How old should one be to enter the seminary or to start formation in a religious house of discernment? This question is as old as the church. I have heard many different opinions and my own opinion has been molded and refined as the years have gone on. A popular viewpoint that I have heard is that we need men and women who have “real world” experience prior to entering into religious discernment. This way they know the “basics” of living as an adult and they might avoid some pitfalls in religious life. They also have a chance to experience a “normal life” and perhaps this will make them more ready to embrace a call from the Lord because they know what else is out there. I had worked for four and a half years and lived on my own prior to joining the seminary. I had to learn to scrape together enough money week to week to pay for essentials, I learned what things cost and I matured a great deal during those years on my own.
But as I progressed through the seminary, I was formed to be a priest alongside men with a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. Some had been highly successful business leaders; some were fresh out of high school and had never had a paying job. Some were grandfathers who had been widowed, others had never dated. What I came to understand during my six years of seminary was that formation works. No matter our background, no matter our life experience, it was our dedication and faithfulness to what the Church demanded of us in priestly formation that dictated our success or our failure. Every man and woman is different, some young men know they have a call to the priesthood from an early age, it is all they have ever wanted to do. Should we really say: “no, do this other thing first or you will not be happy?” I did not experience that call early on, the Lord apparently saw fit to put a desire for priesthood on my heart at a later date, but that did not change the fact that it would be my dedication to formation and to the Lord that would dictate my success or failure.
Earlier this month I shared my vocation story with students at Ole Miss and I spoke with the wonderful youth group at St. John Oxford as well. I hope that any young person, at any age, who manifests a desire to explore religious life is not brushed aside until they are “old enough” to make that decision. Every disciple is different, God calls us all at different times and that is the answer to the question, how old should one be to enter the seminary or religious formation? It depends on the person and that is how God intended it. –Father Nick Adam
Friday, Oct. 4 – Sunday Oct. 6 – Jesu Caritas Retreat with Dominican Sisters of Nashville, Tennessee.
Friday, Nov. 22 – Bonfire Football Game – St. Joseph Seminary, Covington, Louisiana.
Contact the Office of Vocations if interested – firstname.lastname@example.org