Who should enter seminary? Only those who are 100% certain that they will become a priest? Or should all men “test the waters” and spend a year or two at their local seminary?
When discerning young men consider entering seminary, they are often asked by friends and relatives, “Are you 100% certain that you are called to become a priest?” Many young men struggle with this question for years and will never enter seminary because they are not absolutely certain that God is calling them to this vocation.
This is unfortunate, as seminary shouldn’t be viewed as a “priest-making facility,” where young men enter without any doubts or fears and magically become a priest at the end of it all. It is true that men must enter seminary to become a priest, but the human, intellectual and spiritual formation that a man receives at seminary will benefit him in whatever vocation to which God calls him.
I would argue most young men should enter seminary, especially when compared to the type of formation they receive when attending a secular or private college, often living on the same floor with women and sharing the same bathrooms. We need more men who are capable of moral leadership and seminary can provide the formation needed to do that, even if most of the men enrolled do not become priests.
I say all of this as a man who entered seminary right out of high school, but who is currently married and the father of five children. Do I regret the three years I spent in college seminary, spending all of that time learning how to become a priest when in fact God was calling me to the married life? Not at all.
When I entered seminary, I hoped one day to celebrate Mass at the altar. I had many doubts and fears, but I entered anyway, knowing that if I didn’t enter I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I knew I had to “try it out” for myself with the full knowledge that God could be calling me to something entirely different (which he did). I may seem like a failure, dropping out of the “priest factory” and not having a collar to show for it, but I don’t see it that way and look at my years in seminary as the perfect preparation for becoming a strong, spiritual leader for my family.
To be honest, if I hadn’t gone to seminary, I don’t know what I would be doing now. Odds are likely I would be the timid, shy little boy who played video games all day and who wouldn’t stand up for anything. I certainly would have never developed a daily regimen of prayer or attended daily Mass on a regular basis.
It is amazing how much seminary can change a boy into a man, giving him the tools necessary to remain strong in the midst of any trial.
I will admit, however, that seminaries have not always been havens of holiness. During the turbulent times of the 70s, 80s and 90s, men entering seminaries were not given the same formation that they are today. The good news is that the current state of seminaries is extremely encouraging. Countless seminaries are growing by leaps and bounds and much of the success revolves around the quality of formation.
In the end, I would recommend to any young man discerning the priesthood to take the leap of faith and enter seminary. You aren’t “signing up” to become a priest, but making a deliberate effort to discern God’s call in an environment of prayer and fraternity. I firmly believe that the future of our culture will require many more men entering seminary not only to become holy priests, but also holy husbands, fathers, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, etc.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – Should all young men enter the seminary?]