11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they’re “waiting for a sign” to enter the seminary, I would be a very wealthy man. College students who are active in their Newman Centers say it, high school seniors looking at colleges say it, and even seminarians are notorious for asking for “just one more sign.”
In the verse above, Elijah didn’t know what he was looking for when God told him to wait, but he knew it when he saw it. The particulars of everyone’s vocation story is different. Very rarely you get a story like Fr. John Riccardo, which involves visions, audible voices, and very clear directives. Yet he would be the first one to tell you that he still ignored all of these obvious signs for a very long time.
Rather, God tells you your vocation gently. He will slightly nudge you this way or that way, always giving you the opportunity to go the opposite. God speaks in a “gentle blowing”. But that thing about even just a little wind is that, if it’s persistent, it can still erode way doubts and concerns.
My point is if you’re looking for a clear sign like Fr. Riccardo, don’t expect one. But also don’t hem and haw about maybe entering seminary or maybe not. Don’t feel like you have to have your vocation figured out before you enter the seminary. The seminary is a place to pray and discern God’s will for your life.
I once had a spiritual director tell me that you know a vocation is true when three desires line up: Yours, the Church’s, and God’s. If you have been open with the seminary and all three are pointed in the direction of the priesthood, you are probably called. But in order to know the desire’s of the Church, you need a seminary to tell you.
When it comes to discerning seminary Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save A Thousand Souls, gives the idea of having a “Holy Fantasy” (Chapter 10). Fr. Brannen suggests taking two consecutive days doing a holy hour. On the first day, you would have a “holy fantasy” about marriage. You would imagine yourself married with kids. Think about mostly the goods that come with marriage, but also realistically consider the bad. On the second day, do the same thing with the priesthood. Before each holy hour, ask for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. After you finish both days, ask yourself, “now which can I live without.” Most importantly, expect God to speak in the breeze. If you listen for it, you will hear him.