What is the Priesthood?
If you are here discerning the Priesthood, I assume you have a basic understanding of what a priest is and does. But in case you don’t, and you need an introduction to the Priesthood, this site has good content and videos. You can also get access to other documents, articles and links on our Resources page
However, beyond this basic understanding of the Priesthood, there is a also a great depth to the concept of priesthood in the Church, based on hundreds of years of study and reflection. To get a comprehensive understanding of the theology and Church teaching on Priesthood (technically called the ‘Sacrament of Holy Orders’), read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) from 1536 to 1600. It talks about history, the degrees within the Sacrament, how to confer it, who can receive it etc.
The priest will not understand the greatness of his office
until he is in Heaven.
If he understood it on earth, he would die,
Not of fear, but of love.
– St. John Vianney
Options in Priesthood
Within Priesthood, there are three types of priests – a Diocesan Priest, a Religious Priest or a Priest of a Society of Apostolic Life. The Diocesan and the Religious priests are the most common and most well-known types. However, all of them receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and are, in essence, the same.
Diocesan priests are very common and the priests that you have likely encountered in your life. They are our parish priests who baptise us, celebrate the Eucharist, provide confession and conduct marriages for us. A description of the diocesan priesthood is given below which is excerpted from this site.
A diocesan Priest is called to serve the local community of Christians, as a Spiritual Father, of a local parish in a geographical region called a Diocese. For the Diocesan Priest, his life revolves around providing for the spiritual needs, especially through the sacraments, for the faithful in their everyday lives.
At his ordination, a diocesan priest makes the three promises of a life of Prayer, respect and obedience to his bishop and successors, and of celibacy. These three promises are intended to allow the diocesan priest to serve the community and to grow in holiness, freed from anything that will not assist in accomplishing the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to his people.
The Diocesan Priest enjoys two distinct communities: (1) the Presbyterate to which he belongs, and (2) the People for whom he serves. The Presbyterate is the group of diocesan priests of a local diocese who gather around the local bishop. Typically, the people that a diocesan priest serves are his parishioners, but sometimes a diocesan priest is asked to serve in a specialized ministry such as a chaplaincy, or diocese wide ministries with a broader immediate community.
The overall mission of the Diocesan Priest is to stand in the presence of the local community as the “Icon of Christ”, serving the particular needs of the local community, and establishing the Gospel in a geographical location. Those called to Diocesan Priesthood are usually attracted to the vocation through a desire to serve the People of God in the local parish, especially in and through the Holy Eucharist and Sacraments.
Religious Order priests are those who are members of a Religious Order like the Jesuits, Dominicans or Carmelites. As above, a description of the religious priesthood is given below which is excerpted from this site.
Religious Order priests are first called to be Religious Brothers in the Consecrated Life, where a man consecrates himself to Christ through the three Evangelical Counsels i.e. the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Religious Order Priest’s first vocation is as a brother, living the Christian life in a radical way, through the vows in a particular community with other brothers doing precisely the same thing.
For those called to Religious Life, some are also called to serve that community (and oftentimes other communities) as a priest. Those men are, in addition to being called to be Brothers, are called to be Ordained Priests through Ordination. The overall mission of the Religious Order priest is to live consecrated life well, in a particular community, following the particular charism of the particular religious order.
Those called to Religious Life are usually attracted to it through members of a particular congregation or through the inspiration of the founder of the particular Order. For example, one might feel a real attraction to the life of St. Francis, and want to follow the call to holiness in the way St Francis did, or meet a group of Dominicans and decide “Hey, I want to join them!”
Other than these 2 most common means of becoming a priest, there are some options where you are ordained a priest for a particular type of ‘community’ i.e. a movement, a personal prelature or a ‘Society of Apostolic life’ (CCC 930). If you want to know what is a Society of Apostolic LIfe, visit our page on it.
Some examples of these kind of groups are:
- Focolare (present in India)
- Opus Dei (present in India)
- Communion and Liberation
- The Emmanuel Community
- Notre Dame de Vie
If you would like more help in this area or would like to be put in touch with one of these groups in India, do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Daily Life of a Priest: Nothing Ordinary
In a practical way, one of the things that makes the life of a priest very interesting and joyful is that no two days seem to ever be the same. Each day is an expression of the three ‘munera’ (duties) of the priest – to teach, to sanctify and to govern; but in different ways.
One can see that a priest’s daily life is extremely varied because those he serves have varying needs. In general, each day includes daily celebration of Mass, prayer, meeting and counselling people, being available to visit the sick, attend to the dying, meet with staff, administer the parish, visit with children from the school or youth groups, or celebrate a funeral Mass or attend a wake, among many other things. Sometimes, a day might not seem to have a lot of scheduled events, but includes simply being present to the community in simple ways. Other times, from the moment of getting up in the morning until going to bed, it is busy with one thing after the other. Often times, a priest can say at the end of the day: “I am tired, but very happy!” because he has spent the day giving of himself.
Part of the daily life of a priest also includes free time for himself, exercise, entertainment and being with friends. These things, just as is the case for all people, are interspersed in the everyday life of a priest, and help us to remember that a priest is “taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Hebrews 5:1), and is not lacking in the needs that that all people possess. (This content is also excerpted from the same site at this page.)
To know even more about the Diocesan Priesthood, visit this site.
Religious Priest / Priest of SAL
The daily life of a Priest from a religious order can be as varied as there are options in the world. All of them have a life of prayer, celebrate the sacraments and a strong community life. Other than this, they may be teachers, social workers, counselors, doctors, etc. A large number of them run institutions of education, healthcare, or social work. Many of them are scholars and focus on teaching and the formation of the next generation of priests. There are also congregations dedicated to preaching who give retreats and help people in their spiritual growth. Each congregation has a charism and their activities are in line with that charism.
To know more about the work done by priests, follow our social media accounts to see real stories and their impact in the world.