Fr. James Reutter
I know several men who first felt the call to the priesthood very early on in life, even as young boys receiving First Communion. But in my case, the call to serve the Church as a priest of Jesus Christ didn't come nearly that early. In fact, I took a very circuitous path to get to seminary.
I grew up in a large Catholic family of thirteen children whose faith was very strong. Thanks to the devotion of my parents, we were very serious about attending Mass each and every week (like it or not!); about knowing what the Church taught; about doing works of charity such as helping the elderly residents in the neighborhood; about observing the liturgical seasons by special ceremonies in the home; and making the most of the sacrifices my parents made to send all of us to parochial elementary schools and Catholic high schools by taking our studies seriously. So I grew up with a great appreciation for the faith, and the truth and beauty of the Church and her teachings.
But despite all this, I never really gave much thought at all to the priesthood as a young man. In fact, I admired and respected many of the Jesuit priests who taught me in high school. But when one of them told my parents at a teachers' conference that I ought to think about becoming a priest, I just laughed.
It wasn't until graduate school, when I joined a Catholic fellowship group when I really had a chance to take a good hard luck at my faith. In that student fellowship, we talked and prayed a lot about how we could put our faith into action and make the great gift of our Catholic faith the center of our lives. We attended Mass together, organized praise and worship sessions, and become very dedicated to pro-life work on our campus. We worked to transform what Pope John Paul called "the culture of death" into a culture of life and love. Through all of these, I developed a personal prayer life I had never had before. I began to pray very hard about what my faith meant to me, began to read the Bible more devotedly, and began to ask the Lord in prayer how he wanted me to respond to Him in faith...
But I have also inserted his discernment advice below if that's what you really want.
So my advice for any young man considering the priesthood, or wondering if he is called or not, is to make your prayer simple. Just ask the Lord for two things: the wisdom to know His will for your vocation, and the courage to follow it, even if that means making great sacrifices to get there. Pope John Paul the Great was a great priestly model for me, and an inspiration for me following the Lord into priestly service. He was very fond of reminding young people throughout his pontificate: "Do not be afraid!" The same words that the angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary Mother of God at the Annunciation, the Lord speaks to you. If you sense a call to the priesthood, Do not be afraid to follow after the Lord, to answer the call and challenge to do the greatest work any man could ever do on earth: to save souls and bring them to Heaven.AMDG.