The Vocation of Diocesan Priesthood: a Life Configured to Christ

Sep 24, 2023

During high school I had some great parish priests who were very influential in my life. They were strong faithful men who had lived during the hard times of World War II and had given up everything to become priests. I was very much inspired by their sacrifices and thought I might have a vocation. However, when I got to college the thought subsided, but after college and my first career, there was always a vague but persistent thought about priesthood, it just wouldn’t go away. I prayed a lot asking the Lord to show me a sign that he might be calling me. I started going to daily Mass. I determined that the call was getting stronger, so I gave up work and took a year off to spend some time in serious discernment. At the end of the year I applied to the seminary and rest is history!

Obviously my vocation is who I am. I am a priest of Jesus Christ and as such my life is configured to Him and is regulated by my ministry. That ministry has been somewhat unusual so far, since I was born and raised in the UK and have ended up as priest in Portland Oregon, via the Vatican and the Diocese of Fall River in MA. I have spent half my priesthood in administration and half in parish life. I could not have predicted the path of my priestly life but that is part of the vocation, a submission to the needs of the Church. As St. John Paul II once said: “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure”.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life and as such the Holy Mass becomes the most important daily event in the life of the priest. It is at the altar that we really become the ‘other Christ’. The reverent and prayerful celebration of the Mass is the priest’s ‘daily bread’ and the highest possible action, the offering of the sacrifice for the people of God.

I would advise any young man who might feel called to the priesthood to start attending daily Mass if possible. By coming to a true understanding of the Mass we can come to a true understanding of the priesthood, and thus by really understanding the priesthood we can see if we could dedicate ourselves to the service of Christ and His Church as a priest. I would also advise a discerner to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. St. Pope Paul VI said: “As one would expect, an outstanding spiritual growth and impetus tend to spring from Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament”.

Catholic priesthood is incompressible to most of the world, and to a certain extent always has been, because it is giving up on this passing world and putting all one’s trust in the Lord. It is about sacrificing the things that most people desire. But living in the knowledge that Christ has called one to be so intimately involved in his redemptive action – just leaves one in awe.

Monsignor Gerard O’Connor, Director of the Office of Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Portland

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