In a video recorded ahead of the feast of St Peter and St Paul, Cardinal Vincent answers questions on his experience sensing God's call with a listening and prayerful heart. These are questions that are often asked by men seeking to discern whether they are called to the priesthood.
Talking about his journey to the priesthood, the Cardinal said that it began 'with an awareness of a call'. Initially, it was something that gave him a significant measure of discomfort. An experience he recalls vividly was when he used to go to watch Liverpool play at Anfield. 'I can remember standing on the Kop watching this football match and just wanting to loose myself in this crowd. I used to say Lord, would you please forget about me please, just let me be like everyone else, I don't want this.'
He explains there was a persistence to the call, which eventually matured into the realisation that, 'at still moments when you're not totally absorbed in something, you sense a restlessness'. He goes on to advise that this is a call which you need to sit with and allow to echo within you.
In answering the question, 'How do I know that this is what God wants for me?', the Cardinal says that we must 'give time and attention to our relationship with God'. As listening isn't something we often do when we start to pray, it's worth developing it as part of our prayer life because 'it gives God a chance to speak to us, which in a way is much more important than our talking to God'. The moments which Cardinal Vincent says he has found it easiest to develop this listening heart, come in the form of pilgrimages or events like World Youth Day. On these occasions, when 'some of the normal clutter of our lives, some of the normal routines and habits and props have gone ... that wind of the Holy Spirit can blow through us more freely.'
Part of following a vocation is making a choice, which is not so easy today with all the many possibilities that exist. However, as the Cardinal explains, 'Choice means the binding of the possibilities.' Paradoxically, this is the beginning of freedom, because, 'when we're faced with endless possibilities, then we don't really know where we're going and we're not free of all that plethora of options, to give ourselves to something which is right, life-giving and fruitful'. Making the choice to be a priest binds the possibility of something like marriage, 'but it gives freedom to be a source of love and grace and encouragement to countless people who will trust themselves to you'.
One of the aspects of being a priest which often causes worry, is the perceived loneliness and solitude, only heightened by the recent experience of the pandemic. However, Cardinal Vincent encourages us to not be afraid of that, as a priesthood properly lived, transforms "being alone" from loneliness to being 'a richness of the life of the Spirit'. A seminary is designed to form those habits which carry a priest through his ministry, but it also gives great company and solidarity. In the words of the Cardinal, 'As a priest you become a companion of Jesus at the will of the Father'.
If you feel like God is calling you, get in touch with the Vocations Team at email@example.com.