“O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…” -St. John Vianney
There is the misconception that there is a 'crisis in vocations' because young men are no longer being called to become priests, but the truth is that they are still being called by God to the priesthood, but because of a culture that does not promote vocations they are not responding to His call. Father Christopher Argano, the Vocation Director, for the Archdiocese of New York sums it up when he says, “Most people do not really know what is involved in someone pursuing a call to the priesthood. Even fewer have a good sense of how they can discern, or figure out, whether or not God is calling them to follow Him in the priesthood or religious life.” (CNY, View on Vocations, March 1).
It is challenging for young men to consider the priesthood because many times they do not have the support from family or friends, and the overall attitude tends to be a negative one. It needs to be our responsibility as Catholics to support vocations to the priesthood, and provide support for the young men as they explore a possible vocation to become a priest and then continuous support for them as they enter the seminary. We should let our seminarians know that we are thankful for their "Yes," and that we are praying for them.
It is so important for our parishes and Catholic schools to create an environment where young men can have encouragement and support to discern a vocation to the priesthood by holding vocation events and having information readily available about the priesthood. A priest once said to me, "Imagine if one young man per parish decided to enter into the seminary every ten years, would that not solve the vocations crisis"? I believe that can be possible and it should be a priority, especially in our culture today, that we as Catholics help to build an environment where young men can be open to considering a vocation to the priesthood.
If we know of a young man who may be interested in discerning the priesthood it does not cause any harm to talk with him about the priesthood. What is the worst that can happen? If he says "No, I'm not interested" then he says "No," but that still does not mean that you may not have planted a seed or at least sparked a thought for him to think about a vocation to the priesthood even if that is not his vocation. I can speak from experience the several times that I have spoken with young men about the priesthood all of them have at least thought about it, had already discerned the vocation of the priesthood and determined that is was not for them, and one of them did enter the seminary. Again, asking the question does not offend anyone, it is a question, not a request to sign on the dotted line, which by the way is not how one becomes a priest anyway. It takes about nine years to become a priest, so a young man has plenty of time to discern whether the priesthood is his true calling and vocation.
Catholics need to have the priority of actively guiding and supporting young men to discern the holy vocation of the priesthood, and praying for more young men to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Only a priest can take on the role of "in persona Christi". He is given the grace to act as an instrument of Christ, the Son of God, to consecrate the bread and wine to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ (transubstantiation), and we can receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. A priest also allows us to be called to conversion, forgiveness, and receive absolution where we are granted "pardon and peace" by God through the Sacrament of Confession. Without our priests we have no celebration of the Mass and without the Eucharistic Liturgy we have no Eucharist, and without Holy Communion we do not have the Body. Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Let us continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.
“The vocation is truly a treasure that God places in the hearts of some men, chosen by Him and called to follow Him in this special state of life. This treasure, that must be discovered and brought to light, is not made to ‘enrich’ someone alone. He who is called to the ministry is not the ‘master’ of his vocation, but rather the administrator of a gift that God has entrusted to him for the good of all the people, or rather for all humanity, even those who have drifted away from religious practice or do not profess faith in Christ".
— Pope Francis