“Ask a Priest: Should I Pursue Priesthood If That’s a Better State of Life?”

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Q: I recently had a crisis regarding discernment of my vocation. I was always open to both religious life and married life. I have a girlfriend. Now, my concern is, if virginity and priesthood are objectively better states of life, why should I not just pursue holy orders? I am aware that one can also attain sanctity through marriage, but would it not be better to choose a path that can better develop your sanctity? Maybe I am just being scrupulous about whether I can attain sanctity through marriage rather than religious life. I am really having a hard time discerning. – K.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The key thing is that we are open to the path to which God is calling us.

Certainly there are elements of consecrated virginity and priesthood that can be said to be higher than marriage.

But that presupposes that God is calling a person to that path. A person who avoids marriage, for instance, out of fear of commitment, wouldn’t necessarily be following a higher call than someone who marries.

Also, someone who pursues priesthood for the wrong motives wouldn’t necessarily be doing better than a married man who is faithful to his wife and family.

Another core issue here is discernment.

It’s good to remember that discernment very much involves the Church. It’s one thing for a man to feel drawn to the priesthood. But that attraction needs to be evaluated by vocation directors, seminary formators, and a bishop or religious superior.

So, the best thing would be to speak with your pastor or a vocation director or spiritual director. Or, if you feel called to religious life, speak with the vocation director for that congregation.

It helps to have the guidance of an objective third party who can guide you and help you work through the concerns and issues you have.

In the meantime, it would be good to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life.

A book that might help you is To Save a Thousand Souls, by Father Brett Brannan.

Count on my prayers, OK?

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