Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.
– Acts 21:28
Holy Orders is a supernatural calling and is one of the Sacraments of service, the other being marriage. By this Sacrament, somebody who has felt called by God, and whose call has been tested and confirmed by the Church, is ordained (set apart and consecrated) for ministry. An ordained minister is to lay down his life for those whom he serves by dedicating himself fully to this service, as a good husband devotes himself to his family.
The fullness of this Sacrament is found in the bishop. He receives, by the laying on of hands which connects him all the way back to the apostles, the authority to act in the name of Christ in leading, teaching, and bestowing God’s grace on the people under his care through the Sacraments. This authority is shared with the priests of each diocese, who are themselves ordained by him. Finally, a share of this ministry is given to permanent deacons as well, who are set apart in particular to serve the local Church by works of charity.
The center of the life of a priest is the offering of the Mass, by which he feeds the flock entrusted to him with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself. Everything else the priest does flows from this offering and returns to it. Most notably, a priest Baptizes new members into the Body of Christ and offers the grace of Reconciliation to those who have separated themselves from that Body by sin. In the context of all this, priests are present to their people as spiritual fathers, caring for their needs, joining in their joys and sorrows, and keeping them in prayer throughout each day.
Discerning a vocation to Holy Orders can happen in many different ways. It always, however, involves prayer for God’s guidance and openness to His will. If you are discerning a vocation to Holy Orders, whether that be something definite or something up in the air for you at the moment, speak to a priest about it. There is, in fact, always a priest in the archdiocese who is set apart to be available for this: the vocations director. He can be reached on the diocesan vocations page:
A Simple Daily Prayer for Discernment
The Archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations
You have created us for some definite purpose.
Grant us the grace to know the path
You have planned for us in this life
and to respond with a generous “Yes.”
Make our archdiocese, parishes, homes and hearts
fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations.
May our young people respond to Your call
with courage and zeal.
Stir among our men a desire and the strength
to be good and holy priests.
Bless us with consecrated religious and those called to a
chaste single life, permanent deacons,
and faithful husbands and wives,
who are a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
We commend our prayer for vocations to You, Father,
through the intercession of Mary our Mother,
in the Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord.