How can you be sure if God is calling you to the priesthood?
Dear Fr Anthony,
If someone thinks that God is calling them to the priesthood, how can he be sure? Is a college education necessary prior to studying for the priesthood in a seminary?
You can be totally sure that you are called when the Church ordains you. I am assuming you have been honest, and the Church 'knows what it is getting'.
That sounds like a really bad deal - we would prefer to know for certain we are going to make it before we even start. But that is to treat the vocation like a mechanical, practical problem, and not like what it is, an act of love. We are talking here about love that gives itself, love that is willing to suffer in order to make everything work out.
Probably what you really want to know is how sure you should be in order to take the first step, how can you be sure you should even try it.
Do some self-examination: on the positive side look at where you've come so far, what is important to you in this life and the next, the gift of faith God has given you, and all the other gifts too - ask yourself if all of these signs of his love might perhaps be his way of inviting you. On the negative side, look at your weaknesses. Seek advice and see if any of these is a clear sign it would be imprudent for you to pursue the vocation.
If there is no clear sign against, and you are attracted to the vocation for a good, spiritual reason, then it boils down to what you are willing to do for God, how generous you want to be, how real you want to make your love.
As regards the second question: a college education is not necessary to start studies for the priesthood. Some dioceses or religious orders may not accept you before graduation from college, but not all. As a matter of fact, if you are thinking of the priesthood it makes much better sense to get right into it and do your college in a seminary context.
However, there may be exceptions, so speak to a spiritual director as regards your own case.