I have wanted to be a priest since I was about five years old. That basic desire has never changed; but my reasons for wanting to be a priest have definitely developed over the years. Most of the time, they have been good and legitimate reasons – but not always.
There was a period during my teenage years during which I wanted to be a priest mainly because I was terrified of marriage. I knew that seeking one vocation in order to avoid another wasn’t a good idea, but I also had no idea what to do about it. I found myself getting anxious, worrying that maybe God’s will for me was to do just what I didn’t want to do. But I also knew that God’s will really would be what was best for me.
Eventually, I decided that God’s will was more important than my fears or desires. I realized that I needed to be open to His plan. The trouble was, I wasn’t sure how to do that. Knowing the need for openness on an intellectual level didn’t automatically cause my heart to be open. If you have experienced this kind of disconnect, you know that it’s a hard situation to work with. After trying various things, I found that the following four efforts helped me to let go and give my vocation to God.
1. Pray that God’s will be done
If you want to do God’s will, tell Him so! The very act of bringing this desire to prayer is pleasing to Him. The more you take it to prayer, the more you will be opened to His grace and the more He will be able to show you His plan.
Even if you can’t find it in your heart to desire God’s will yet, you can still ask God for the grace to overcome that unwillingness. “Lord, help me to want what You want” is a perfectly legitimate prayer. Start wherever you’re at, and beg Him to bring you further.
2. Trust in God’s mercy
Look upon the image of Divine Mercy. Consider the blood and water which pour forth from Christ’s Sacred Heart. Remember that if God asks us to empty ourselves, it is so that He can fill us to overflowing with His love. This is God’s mercy: to give everything to us who deserve nothing.
But sometimes we doubt His mercy. We’re afraid of what He wants to give us. When that happens, pray one of the simplest and most beautiful prayers that Jesus has given us: “Jesus, I trust in You!” Pray this prayer often, using it to remind yourself that Jesus is always worth trusting in.
3. Get a spiritual director
Having a spiritual director is a great way to seek God’s will. Your spiritual director can look at your experiences with a trained eye and help you to notice movements in your heart which you would not have seen on your own.
I have often had doubts about whether I was really accomplishing God’s will or not. Spiritual direction has been a source of relief to me, because God works through those who are in positions of authority. If my spiritual director gives me instruction, I can be confident that obedience is an act pleasing to God, which He will not punish.
4. Consecrate yourself to Mary
Saint Louis de Montfort described consecration to Mary as an “easy, short, perfect, and secure way of attaining union with Our Lord.” This is because Mary knows her Son and His will better than anyone else. A person who consecrates himself to Mary entrusts his entire life to the one who can guide him most surely to God.
I consecrated myself to Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, 2014. Since then, Mary has opened me to the will of her Son and guided my vocation in ways I never dreamed would happen. It has been very different from what I expected, but so much better!
What are the results if you pray for God’s will?
Once I started to make an effort to seek God’s will in my life instead of my own ideas, it actually became clearer to me than ever before that He really did want me to pursue the priestly vocation. That’s the best part! While clinging to our own plans confuses us and takes away our peace, opening ourselves to God’s will clears our minds and calms our hearts. If you tell God that you are open to whatever vocation He has planned for you, it will make it that much easier for Him to show you the way.
This is not a one-time act, though. It must be a habit developed over a lifetime. My efforts to be open have not ended. On the contrary, God continues to ask me to open myself even further to His grace. Thankfully, He is infinitely patient and merciful. Even if I close the door on Him at times, He waits, and knocks. And when I open it again, I find that He makes me a channel of His grace.
If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. (Hebrews 3:15)