Any suggestions for a teenager thinking of the priesthood?

A woman in my parish dropped me a line today:

I’d like your advice. The other day a young man, still a boy, told me he was thinking about becoming a priest.  I was very touched by the fact that he shared this with me. I’ll pray that God guides him until he reaches a decision. For Christmas, I’d like to give him a book that tells the story about a man going through the process of discernment, if there is such a book. I read your post about (Thomas) Merton. Would this be a good example?  I thought about biography of saint, but not all saints are priests. Kindly recommend something appropriate for his age (about 15 years old).  Thank you!

I think “The Seven Storey Mountain” may be a bit much for a 15-year-old.  Any ideas?  I’ll happily pass them along …!

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27 responses to “Any suggestions for a teenager thinking of the priesthood?”

  1. Fr. Brett Brannan has a book out about discerning a vocation to the Priesthood. Also, there’s one by Fr Anthony Bannon called Peter on the Shore. Depending on the maturity of the young man, either of Fulton Sheen’s “Those Mysterious Priests” or “The Priest is not his own”.

    “Fantastic Vocation” by Fr. Joseph Miksch is a short, very readable, and entertaining book by a man who has been a priest for over 40 years. His purpose in writing it was to show that the priesthood is a joy-filled life. Fr. Miksch is a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, and was our pastor for a number of years.
    Don’t know if this would be what you are looking for; but I think most people would find this an enjoyable, inspiring book.

  3. I just took a look at this book on line. How wonderful and joyful it seems to be from the little i read of it. Thank you Melody.

  4. Reading the lives of the saints its imperatie to foster a vocation, regardless of their state regtarding holy orders, their lives point towards Christ, and this is is who we are trying to conform.

    Furthermore, have him journal – Though a young man, keeping track of the vocation will help him see the growth that God is asking of him.

    And last, I would have him visit churches in communin with Rome that use the Byzantine rite as well as the Extra-Ordinary form of the Latin Rite (Tridintine Mass). This will help him see the whole of the church and be enomoured by it. This is a MUST!

  5. I’m Eastern Orthodox so at least one major issue Roman Catholics have to deal with is not a problem with us. That said my advice for a 15 yr old would be…
    1. Pray daily. Ask your spiritual father for a prayer rule.
    2. In line with # 1 take confession regularly, at least once a month.
    3. Take communion as frequently as possible consistent with the direction of your spiritual father.
    4. Ask for your priest’s blessing to serve on the altar.
    5. Fast under the guidance of your SF. I would also suggest trying to abstain from meat on all Wednesdays and Fridays and throughout Lent. Fasting as a discipline in the West has all but disappeared but it is an important preparation for making important decisions.
    6. Make a week long retreat to a monastery at some point.

    And lastly I would tell him o take a deep breath and remember he is not expected to make life changing commitments at his age. It is perfectly OK to find a girlfriend and live a normal life for a while. In fact I would encourage that, given that he must make an informed decision to give that up if he wants to pursue a religious vocation in the Roman Church.

  6. One of our regional bishops told a young man who was discerning the priesthood that he needed to have 2 serious girlfriend relationships. He told him that he needed to understand what he was going to be asked to give up. I found that to be great advice, have 2 healthy relationships with the opposite sex so he would know what he was giving up, and also I think it will make him a healthier priest have had relationships with girls/women who were not family.

  7. A subscription to Magnificat Magazine and a couple of movies to view: The Scarlet and the Black; The Shoes of the Fishermen; Boys Town; that movie about JPII.

  8. Diary of a Country Priest
    Death Comes for the Archbishop
    the lives of the North American Martyrs
    New Men, about the North American College in Rome

  9. If someone wants to say that good (for a priestly vocation) can be drawn from having had two serious girlfriends, fine, but if someone wants to make that a necessary step in formation, he’s just wrong. No matter who said it.

  10. I agree. Looking back, while I was in Formation ( as it were) in High Schoolprep seminary, College and the major seminary, this was what I was told by most family members. I wanted to descern fully what this calling was all about not wonder what I was giving up. I find that advice ill conceived. And the reality is, with one trying to develop these realtionships, one is preoccupied and loosing site of the Lord’s call.

  11. I’m a big fans of good books and films, of course, but surely these suggestions assume that the young man in question has reasonable access to a priest (preferably two, one diocesan and one religious) who will take the time to talk to him about their lives. Just wanna make sure it’s said. Sometimes young people overlook the obvious.

  12. And just looking at it from the girls’ side, who wants to be the serious girlfriend that he is planning to break up with so he can be a priest? (Isn’t that sort of the definition of being a not-serious girlfriend?)

  13. That is a wise Bishop. The boy is only 15 for goodness sake. He needs to be a normal teenager first. Recommend some books, advise him to stay active in his parish, and tell him to come back for serious discussions when he’s 21 or so and has experienced at least a few years of regular living.

  14. Jesus Shock by Dr. Peter Kreeft.

    I recommend it for EVERYONE; by far the most important book Kreeft ever wrote. I just bought it for my Godson for his confirmation, told him he would “grow with the book”, but to start with taking the quiz in chapter one, the “all telling” of where we stand with Christ (next to our own “Divine Illumination”).

  15. I have a 15 year-old son, who has been discerning the call to be a Carmelite for awhile now. Some of the same books and videos that have been suggested here have been useful for him. Spending time at the local seminary for Seminary camp, praying, reciting the family rosary, having a good spiritual director, Magnificant Magazine, serving Holy Mass daily, reading philsophy and theology- especially those by his beloved Carmelites, interacting with other discerning young men- all have been very helpful for him. Kenny has his own discernment blog: God Alone Sufficeth at, which may be helpful for this young man as well.

  16. What about the book by Fr. James Martin…uhm I think it was from the boardroom or something. There’s also the Lives of the Saints which has his vocation story worked in.

  17. Ditto. I had “The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything for Real Life” and “My Life with the Saints” by Fr. Martin, S.J. in mind for the same reason – he weaves his own story in the books.

  18. There was a film on EWTN this evening on ArchBishop Fulton Sheen and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking they might have a call. What a life. Of course one could also recommend multiple books by him as well and his youtube video’s are pretty amazing. However, the best advice I give to any who have come up seeking advice on being a priest is to point them to two local priests who love being priests and who love the Catholic Church. I have done this with several young men and three have gone on to become priests and two decided to make other decisions. All have been treated with love and respect. They often start out with a pizza and beer and a lot of listening. I make sure that this program is well supported. They often pass them on to the local bishop developed local seminary program if they are interested. I know that one of their recomendation for younger men is to develop a regular time for Eucharistic Adoration, regular Reconcilliation, and to consider becoming a server at mass. All are frequently quoted by priests as activities that help them into the service of Our Lord as a priest.

    I would hope that in every dioceses has a program set up by the local bishop and seminary to help young men discern vocations. They live in this world every day and have at their disposal, anything one could ask for in materials and experience. This is often best left to the professionals and since the local seminary is really starting to catch fire, I know they are doing something right.

  19. ^^ This. I can guarantee you that they won’t be “serious” relationships, since major requirements of a marriage-worthy relationship include honesty and trust. If my boyfriend with whom I was discerning a marriage vocation told me that he was instead discerning the priesthood, I would either feel betrayed or try my hardest to convince him otherwise — neither of which would be good for either of our vocation discernment processes or likely souls. The bishop who recommended this was not thinking of the young women’s best interests, much less the young man’s.

  20. When I was 14 years old my mother passed away from cancer. I lived in Massachusetts and both of my parents as well as my extended family were very involved with the St. Benedict’s Center in Still River, Slaves to the Sacred Heart of Mary. I believed with all my heart that I had a calling to become a sister in that order. That was 40 years ago. The brothers and sisters at the center were kind, compassionate and wonderful souls. They impressed upon me to pray for guidance. They suggested that I to to college and study theology and upon graduation if I still had the “calling” to come back and begin the process. A lot happened in those 8 years. Although I prayed daily I came to realize that my calling was just my need to escape my reality, which I am sure the brothers and sisters saw very clearly in their counsel with me.
    Today I am the proud mother of two children and live far from the Center. My father passed away 3 years ago and two of the brothers I knew 40 years ago, who were nearly my age then, were at his funeral. They were so filled with joy and peace I began to wonder had I made the right decision?
    I have my own daily practice of prayer and meditation. The answer is yes, I did. I live a life of peace and love, prayer and compassion, service and gratitude, just as I would have if I had become a nun.
    I guess I would tell this 15 year old boy to pray about it, and listen for the answer. I know that God always answers.
    God Bless.

  21. First, I don’t think anything I wrote suggest it was “imposed.” That said I believe your statement is in this circumstance disingenuous. Strictly speaking it is “voluntary.” But it is also required of all those subject to the Roman Church who feel called to the priesthood and who wish to answer that call.

    This is a disciplinary rule that is unique to the Latin Church. And while I respect the right of the Latin Church to regulate the Holy Mysteries in such manner as it deems good and prudent for the salvation of souls, I think this regulation unwise with little practical, and no doctrinal justification for it. If such justification did exist then why does Rome not extend the requirement to the uniate churches? The clear implication of this discipline is that there is no legitimate calling to a religious life sans the willingness and ability to embrace celibacy. There is evidence that this has repelled many holy and otherwise eminently qualified young men from answering a calling to the priesthood. And conversely it has served over the centuries as a magnet for sexual deviates who were in need of a safe place to hide in plain sight without having to answer inconvenient questions, like how come you never had a girlfriend?

    As I said above, Rome is of course free to do as it wishes. But IMHO the rule is silly at the least, and arguably counterproductive.

  22. “The Lord” by Romano Guardini and a Daily Roman Missal so he can follow the readings of the church, when he can’t attend morning mass.

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