DISCUSSION GUIDE

Opening Prayer for each session

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certainwhere it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are ever with me
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Merton

Closing Prayer for each session

Father,
I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You: I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father. Amen.

Fr. Charles de Foucald

Year 1, Semester 1

Chapter 1:  This Is Just What Priests Do!

Read aloud: Page 5, first four paragraphs

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Where do most people get their information about priesthood? What are some common misperceptions about being a priest?

3. Which priests do you most admire? Why? Which priests have most influenced you? How?

4. If you were called to become a priest, what would you most enjoy doing?

Read aloud: Pages 18-19, section “Priests Stay with Their People in Good Times and in Bad”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Discuss the famous saying by the ancient theologian Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

7. Most Christians are called to give their lives to Christ as “white martyrs,” not as “red martyrs” like Fr. Stanley Rother. What does it take to give your whole life to Christ? What are the most common obstacles?

8. Have you ever felt stigmatized for being Catholic?

Chapter 2:  The Sacred Power of Priesthood

Read aloud: Pages 23-25, section “In Persona Christi Capitis”

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Do you feel attracted to the priesthood or unworthy of the priesthood when you hear that a priest acts in the person of Christ?

3. In your own words, what does ex opere operato mean? What implications does this have for priests? For laity?

Read aloud: Pages 31-32, section “The Grace of Holy Orders”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. “Grace builds on nature.” What does this mean for a seminarian? What does it mean in your life?

6. The Catechism says the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders “configures the priest to Christ.” What are your thoughts about this powerful statement?

7. How would your family and friends react to your interest in the priesthood?

Chapter 3:  What is a Vocation in the First Place?

Read aloud: Page 34, section “Our Primary Vocation is Holiness” and Page 35 “Our Particular (or Secondary) Vocation: Four Options for a Catholic Man

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. What is the connection between happiness and holiness?

3. What do you think it means that “the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect”? How is that analogous to a baptized Christian in a state of grace?

4. What are the dangers of seeking one’s secondary vocation without first striving for holiness?

Read aloud: Pages 49-51, section “Who Will You Bring With You into Heaven?”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Have you ever been invited by a priest or someone else to consider the priesthood? How did it make you feel? Annoyed? Honored? Inspired?

7. Why are we so easily distracted from life’s ultimate goal: reaching heaven?

8. How do men in each of the four vocations (p. 36) help bring people to heaven?

Meeting 4

Chapter 4:  God Said Go and I Said No

Read aloud: Pages 55-56

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Why is it that discerning one’s vocation is often so difficult?

3. Take time to discuss the following statement: “To do anything less than the will of God for your life will bore you.”

4. “The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” How does Pope Benedict’s exhortation impact your vocational discernment?

Read aloud: Pages 56-58

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Many people make poor decisions but those poor decisions are not necessarily sins. Give examples. How serious is it to decline God’s invitation to your true vocation, the one for which you were made?

7. The bottom of page 58 lists four consequences of not following one’s true vocation. Which of these do you find most striking? Why? (These consequences are discussed in more detail on pages 58-62.)

Note: The next meeting skips ahead to Chapter 13.

Chapter 13: Celibacy, Chastity, Charity, and Cheerfulness

Read silently: Each individual reads to himself pages 193-196

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. The author speaks of a widespread “sexual abuse” because of our sexually disordered culture. How does this impact discerning celibacy?

3. “I can never become a priest because I like girls too much.” But there are 400,000 celibate priests in the world today! What does this teach us about sexuality? About self-mastery?

Read aloud: Pages 210-211, section “Is it Ethically Permissible for a Man Who Is Seriously Discerning Priesthood to Date?”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. At what point in discerning priesthood do you think you would need to enter a “dating fast”?

6. Giving up a wife and family for the mystical Bride of Christ might seem ludicrous to many people in our society. How would you explain this to them? Who is the Bride of Christ?

Read aloud Page 219, section “The Permanent Deacon Compromise”

7. General reactions to the reading.

8. In your own words, why does the “Permanent Deacon Compromise” not work?

Chapter 5:  Signs of a Vocation to Priesthood and Characteristics of a Good Candidate

Read aloud: Page 69 to middle of page 70

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. “God will never send you where his grace cannot sustain you.” When have you experienced God’s grace in your life?

3. The author advises, “Never discern alone!” How have the vocation director and/or others helped you?

Read aloud: Pages 73-75, section “A good candidate for diocesan priesthood should have a desire to be a priest.”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. In your own words, explain the distinction between admiration of priesthood and a desire to become a priest.

6. Why are men who “call themselves” to priesthood bad for the Church? How does a man know the call is from God and not from himself?

Read aloud: Pages 94-95, section “A good candidate for diocesan priesthood is truly open to the will of God for his life.”

7. General reactions to the reading.

8. We close our meetings with the Prayer of Abandonment. Do you find it difficult to have “boundless confidence” in the will of God? What happens when we lose this confidence? Why is it so difficult to believe that you will be truly happy in your correct vocation?

Exercise: Before you go to bed tonight, complete the Discernment Exercise on page 95-97.

Chapter 6:  Developing a Spiritual Plan of Life

Read aloud: Pages 103-104

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Describe a “Jesus Experience” you have had. What was the context? How did it impact your life?

3. God can work powerfully in your life at any time. Often, though, a “Jesus Experience” occurs when one has sought out the right circumstances. Do you know of any upcoming retreats, conferences, or service opportunities? Is your diocese holding a vocation discernment retreat soon?

Read aloud: Pages 105-107, section “Developing a Spiritual Plan of Life”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. What are the most important “building blocks” of a spiritual plan of life?

6. Have you ever tried to create a spiritual plan of life? How did it go? Mention some of your successes and failures.

7. “Specificity increases accountability.” What does this mean? How can you be specific in your spiritual plan of life?

Exercise to be completed at the end of Meeting 7:

Quietly, spend 10 minutes and prayerfully write down a spiritual plan of life. Make it specific and realistic—something that you truly intend to fulfill. Include at least one specific way you will continue to discern your vocation.

Closing Prayer to Discern My Vocation

(To replace the normal closing prayer)

All kneel and pray together:

O God, You are my loving Father; You have made me to know You, to love You, and to serve You, and thereby to fulfill my deepest longings.

I know that You are present in all things, and that every good path can lead me to You. But there is one path which You have planned especially for me – my vocation.

Send Your Holy Spirit to banish my fear, to enlighten my mind, and to strengthen my resolve to follow You no matter what the cost, no matter what the call.

Before You and my brothers here, I pledge to live out the spiritual plan of life I have created today, and to seek the help of others to grow in holiness.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, that I might know my vocation and have the courage to follow it.

Amen.

Year 1, Semester 2

Chapter 8:  Hearing the Voice of God

Read aloud: Pages 123-124, section “The Four Voices of Discernment”

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. When discerning your vocation, what does the voice of the world say? What do the flesh and devil say?

3. The answers we hear in prayer are usually more like spiritual insights than audible voices. How have you experienced this in your own prayer?

4. How can we know with a reasonable amount of certainty when God is speaking to us?

Read aloud: Pages 126-127, section “Satan the Liar”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Some people deny that Satan is at work in the world. Others see a demon behind every bush. What should our attitude be toward the devil, especially while discerning our vocations?

7. The author says that fear is Satan’s greatest weapon. When tempted to act out of fear, what should one’s response be?

8. Discuss how priests live their vocation through the grace of God, not their own abilities.

Chapter 9:  The Seven Stages of a Diligent Discernment

Read aloud: Pages 135-136

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Describe when you first remember thinking that the priesthood could be a possibility for you.

3. Some men approach discernment as a process of excluding priesthood so as to get married with a clean conscience. Have you ever wished or even prayed that the idea of priesthood would just go away?

Read aloud: Pages 136-138

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. The last paragraph on page 138 states, “The essential element of stage 4 is that discernment cannot proceed any further outside of seminary.” How does it make you feel to think you may reach that stage one day?

6. Entering seminary is a not a decision to become a priest, but rather another stage of discernment. Does this make applying to seminary seem less daunting? Why or why not?

Read aloud: Pages 140-141, section “Making a Diligent Discernment”

7. General reactions to the reading.

8. Why is not making any decision at all really making a decision after all?

9. Discuss the process of making a diligent discernment as the author recommends. What are the challenges? Why is it worth the effort?

Chapter 10:  Practical Ideas for Discerning Priesthood

Read aloud: Pages 143-144

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. God can’t drive a parked car. In your own words, what does this mean?

3. How extensively have you read about priesthood online? Has your research been helpful? How so?

4. Have you talked to your pastor or vocation director about your interest in the priesthood? If not, describe your hesitation. If so, how did it go?

Read aloud: Page 153-155, section “The ‘What Can I Live Without’ Meditation”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. What do priests and married couples you know say about the joys and difficulties of their vocations?

7. To you, what is most attractive about marriage and family life? What do you think are the greatest sacrifices?

8. To you, what is most attractive about the priesthood? What do you think are the greatest sacrifices?

Exercise:

Before the next meeting, do your own “What Can I Live Without” meditation on two consecutive days. The first day, spend one hour in prayer, before the Blessed Sacrament if possible, fully imagining marriage and family life. The next day, imagine the life and ministry of a priest. What can you live without? Let God speak to your heart.

Chapter 11:  The Blessed Virgin Mary and Discernment Fears

Read silently. Each individual reads to himself: Pages 171-174, the first 20 Common Fears of Men Discerning the Priesthood

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Which of these fears struck you most? Why?

3. The author advises “Change your fear into a concern” (page 179). How do you think this would be helpful?

4. Some men fear that the priesthood would involve an overwhelming amount of work. Others are afraid it would be boring. What is your perspective? Do the priests you know seem bored or busy? Do they seem to live balanced lives?

5. If you told your parents that you were applying to seminary, how would your mother’s reaction be different than your father’s reaction?

Read aloud: Page 182, section “Can’t Fear and Anxiety Be Signs that I am NOT Called to Become a Priest?

6. General reactions to the reading.

7. In your own words, what is the difference between fear and lack of peace? Can you give examples?

8. The author mentions at the beginning of the chapter that almost all priests say the Blessed Mother was a powerful influence in their call to the priesthood. How have you practiced Marian devotion in your own discernment? What can you do to deepen your relationship with Mary?

Chapter 7:  The Importance of a Spiritual Director

Read aloud: Page 111, first four paragraphs

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said: “He who is his own master is the disciple of a fool.” In your own words, what is the purpose of a spiritual director? Why is it helpful, especially for discerning your vocation?

3. Discuss the concept that “charity is the litmus test of prayer.”

Read aloud: Pages 118-120

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. Discuss the author’s insight: “One of the hindrances to prayer is impatience, the anxiety to become a person of prayer instantly.”

Read aloud: Pages 113-115, section “Finding a Spiritual Director”

6. General reactions to the reading.

7. Discuss the options available to you—either at school or home—for finding a spiritual director. (Remember to be realistic and charitable in your assessment of available priests.)

8. Do you know any possible spiritual directors who are not priests?

Note: If possible, invite a vocation director to be present at the next meeting.

Chapter 14:  My Path to Priesthood: When Do I Start?

If possible, invite a vocation director to be present at this meeting.

Read aloud: Pages 234-235, section “Give Your Youth to Jesus”

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. What are the pros and cons of being a “lifer”? What are pros and cons of entering seminary after working in the world?

3. Discuss the author’s advice to “Give your youth to Jesus,” and, “Give Jesus the first shot.”

Read aloud: Go to Chapter 16 and read page 265

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. Does this description of seminary differ from how you imagined it? How?

Read aloud: Page 237, “Track 2” and page 238, “Track 4”

6. General reactions to the reading.

7. Would you consider going to a college seminary? Why or why not?

8. Some men are concerned they will “fall behind” in their career opportunities if they go to seminary for a few years and then discontinue. However, most former seminarians feel extremely grateful for the formation they received, even if they discovered they were not called to priesthood. What do you think?

Note: Try to hold the next meeting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, if possible.

Closing Holy Hour for The Melchizedek Project

If possible, hold this meeting at a chapel or church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If a priest is leading your group, he may lead Exposition and Benediction. Ask participants to bring a rosary, a note pad and pen.

Pray Discernment Rosary

During the first part of the Holy Hour, the group prays the Glorious Mysteries found on Page 331 of To Save a Thousand Souls. Take turns reading aloud the reflections and leading each decade.

Write a letter to your bishop

During the second part of the Holy Hour, write a letter to the bishop of your home diocese. Your bishop is a successor to apostles; he loves you and cares about your vocation. He will welcome a letter from you, even though he may not know you personally.

In the letter, tell him about yourself. Tell him about your experience in this discernment group. What stage of discernment are you in? What insights have you had about your vocation? Are you considering seminary? Have you spoken with the vocation director? End by telling him your plans for the coming year, even if you have ruled out seminary.

(To mail your letter, visit www.usccb.org and click “bishops” on the top menu for a list of all bishops and their mailing addresses. Feel free to re-type your letter, if desired, before mailing it to your bishop.)

Closing: All kneel and pray together the closing prayer. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, end the Holy Hour with Benediction.

Year 2, Semester 1

The Holy Eucharist

Read aloud: John 6:53–68, “My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink.”

1. General reactions to the scripture.

2. Many disciples left Jesus after the Bread of Life discourse. Is our Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist still shocking today? Why or why not?

3. Why would Jesus give priests, who are mere men, the power to change bread and wine into His very Body and Blood?

Read aloud: Page 9, “Priests Feed the People of God with the Body and Blood of Jesus”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. Discuss how the miracle of transubstantiation is a greater miracle than the miracle of multiplication.

6. Discuss the parallels between a father providing food for his family and a priest feeding his family with the Holy Eucharist.

7. Two-thirds of men recently ordained to priesthood say they regularly prayed before the Blessed Sacrament before entering seminary. Why do you think this is so?

8. Have you ever imagined yourself consecrating the Eucharist? What do you imagine that experience is like?

Note: An index of questions beginning on page 349 is useful for quickly finding answers about priesthood and discernment.

The Call to a Radical Life

Read aloud: Read aloud: Mark 10:17-31, The Rich Young Man

1. General reactions to the scripture.

2. Jesus first talks with the young man about the elements of a holy life before He invites the man to follow Him in a radical way. Why is this significant?

3. It has been said that discernment is not discovering what God wants from you, but what He wants for you. The rich young man seems to be focused on what he would lose rather than on what he would gain. How do you identify with his struggle?

4. Sometimes God calls a man who already has a lot going for him to suddenly and radically change his plans. Do you have possessions, habits, hobbies, persons in your life—or even goals in life—that might make it difficult to change course and say “yes” to the Lord’s call?

Read aloud: Pages 60-62, “The Fourth Consequence”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Discuss how your faith life has been affected by the faith and vocations of others. Whose faith has most influenced your faith? Is there a particular priest who has been influential?

7. In the U.S., Catholic parishes are growing larger, while the number of priests is declining. What do you think about this? How will the Church cope? Where will the priests come from?

Celibacy for the Kingdom

Read aloud: Matthew 19:8-12; “Some have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom.” Also read 1st Corinthians 7:32-35.

1. General reactions to the scripture.

2. Clearly these Scriptures teach us that some men and women are called not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Why is this concept foreign in our society and in most Christian denominations?

3. Discuss the primary spiritual reason for celibacy: to be a radical sign of the eternal love and unity we will experience in heaven. No one will be married in heaven, but instead will be united with God and each other in the Beatific Vision.

4. Discuss the primary practical reason for celibacy: to dedicate oneself entirely in loving service to the Church.

5. Jesus said, “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” Discuss how chaste celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a gift from God, and as such, only those called can embrace it.

Read aloud: Pages 198-199, “To Which Marriage are You Called?”

6. General reactions to the reading.

7. A priest commits himself to love the Church, the Bride of Christ, just like a husband commits himself to his wife and family. How is a priest like a “married man”? How does he beget children?

8. Give examples of how a priest could live like a selfish bachelor, instead of a generous husband and father?

9. How do you feel about the possibility of being called to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom?

Practical Ways to Discern

Read aloud: Pages 143-164, only the bold headings (not the paragraphs).

1. Which of these practical ways to discern stand out to you most? Which have you done? Which have been useful? Which would you like to do?

Read aloud: Page 146, “Find a Spiritually Nourishing Environment.”

2. “A man is known by the company he keeps.” Have you experienced friendships, either with guys or girls, that were not bringing you closer to God or to your true vocation?

3. How does one find a new set of friends or become part of a “nourishing environment” for the sake of making a diligent discernment of priesthood?

Read aloud: Page 147, “Serve the Poor”

4. Serving the poor is a critical dimension of Jesus’ message and a constant theme of Pope Francis’s papacy. Why and how is ministering to the poor spiritually nourishing? How can it effect one’s vocational discernment?

Read aloud: Page 152, “Write Down the Pros and Cons…”

5. For you, what seem to be the most appealing aspects of marriage? The most appealing aspects of priesthood?

Homework: Complete your own exercise by writing down your attractions and concerns about both marriage and priesthood. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your strengths as a man, and how those strengths would be well-used as a priest or as a husband.

The Heart of a Priest

Read aloud: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

1. Within the Church, what does it mean to “bear with one another through love”?

2. How best can a priest remain kind and loving while standing firm on difficult issues? Have you witnessed examples of this?

3. Describe the ideal interaction of priests, religious, and lay people in the Church. How should each serve the other?

Read aloud: Pages 83-85, “A good candidate for diocesan priesthood should be joyful and have a good sense of humor.”

4. General reaction to the reading

5. Even though discerning your vocation can be difficult, is it also cause for joy and excitement? Why or why not?

6. If a man cannot express happiness and joy in the seminary, do you think that is grounds for concluding that priesthood is not his vocation?

Read aloud: Page 86, “A good candidate for diocesan priesthood has a ‘priest’s heart.’”

7. In your own words, what does the author mean by a “priest’s heart?”

8. Have you ever felt your heart burning when thinking about priesthood?

Looking for Signs

Read aloud: Pages 91-92, “Events in the Life of a Candidate will Sometimes Point towards Priesthood.”

1. General reactions to the reading.

2. Some men look for a fantastical, miraculous sign from God that they should apply to seminary. Why is this unwise?

3. Discuss how the “signs” God sends are often the events and circumstances of our lives. Give some examples from your own life.

Read aloud: Pages 157-158, “The Agony of Uncertainty”

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. Why do you think discernment of one’s vocation is so difficult for most men?

6. If a man is completely open to God’s will, but simply doesn’t know what His will is, what are some natural indicators that his vocation might be priesthood?

7. The Church is also discerning with you. What “signs” do you think the Church is looking for in her future priests?

8. What would have to happen in your life so that you would start praying, “Lord, please send me a clear sign if you don’t want me to be a priest. Otherwise, I’m moving forward towards seminary!”

Meeting 7

First Steps Toward Seminary

Read aloud: Jeremiah 1:5-9, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

1. God knew Jeremiah’s destiny before he was born. How does free will factor into your vocation?

2. Frequently young men who are interested in going to seminary are advised to “get some life experience first.” Given the scripture we just read, what do you think? Is it really unwise to go to seminary right out of high school or college? Are there dangers in delaying or hurrying one’s application?

3. Our modern, secular culture seems to worship youthfulness, especially young adulthood. How does this make it more difficult for a young man to give his youth to Jesus?

Read aloud: Pages 229 to middle of 232

4. General reactions to the reading.

5. Discuss the expression: “A vocation is like fruit on a tree. If you pick it too soon, it is not ready; but if it stays on too long, it rots.”

6. Are you inclined to being a jumper or a fence sitter? How does one maintain a balance between the two?

7. For a man who feels strongly called to priesthood, what are the appropriate first steps? What steps is Jesus asking you to take?

Exercise to be completed at the end of Meeting 7:

Quietly, spend 10 minutes and prayerfully write down a spiritual plan of life describing how you will pray, study our Faith, and serve others. Make it specific and realistic—something that you truly intend to fulfill. Include at least one specific way you will continue to discern your vocation.

Closing Prayer to Discern My Vocation

(To replace the normal closing prayer)

All kneel and pray together:

O God, You are my loving Father; You have made me to know You, to love You, and to serve You, and thereby to fulfill my deepest longings.

I know that You are present in all things, and that every good path can lead me to You. But there is one path which You have planned especially for me – my vocation.

Send Your Holy Spirit to banish my fear, to enlighten my mind, and to strengthen my resolve to follow You no matter what the cost, no matter what the call.

Before You and my brothers here, I pledge to live out the spiritual plan of life I have created today, and to seek the help of others to grow in holiness.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, that I might know my vocation and have the courage to follow it.

Amen.

Year 2, Semester 2

The Forgiveness of Sins

Read aloud: John 20:19-23. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”

1. General reactions to the scripture.

2. Today the Sacrament of Confession is widely misunderstood, though it is essential for a practicing Catholic. How would you explain it to a non-Catholic? A non-believer?

3. Discuss the saying, “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.”

Read aloud: James 5:13-15, The biblical institution of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

4. Discuss the ways that priests forgive sins besides the Sacrament of Confession: a) Baptism washes away original sin and actual sin; b) Holy Communion washes away venial sins when received with love; c) Anointing of the Sick removes both venial sins and mortal sins if the person has true contrition (though they would still be obliged to confess mortal sins if they become able).

Read aloud: Page 131, “Sin Deafens Us to the Voice of God”

5. How does sin, especially habitual sin, make it harder to hear the voice of God?

6. How do you feel before going to Confession? How do you feel afterwards?

7. While all priests are “doctors of souls,” some priests, like St. John Vianney, are given an extraordinary gift to counsel sinners. In your experience, what are the characteristics of a good confessor?

8. If God were to call you to become a priest, how would you feel celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Prayer and Spiritual Direction

Read aloud: 1st Kings 19:11-13

1. General reaction to the scripture.

2. How exactly does God speak to us in prayer? Have you ever been surprised during prayer?

Read aloud: Page 180, “Don’t Stop Praying”

3. General reactions to the reading.

4. It’s been said that when we feel like praying, our prayer is a gift from God, but when we don’t feel like praying, our prayer becomes a gift to God. Discuss.

5. If a man is not praying every day, in silence with Jesus, what are some of the things that can happen in his mind and heart?

Read aloud: Pages 128-129, “Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament”

6. What strikes you most about the story of Samuel and Eli?

7. What has been your experience of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament?

Read silently: Pages 116-118, “What Would I Talk About in Spiritual Direction?”

8. Why is it so important to be open and honest with your spiritual director about every area of your life?

9. Discuss how to go about finding a spiritual director who is skilled in helping a man discern his vocation. What are the possibilities for you?

Talking with Family and Friends

Read aloud: Luke 9:57-62 “Let me bury my father first.”

1. In your own words, what is Jesus saying in this passage? What are the implications for discerning one’s vocation?

Read aloud: Pages 183-184

2. General reactions to the reading.

3. What do you think are the most common concerns of parents whose sons feel called to priesthood? What would your parents think?

4. Some parents put too much pressure on their sons to become priests. Some discourage them from becoming priests. If you were called to marriage and became a father, how would you talk to your son about his vocation?

Read aloud: Page 190, “A Final Word of Advice”

5. Discuss how parents also need a better understanding of various vocations. In what specific areas do parents or families need more information?

6. If one day you were ordained a priest, what would it be like to visit your parents and celebrate Mass or the other sacraments with them?

Sexual Integration

Read aloud: Pages 208-210, “Should a Man Have Chaste Dating Experiences Before He Enters Seminary?”

1. Is it better to have dated before entering seminary? What do you think?

2. Do you think that the very fact that you are open to the possibility of priesthood makes girls see you as less available for dating?

3. If there is a particular woman whom you would like to date, how difficult would it be to turn away from that relationship if you felt called to the priesthood? What would you tell her?

Read aloud: Bottom of page 200 to last full paragraph of 202, “What is Sexual Integration?”

4. Which of the six hallmarks of sexual integration stands out to you most? Why?

Read aloud: Page 202, “Marriage is not a Cure for Sexual Disintegration”

5. General reactions to the reading.

6. Sexual integration is essential in every Christian vocation. Even if a man is not called to priesthood, why is fighting the battle for sexual integration so important?

7. Discuss the similarities and differences between being a chaste single person and a celibate priest.

Note: If possible, invite a vocation director and/or one or two seminarians to be present at the next meeting.

Seminary Life

If possible, invite a vocation director and/or seminarians to be present at this meeting.

Read aloud: Page 268, “The Four Pillars of Priestly Formation,” and pages 270-272, “Spiritual Formation”

1. General reactions to the reading

2. Discuss the concept that “One cannot give what one does not have.” How is this true in a spiritual sense?

3. Does the spiritual formation in seminary seem daunting? Exciting? If God were to call you, how do you think you would do in the seminary environment?

Read aloud: Pages 285-286, “Leaving Seminary”

4. General reaction to the reading.

5. Why is it healthy for a man to feel perfectly free to leave seminary if he has carefully discerned that God is not calling him to be a priest?

6. Some people worry that if they go to seminary, and then leave, they will “lose out” or “fall behind” in academics or career opportunities. What do you think?

Read aloud: Page 279, “Setting Goals

7. Shouldn’t everyone, not just seminarians, deliberately set goals appropriate for their states in life? Why is goal-setting helpful? How is it difficult?

8. What are some goals you are considering in these areas?

Assignment: Before the next session, read chapter 16 carefully. Can you envision yourself thriving in a seminary setting? Write down areas that concern you or excite you, then share them with your spiritual director or vocation director.

Overcoming Fears & Trusting in God

Read aloud: Matthew 26:36-46, The Agony in the Garden

1. When you pray about your vocation, do you ever pray like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?

2. Notice that during His agony, Jesus alternated between desiring to be alone and desiring to be with others. How is this similar to discerning priesthood?

Read aloud: Page 163, “Envision Happiness in Priesthood”

3. Research shows that among all professions, clergy have the highest levels of happiness. And yet a great problem in discerning priesthood is that young men have doubts that they will be truly happy and fulfilled as priests. Discuss.

4. Is it possible to trust God in general, but not in the area of one’s vocation? How can one cultivate a deeper trust in God and His desire that we be happy?

Read aloud: Mark 10:28-31, “We have given up everything and followed you.”

5. Discuss the proper motivation for becoming a priest. Is it valid to think of the rewards to come while discerning priesthood or should we just do everything for the love of Jesus Christ?

6. Why does Jesus say “with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come?”

7. Discuss the Master’s closing remark: “But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” How does this apply to the vocation of priesthood?

Capstone Meeting for the Melchizedek Project

As you conclude your meetings, consider arranging a special trip or planning a Holy Hour for the men in your group. Several options are presented below.

Option A)  Visit a Seminary

If possible, ask the Vocation Director to arrange for your discernment group to visit a seminary. It is tremendously inspiring to be among the men who are studying to be the Church’s future priests. A typical seminary visit includes praying with the seminarians, having meals together, and perhaps sitting in on a class or speaking with one of the seminary formators.

Option B)  Attend an Ordination

If it is possible, plan to attend the next priesthood ordination in the diocese. The ordination of a priest is one of the most powerful and beautiful liturgies in the Catholic Church. Ordinations are normally held in the summer, but sometimes they are held during Christmas break.

Option C)  Attend the Chrism Mass

If your meetings conclude around Holy Week, consider attending the Chrism Mass, when all the priests of the diocese gather to renew their priestly promises. You may be able to arrange special seating so the young men in your group are near the front of the cathedral.

Option D)  Discernment Holy Hour

Plan to hold this meeting at a chapel or church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If a priest is leading your group, he may lead Exposition and Benediction. Ask participants to bring a rosary, a note pad and pen.

Pray the Discernment Rosary

During the first part of the Holy Hour, the group prays the Joyful Mysteries found on Page 325 of To Save a Thousand Souls. Take turns reading aloud the reflections and leading each decade.

Assess Your Discernment

During the second part of the Holy Hour, prayerfully reflect on these questions and write down your answers:

  • How has my desire grown to help others know and love Jesus and His Church?
  • How am I growing in virtue as a Catholic man?
  • What are some of the events in my life that may point to priesthood?
  • To what degree do I have a priest’s heart? (See pages <?>-<?>.)
  • Do I feel a measure of peace about the possibility of celibacy? What are my concerns in this area?
  • Do I entrust Jesus with my future happiness? To what degree am I open to God’s will for me, no matter what it is?
  • Overall, how well have I discerned priesthood? In what stage of discernment am I? (See pages 135-140.)

Seek the help of the Church by sharing your answers with your spiritual director or vocation director. If you feel called to priesthood, ask them about the next steps.

Closing: All kneel and pray together the closing prayer. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, end the Holy Hour with Benediction.