“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
~ Hebrews 4:14-15
A commitment to divine obedience and devotion. A testament to invincible, devout faith. A shining beacon and a fountain of wisdom, leading his flock on the path of righteousness.
That is what the spiritual leaders of the church are for many Christians. In the Catholic church, these figures, specifically the bishops, priests, and deacons, are endowed with the sacrament of Holy Orders, which ordains these individuals to their priesthood and gives them grace and authority as servants of God on earth, being followers who act in the person of Christ who is our High Priest.
One may receive a calling to three orders in the church. The deacon is responsible for ministry in certain areas of the church, and can perform certain rites and ceremonies such as baptism. Deacons may be ordained after attending a period of seminary school, which educates them in Christian theology and assists them in their spiritual formation, and thus prepares such individuals for their life as priests.
Many deacons are transitional, that is, they are deacons only temporarily and will soon progress to become priests, and seminarians wishing to may be ordained as such at the age of 23; however, permanent deacons intend to remain as deacons. The latter may be married and can have secular professions.
Meanwhile, priests are ordained after a period of “training” as deacons. They are considered to be representatives of Christ on earth, and as such have a wide range of responsibilities and authority.
Parish priests like those from our parish (Father Eugene Chong and Father JJ Fenelon) are diocesan priests whose primary calling is to serve the parishioners from their area. They perform the sacraments of the church (particularly the sacraments of the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick), celebrate Mass, provide spiritual direction and counselling, continue in their personal spiritual formation, and serve the church and the community in numerous ways.
Alternatively, one may become a priest of a religious order. Such religious priests live in communities with each other; they are not responsible for a particular parish but take on certain responsibilities as a focus, for example teaching or working with the poor.
Is it your calling?
Our patron saint, St. Vincent De Paul, not only served as a parish priest but was also active as a selfless contributor to the poor and needy, often organising missions and projects to help those who needed it most. This is a model for those who take up the priestly vocation: one who cares genuinely for all, reaching out through actions guided by firm spirituality.
Careful, deliberate prayer and dialogue with God is a way to examine oneself and decide if this is really the suitable path to take. Speaking with a spiritual director, finding out more from your parish priest, and going on spiritual retreats are other possible methods of discerning this calling —there are always other ways to serve God. Regardless, if one is truly called to this vocation, then he should embark on this journey of faithful service.
“I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land — not without persecutions — now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.”
~ Mark 10:28-30