Dear Fr Anthony,
The question has often come up in conversations with my friends whether every Catholic should at least give the priesthood and consecrated life their first shot. Is it, as one friend put it, “The duty of every Catholic man to discern the priesthood at some point?” Or do you think there can be people who simply know from earliest years that they are called to marriage or to a single life in the world, and that this is how they are to serve God?
Every Catholic ought to try honestly, using all the means that God places at his disposal, to find out what God wants him to do in life. This means that the question of “priesthood or not?” is one that should naturally come into every Catholic young man’s mind. Some just “know” it is not for them, and are right; others just “know” that it is not for them, and they are wrong. And conversely. Because God works in a wonderfully personal way in the soul of each one.
We mustn’t forget either that each vocation is a grace and gift that God gives to the Church to build it up, but in giving it he works in a mysterious way in the interior of our souls to make his call known to us.
While everyone ought to be open and willing to follow whatever call God wishes to give him, this does not mean that everyone has to try the seminary or do a specifically vocation retreat. Yes, discernment in some cases entails actually “giving it the first shot”, but in others the answer is clear enough without trying it out. It used to stump me when I was going through my own battle with the “vocation bug”, why friends of mine that I considered much better material than I was, never felt the need to check it out further, and were never “bothered” in the same way as I was by thoughts of the priesthood.
Keep in mind too, that God also calls different people at different times and in differing ways, not necessarily at the “logical” time or in the “logical” way.