Why speak of Christian vocations? What is a Christian vocation? Where does it come from?
God doesn’t do anything by chance, or without original intention: The universe, the solar system, the Earth and all its lifeforms, the most evolved of which is the human race, created in His image and likeness. Yes, according to divine plan, the human person, man and woman, constitutes the summit of creation; all was made by God for man and woman, in and by His infinite Love, that is both the beginning and the end of all creation.
And so, when God decides to create a new person, body and soul, in the womb of a woman, He does it out of love: created unique, with the gift of intelligence, feelings and free will, talents and particular gifts; and just as important, He creates this new person for a particular reason, with a project for their life that is both human and spiritual; this project for the person’s life – and happiness – is called a vocation – “appel” in Latin.
God, in His infinite Love, proposes a vocation to each one of us, a life project that we are free to accept or to reject, in part or in full, early or late in life. Having a successful life, for a Christian, is to respond in the most faithful way possible to one’s particular, unique vocation and to live it out. But to be able to respond to one’s vocation, to say YES to God, one must first know it, discern it, among various possibilities.
This personal vocational discernment, lived-out in and with the Church (prayer, sacraments, direction), is absolutely fundamental for each Christian life that aspires to be authentically faithful to God.
What then, is your vocation? What is the individual call that God has for you? Marriage? The celibate or consecrated life? Permanent deaconate? Priesthood, as a regular priest (in a particular community) or secular (for the diocese)?
In the following sections you will find interesting links, videos and some suggestions that will help you to take the first steps in your vocational discernment.
The priest; a representative of Jesus Christ
How can I know if I am called to become a priest? What is a priest? Is there still meaning in becoming a priest in a modern metropolis like Montreal in the world today? What does a priest do? What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest who belongs to a community?
Perhaps you are asking yourself these questions. If so, allow us to clarify some things for you.
Me, a priest?
Let us take the first question, the one that is at the same time the most difficult and the simplest to answer: how to know if you are called to become a priest? This powerful and mysterious call is heard in the depths of a person’s heart, and may be heard in childhood, adolescence, young adulthood or adulthood; you feel a burning inner desire to follow Jesus, to resemble Him, to work for Him, for His people and His Church. Sometimes, the call is quite clear and explicit: it is almost feels imposed. It may also take several years to rise up inside, intermittently, under various life circumstances: at home, at school, during a nature walk, in a church. Often, despite the strength of the desire you feel, you may have doubts: No, not me, it can’t be… I am not worthy to be a priest… What? A life of chastity and continence? I would never be able… All the same, these doubts, which are frequent and normal, are not sufficient to quell the call to give yourself totally to the Lord Jesus. And when you are ready, it is important to quickly consult a competent person who will help you discern the authenticity of this call.
What is a priest?
A priest is first and foremost someone who passionately loves Jesus, and because of this love, has decided to give Him his whole life. A priest is someone who has decided to follow Jesus, to resemble Him, to speak and act like Him, in His Name. A priest is someone who wants to spend his life close to, and in the company of Jesus. He is also someone who tries to imitate Jesus in perfection, in all the facets of his being, interior and exterior. A priest is another Jesus Christ, meaning someone who speaks and acts in His Name!
A priest’s mission consists of perpetuating, of re-presenting the life of Jesus. The priest, like Jesus, lives to bring together the people of God, to teach them the Word, administer the sacraments (which reproduce the “acts of power” and “signs” that Jesus did in Palestine); he walks with his people and accompanies them for his whole earthly life, unceasingly turning them and orienting them toward the Trinitarian God, the Love-that-saves.
Is there still meaning in becoming a priest in a modern city like Montreal in the world today?
More than ever! Because the modern world is dying for want of God! In fact, the modern world thirsts for God, and desires more than anything – usually unconsciously – to experience an intimate Encounter with He WHO, the Apostle John tells us, IS LOVE. Yes, more than ever, our world needs love, and this Love is A PERSON: Jesus, Love-made-Man, who came to Earth to reveal to us the mystery of God and the mystery of every human person.
Following Jesus, the priest is therefore sent by God: he carries God to the world and invites the world to respond to this first love of God. The priest radiates the Love of God by his words, his actions, his prayers; when he presides in a church, he makes Christ present by the proclamation of the Word and the miracle of the Eucharist (the real presence of Jesus who offers Himself to God and His people in the host and the wine); he assembles the people of God who are brought together in Christian community and helps them to grow in joy. The priest guides, supports, councils, and with the Holy Spirit he builds, with each baptised person, the Church of God in his midst.
Yes, without a doubt, the world today needs God, particularly in Montreal, a large multicultural city where the faithful from different religions live side by side with growing numbers of people who are non-believers or agnostics (people who “don’t know” if they believe or not); yes, Montreal is mission territory that needs energetic strength, new priests who are passionate about Jesus, who know how to transmit the fire of divine Love to the hearts of men and women who are searching for meaning in their lives; this meaning, is Jesus and His Gospel!
What does a priest do?
As we know, a priest IS another Jesus Christ.
Now, what does he DO?
According to the days and the location of his ministry (of his occupation and mission), he may play several roles: announcing the Word of God and preaching (teaching the Gospel) and catechesis (formation); welcoming people, listening, dialogue and accompaniment of those who are growing in their faith; giving Christian witness to non-Christians, agnostics or atheists (those who do not believe in God).
On a more strictly religious plan, a priest celebrates the Church’s sacraments, which are concrete and powerful signs of the Love of God for each person throughout their whole lives: baptism, reconciliation, the Eucharist, marriage and the anointing of the sick. Each day, during public or private Masses, priests celebrate the Eucharist, which makes present and fruitful the mystery of the offering of Jesus to his Father in the Holy Spirit at his Passion, by which the whole human race was saved; he acts in the Name of Christ (in persona Christi), who brings the community together in the unity of His Name. Priests guide and instruct the people of God, so as to become visible signs of God’s tenderness in the middle of the world.
For his whole life, because of his love for Jesus, a priest transforms the lives of people by giving them a taste of the true God, the love for spiritual things, the interior life, but also of the charitable life, turned toward others. In this way a priest answers the search for hope as well as the need for consolation of isolated souls, so numerous in the world today. In summary, by offering all to Jesus who is their treasure, priests do a great good at the heart of society.
Diocesan (secular) or community (religious) priest?
A priest, regardless of where he lives or what he does, is always a priest. That being said, there are two categories of priests that are distinguished above all by their lifestyle: diocesan (or secular) priests, and priests who live within one of the numerous communities of religious priests.
Diocesan priests work for a diocese (a defined territory comprised of a certain number of parishes and/or churches); the bishop of the diocese is their hierarchical superior and he decides where they will be assigned to work (called a nomination). For example, the priests of the diocese of Montreal answer to the archbishop of Montreal who in turn assigns them their mission (nomination) in the greater Montreal area (including Laval, Repentigny and l’Assomption). Diocesan priests receive a modest salary, which they manage independently.
Community priests have chosen, usually at the moment of their call to the priesthood, to join a spiritual family (or community) that has a particular charism (a personality, a mission), which distinguishes them from other spiritual families. What these spiritual families have in common is that they were founded by an extraordinary Christian, often a declared saint of the Church, who sought to address critical needs of their time (education, health, social services, etc.) or, in the case of monastic religious families, to satisfy a radical need to live a life apart from the fast pace of the world, consecrating their lives to individual and communal prayer.
Priests in religious communities answer to the superior of their community. They can be called to live their vocation-mission wherever their community is established in the world. If they receive a salary, they give it all back to their community, to fulfill their basic needs and other necessities.
Where does a priest work?
What? Priests can work outside of a church? Of course. Diocesan or community priests, despite the fact that their principal mission is always of a spiritual nature, can exercise their ministry (work) in several milieus: in prison, in hospitals, in seniors’ residences, in the streets (or organizations working with the homeless), in schools (education or youth ministry), in organizations (Church run or not) that help families in need, etc. Among other things, over the course of their priestly ministry, many follow various courses of formation, allowing them to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date or to specialise in a particular domain.
As we can see, the priesthood is a vocation-mission whose possible contours are extremely diverse, but where the heart remains the same: to love God and to make Him loved, to live out His Love and spread that Love to all hearts. In brief, it is to unite the heart of God to the hearts of His creatures.
The life of a priest; a life full of challenges
The life of a priest is often inspiring; a source of great spiritual joy, but it is also a great challenge, notably on the emotional and relational levels (celibacy, for example). Those who educate candidates to the priesthood are fully aware of crucial issues, and do everything possible to assure a healthy emotional development of future priests. For their part, ordained priests can find among their friends and fellow priests, or their bishop, someone who is attentive to their fundamental human needs, first of all the need to live a life that is as well balanced as possible. It goes without saying: as it is for all people, a happy and joyful priest will bring joy and happiness to others.
Would you like to become a priest for the diocese of Montreal?
If you are already a priest, please contact Father Paternieri
If you would like to participate in a vocational discernment, please contact Father Clark
If you are thinking of becoming a priest for a religious community, please contact Sister Rochette
Would you like to learn more?
Me, a permanent deacon?
Are you a layperson, married or not, with a deep love for the Catholic Church? Do you feel a deep desire to devote yourself to service, particularly in the liturgy and the sacraments, but don’t feel called to be a priest? Have you thought of becoming a permanent deacon?
What is a permanent deacon?
The etymology of the Greek word for deacon means “he who serves”. In the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6, 1-6) teaches us that in the first years of the Church, wise men were chosen by the first missionary apostles to accomplish certain material tasks they were responsible for and which were making it impossible for them to devote all of their efforts to their mission of evangelization; the apostles imposed hands on the first deacons, consecrating them in their new ministry (function) of service in the Church. Over the course of the years, their role has evolved; other tasks of a liturgical and sacrament nature have been added to those first material tasks.
What does a permanent deacon do?
In the Church today, the permanent deacon’s role is one of leading and bringing people together; he is not “almost a priest”, nor is he a “super-layperson”. He can even be married with children and continue with some or all of his work in society.
Imitating Christ, who was the servant of all, the permanent deacon’s service in the Church consists of three distinct functions: service of the Word: proclaiming the Gospel and commentary during the Mass; service of the liturgy: assisting the priest, celebrating certain sacraments (not all); service of charity: many good works for the Christian community and for society.
Because of the nature of his vocation of service in the Church, the permanent deacon is chosen and ordained by the bishop of his diocese, where he will receive a nomination (assignment) enabling him to serve in a particular Christian community.
In summary, the permanent deacon helps the baptised (or non-baptised) members of his community to live out their Christian life in the fullest way possible.
Who can be a permanent deacon?
Not every man can become a permanent deacon; certain conditions must be respected, conditions which are the fruit of the Church’s wisdom for the past 2000 years. And so, a married man who has been married for more than 10 years can become a permanent deacon. So can a single man who wishes to remain single and who is between 35 and 55 years old. This second category of deacon may, after discernment, takes steps to becoming a priest.
Once his candidacy has been received by those responsible at the diocese, the permanent deaconate candidate will be invited – alone if he is single or as a couple if he is married – to participate in discernment meetings (diaconal meetings). If after these meetings the candidate still feels called to this magnificent vocation-mission, he will experience one probationary year, followed by a formation that lasts 5 years (more on this below).
Formation of a permanent deacon
The candidate who is accepted onto the deaconate must follow two types of formation – academic and psycho-social (personal) – which will allow him to respond to the demands of diaconal ordination and prepare him for the responsibilities of his future ministry. More specifically, he must follow theological courses, prepare a commitment project and participate in diaconal meetings throughout his formation.
The diaconal meetings are times of prayer, discernment and reflection, sharing experiences, spiritual renewal and formation.
At specific moments in his formation, the candidate must formally present the following requests to his bishop:
The rite of admission
The ministry of the Word (lectorate)
The ministry of prayer and of altar service (acolyte)
Do you want to become a permanent deacon in the diocese of Montreal?
If you have questions about diaconal ministry in the diocese of Montreal or would like to participate in a vocational discernment, please contact Deacon M. Michel Poirier by email or by call: (514) 925-4300 ext. 278.
Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength
The human person is made to love: this is the fundamental aspiration of the heart, the first, radical, universal vocation. The forms this love can take may vary, and be expressed in different ways: the most well-known form is human love, be it friendship or committed love (called agape in the New Testament) – such as Christian marriage. There is however, another type of love, more spiritual, more interior, more hidden, totally turned toward God, who is the origin and the source: When a person gives themselves totally to God in some form of consecrated life, it is because of the desire to live out this type of love.
The Bible teaches us that God always loves first. At the source of all types of consecrated life there is a call from God, who awakens in the person who hears Him the desire to allow his or her life to be filled with God, to follow Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, to live according to all the demands of His Gospel by making him or herself a servant, a teacher, close to the poor.
This profound desire to make a gift of self to God, this desire to live as close to Him as possible – in fact: the desire for sanctity - , leads the man or woman who has the vocation to the consecrated life to seek out a life of intimate communion with God in Jesus Christ. This life of consecration – life given to that which is sacred – may be lived out in solitude or in community. Without sacrificing anything that is essential – living a life turned toward the Father, with Jesus, in the Holy Spirit - , this vocation may embody a task or function in the world or in the Church, in response to the needs of the time, tied to the particular charism of a community, faithful to the spirit of its founder.
Listen to these testimonials:
Types of consecrated life
At its core, consecrated life is always a radical and total response to God’s love, and there are very many types of consecrated life at the heart of the Catholic Church. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), new forms of consecrated life have appeared (many of which are part of communities of the charismatic renewal), as well as new types of consecrated life in the world. Possible places to put down roots are varied: a life of solitary prayer in a monastery (of several spiritual families); life at the heart of an Institute (a group of Christians united by the same mission) consecrated to contemplation and/or the apostolic life (missionary activity). Consecrated virgins (men and women), widows and widowers, hermits, and many others, may be called to a type of consecrated life.
In summary, the consecrated life in the Catholic Church is like a spiritual diamond with many sides; each one shines a reflection of the Light of the One God.
Searching to live a perfect life, a holy life, the members of institutions of consecrated life live according to three evangelical vows. These vows express their desire to resemble Christ and to consecrate their lives to the service of the mission (to live and spread the Gospel):
Trusting in God’s Providence (that He will provide for the needs of the community), notably through a common holding of all things.
2- Celibate chastity
Giving oneself to all people instead of to one single person (as in marriage) makes it possible to love freely, with an undivided heart.
Imitating Christ who, out of love, always perfectly obeyed his Father, the consecrated person freely accepts to obey the superior of his or her community, who through his or her charism manifests the will of God. It is the person in charge of the community who assigns the specific missions to the consecrated man or woman (usually after discussions). For example, if a community has need of a priest, the person responsible will ask one of their members if he will accept to become a priest for the good of all.
Are you considering becoming a consecrated person in the diocese of Montreal?
If you are consecrated and have questions about communities in Montreal, please contact Sister Madeleine Rochette.
If you would like to participate in a vocational discernment for the consecrated life, please contact Sister Rochette at firstname.lastname@example.org (women) and email@example.com (men)
Would you like to learn more?
In truth, what is Christian marriage?
Christian marriage is so much more than a signature on some papers, more than a beautiful celebration in a church, or beautiful pictures. Christian marriage is the celebration of the unique love that unites and gives life to two people who have decided to give themselves freely and totally to each other for the rest of their lives, in a life-giving love which is open to life. Christian marriage is also and foremost the recognition that, at the origin of this love, there is a hidden mysterious source: the Trinitarian God, creator of heaven and earth.
The Old Testament teaches us that the fundamental vocation of human beings, men and women, is love. In fact, the God of Love, who is at the origin of all creation, made men and women out of love, and has called them to love each other; man and woman were created for one another: "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Marriage is therefore a reality enshrined in human life's very nature, intended by God.
But there is more. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus confirmed by his words and his deeds the beauty and the sacred character of marriage, by insisting on its indissolubility (its permanent character). Following this, the first Church made a Sacrament out of marriage, therefore affirming that, in marriage, an authentic "active presence of God" is expressed as well as a real path for humanization and sanctification (by the fact that "we become similar to God when we love").
To sum up, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is not only a natural vocation for man and woman, but it is a very real Christian vocation – vocatus: a call - a state where two baptized people each have an experience of God through the love that unites them totally to one another, in the absolute gift of oneself, in the image of God, who gave of himself totally in Jesus, in Spirit for love, for their good and the good of the world. That is why the Church affirms that marriage mysteriously links the spouses with the same bond of love as the one that unites Christ to the Church; so, the relationship between the two spouses should from then on be, as much as possible, in the image of Christ's love towards his church.
What is more, this mystery also means that at the heart - centre - of every Christian marriage, lives the infinite Love of Christ for each spouse, a love-bond which should never be broken, especially in challenging times. In truth, Christ is the glue at the centre of each Christian marriage.
By marriage, by that supernatural love that unites them, the Christian spouses express their fidelity, tenderness, giving, forgiveness and the goodness of the love (a love that does good) of God in their lives and in the world. Through their children, if they have them, the spouse-parents show that their marriage is really a place where the Creator God of all new life creates something new. Moreover, when the marriage is transformed into a family animated by Christ, It becomes a small church, or domestic church, a place where God is recognized, worshiped and adored, a place where other Christian vocations In the service of the Church and the sanctification of the world will be born.
Finally, since we are speaking of an authentic Christian vocation, which engages the whole person and their life, marriage must be the object of discernment and preparation before being entered into; each of these steps being extremely important for it to be successful and life-giving in the future.
Do you have questions? Or maybe your already feel the call to marriage? In any event, we are here to listen and to help you to discern your vocation. We are waiting for you! If you have any questions regarding the vocation of marriage, culture of family life and of the family, please contact the Diocesan Centre for Marriage Life and Family!