ASK FATHER: How to support a friend’s vocation to the priesthood

From a reader:

Father, I have a close friend who has been as close as a brother to me who is discerning the priesthood. I think he would make a wonderful priest or even religious brother. What steps can I take to encourage him in his path and help him along his way?

Thanks for taking interest in his vocation and not being selfish.  Some people might not want to encourage a friend, from fear that he might not be able to see as much of him should he take that path.

That is also a problem, I think, that some parents have.  I suspect that God will frown on parents who place obstacles before a son’s a vocation to the priesthood.  I’m just sayin’ …

For sure, pray for the guy.  Fast for him.   Have Masses said for him.  The devil, and maybe others, will try to dissuade him from such a path.  Also, speak positively about the priesthood when the topic arises in conversation.  Be supportive.  You support might also extend even to helping with some of the expenses in his formation, although here I must add a cautionary word.

Whenever you give some sort of material or monetary support to a seminarian never never never give the man also the slightest sense that you consider him therefore obliged to continue to Holy Orders if he has arrived at a conclusion that ordination is not for him.  Every man must come to that moment of the laying on of hands with a will that is free and not encumbered by the expectations of those whose opinions he holds dear.  He shouldn’t be burdened with the expectation that just because someone gave money for x or y or z in his formation, he is therefore obliged to continue, when he knows he should not.

Because of this, if it comes to monetary or material support, you might consider asking a third party to be an intermediary.  For example you might give what you want to give to the seminary or the man’s parish, with the understanding that it will be then give to him as from an anonymous donor, and so forth.

I am not here talking about birthday presents or the like.  I raise this in case the man has, for example, debts from university that he is still paying off, or his car is a wreck and he needs something new.  That sort of thing.

Also, as a concrete sign of solidarity, you might join a local Serra Club, which fosters vocations to the priesthood.

I hope everyone out there will be generous in spirit when it comes to vocations to the priesthood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations also provides material support to seminarians and novices by keeping up payments on student loans that candidates previously incurred for college and university studies. As I understand it, grantees are not penalized should they discern, after entering a program, that they are not in fact called to the priesthood or religious life.

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  3. Joe in Canada says:

    Great answer. I would add, tell him why you think he would be a wonderful priest or religious. Not just “you’re obviously pious” but things he does, how people come away from him, his help, etc.

  4. Bea says:

    Buy him books that extols the priesthood and books written by saintly priests from the past
    (anything pre-vatican 2). So that he can understand the beauty of being a priest.
    Ultimately it is God’s Call, as long as he is open to His Call.
    Get him material from SOLID seminaries and dioceses. (maybe Fr. Z can suggest a few/if there are that many left)

  5. Cafea Fruor says:

    Having once been a sister and now currently discerning being a nun, I can say from experience that what would be very helpful for more friends to do when their loved ones are discerning is, in addition to assuring them, while they were really supporting you in your pursuit of the priesthood or the religious life, also assuring them that you will be there for them and not think any less of them if they discern that what they’re pursuing isn’t the right place for them, i.e., that you’ll be their friend no matter what. I can’t tell you how many young women I know (and I assume this goes for men, too) whose discernment about leaving was hindered by their fears that they’d be letting down all their friends and family members. I myself went through that. I knew I needed to leave, but I there hadn’t been anyone in my life back home who had assured me that it was OK to leave, and I think it’s important for friends to make that known.

  6. Skeinster says:

    What Cafea said.
    Used to hear one youngster at our EF say “Dad and Mom say that when I’m a priest…”.
    Um, no. That’s not Dad and Mom’s call to make.

    Our Baptist brethren have a phrase for those enter the ministry under parental “urging”:
    ” He was Mama-called and Daddy-sent.”

  7. HyacinthClare says:

    There is a very good young man from our parish who was in the FSSP seminary in Nebraska for several years, and we sent money regularly for his “account”. When he decided that the priesthood was not what God wanted him to do, he told us very gently and seemed to be afraid we’d feel we’d “wasted” our money. It was a real grace, because I thought, “If God wants you somewhere else, so do we!” and we didn’t feel bad about it at all. We still give the same amount monthly; now it’s just for whatever the seminary wants to do with it. He’s had a wonderful formation and will be a fine Catholic layman.

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