that I no longer feel?

As you might imagine, my frantic thoughts were disheartening. However, there came a point when I had to go to bed, go to school, and tell my friends about my decision. At first, I experienced difficulty, but after talking with a few of my friends, I seemed to feel more comfortable and convinced that I had made the right choice.

This example brings me to my main point. Discussing your discernment is difficult. I think this question, in particular, is so tough to answer because discernment is not science and it is not empirical. While there are definitely reasons that we choose to discern the priesthood, there is some level of irrationality about it. There is just something about the priesthood that is attractive to certain men. Maybe it is because some of our discernment is based on emotions, and is thus difficult to explain. All in all, this question is difficult to answer.

Fr Steve Wilbricht, CSC

However, I would say that talking with others about your reasons for discerning the priesthood has probably been one of my most important and helpful ways to discern. Whether talking with a parent, a friend, or even a priest, discussion is one of the best ways to flesh out your reasons for discerning the priesthood. I have found this true both before I entered the seminary and after.

The most recent time that discussion helped me to continue my discernment was while I attended the freshman retreat. It was there that I met many freshmen who did not know about the Old College program. Naturally, many of my new friends wanted to know why I felt called to the priesthood. By discussing with them, I was able to articulate some feelings that I had not been able to name in the past.

For many reasons, discussion is a great tool for anyone discerning their vocation. As you continue to discern, be sure to reach out to others. If you have difficulty at first, do not worry because discernment takes time.


Mr. Michael Marshall is in his first year at Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and his fellow Old Collegians write a post each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation in Old College. Learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically Old College Undergraduate Seminary. And meet the current Old Collegians who are in formation for priesthood and religious life in Holy Cross.

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