By: Fr Charles Prince

I think that I can say with a fair amount of confidence, that this is one of the top questions I have been asked since I started telling people that I was going to enter the seminary. There are variations in the way the question is asked: sometimes disparagingly, sometimes disbelieving, sometimes diffidently, but always in some way with a genuine interest in the answer.

Why are people so curious about this? My friends who are lawyers or doctors, teachers or nurses, engineers or parents don’t seem to get asked that question much if at all. So what is it about priesthood that is so fascinating? I think that at least part of the reason is the fact that this particular choice of life is perceived as unusual, different and perhaps sometimes senseless. After all, aren’t we ‘supposed’ to get married and have children, to get the best job we can, or study and then get a better job, to buy the best house and car that we can afford and start saving for our retirement. Catholic priests don’t do any of these things, so people naturally ask; “Why?”

The simplest and truest – and shortest – answer is this: I am a priest because that is what God wants me to be.

This does not make me, or any other priest, more special or privileged than any other person. God wants something for all of us. God is calling every single person that He created to goodness, to holiness and ultimately to heaven but we all have different paths of getting there and this is mine.

I have noticed that when I give that answer, people are usually taken aback and often unsatisfied and so ask: ‘How do you know that is what God wants?’ This is a fair question! How do I know what God wants? How do any of us know what God wants?

I have had no dreams or visions or voices from the sky, but just an increasingly certain feeling (punctuated of course with times of doubt and moments of clarity) that this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I do remember clearly the first time this thought struck me fully-formed. I was a teenager, 14 if I remember correctly, standing in my room glancing idly at the dressing gown hung up behind the closed door. It was at that moment that I received one of the three unequivocal, overwhelming and life-changing encounters with God in my life to date. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt in that moment that God was calling me to serve him in a particular way.

Between that moment and the end of school I had moments of certainty and moments of doubt, but the certainty grew and the doubts diminished. I found that as my relationship with God grew during those years, as I was befriended, inspired and encouraged by youth leaders in my parish, as I came to know myself better and understand my talents and my weaknesses, the things that I find fulfilling and tedious. In all this I could see and hear God more and more in the small moments and great movements of life; and they all pointed me more and more in the direction of the priesthood.

I have now been a priest for 10 years. There have been times of joy and sorrow (both personal and professional), times of hardship and ease, times of success and failure; but the one thing that has remained constant through all of this, even in the hardest times, is that I could NEVER find more peace, joy or fulfilment doing anything else with my life.

I believe that none of us can ever find more peace, joy or fulfilment other than in doing our best to discern God’s call in our lives and finding the courage to answer it, no matter what the sacrifices that it entails. Ultimately, whatever the cost, the reward is always so much greater.

‘Why become a priest’ is really no different from asking ‘why become a parent or teacher or paramedic or plumber or dancer or engineer or mechanic (or any other choice in life)’.

So why? Well, because God wants us to, because it is part of God’s plan for us and for the building of His Kingdom here on earth. It is the path that will lead us to spend eternity with Him at the end of our earthly life. And, there is nothing more important than that.

 


Profile Fr CharlesAbout the Author

Fr. Charles Prince

Fr Charles is currently serving as the Youth Chaplain to the Archdiocese of Cape Town, as well as the Parish Priest of St Anthony’s in Langa and chaplain to the University of the Western Cape and Cape Peninsula University of Technology – Bellville. He has always been passionate about Youth Ministry, feeling that his priestly vocation was fostered through the youth group that he was part of as a teenager. He is also involved in the Scout movement, where he has fulfilled a number of volunteer roles and currently serves as Deputy Regional Commissioner.