Becoming a priest is a special calling in a person’s life. Not everyone can fulfill this role. Truthfully, most people shouldn’t try to become a priest unless they truly want to live a life that is set apart. Priests have a very important job to do within the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. They are responsible for carrying out the sacred rituals and duties that are a part of the church.
Most people should not become priests. The priesthood requires one to forsake personal freedom, material wealth, and romantic entanglements. A priest should also have a patient and contemplative disposition. People who consider becoming priests are often better suited to become deacons instead.
The material presented here will explain what a priest is and what type of work they are expected to do within the church. It will also help people to decide if they want to become a priest – or not.
A Basic Explanation of Priesthood
What Is a Priest?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a priest is an individual who has been ordained and authorized to perform certain rites, rituals, and/or duties within a church or for some other type of religion. Many different religions have priests. However, our focus will be on Christian priests within the Catholic and Orthodox congregations.
When you attend a Catholic or Orthodox church, a priest is an individual who carries out specific duties. These duties could involve leading sacrament activities such as taking communion, or they could be placed in charge of the church building. Priests perform various duties. Here is a list of duties that priests perform:
- Apostolic Succession. Orthodox priests perform this tradition by anointing newly ordained members to church leadership positions.
- Preaching the Bible. Orthodox priests typically preach God’s word within the Orthodox churches.
- Prayer Leaders. Orthodox priests are typically prayer leaders for their congregation.
- Administer Certain Religious and Civil Functions. Marriages, baptisms, funerals, and public religious functions are normally performed by Orthodox priests. These are considered sacraments.
- Orthodox priests also perform other sacraments such as chrismation, Communion, holy orders, penance, and anointing of the sick.
- Missionary work is oftentimes performed by Orthodox priests. They will travel to another part of the world where the church is trying to establish a Christian presence. Once they arrive, they will usually lead the work that is taking place there; or they will join in by performing certain tasks that will help the church to grow and thrive.
- Some Orthodox priests must use their talents to take care of the church building and its daily operations. They are usually in charge of the daily management of the building. They ensure that the bills are paid, the church grounds are kept in order, and that the building is maintained.
Catholic Priest Duties:
- Catholic priests perform certain rituals and duties as well. They hear confessions, provide counseling for various situations, and visit sick people in hospitals and nursing homes. They also teach their congregation about the Bible and the Catholic traditions.
- Catholic priests carry out religious rites such as communion or the eucharist.
- Priests are also expected to help their congregation with various life issues and religious problems.
- Catholic priests also perform missionary duties like orthodox priests.
- Catholic priests preach the Bible to congregations.
- Catholic priests can also be responsible for managing their church building.
- Catholic priests must also make retreats and annual visits for spiritual growth and to keep up with the latest events and doctrinal information regarding the Catholic church.
Orthodox & Catholic Priest Review
The Orthodox and Catholic priests have many different duties that must be constantly performed. Being a priest within these two faiths is not a part-time affair or a side gig but a lifestyle. The following sections will go into detail. It will help a person to make a decision about becoming a priest.
Priest vs Pastor: What’s the Difference?
On the surface, a priest or a pastor do share the same responsibilities and duties toward their congregations. However, both church leadership positions are different. Pastors are typically responsible for the overall spiritual growth of their congregation. A priest might have this responsibility, but they are more focused on performing the duties and functions within their faith.
What you must know before becoming a priest?
It was previously mentioned that being a priest is a lifestyle. Any person that wants to become a Catholic or an Orthodox priest, must be totally committed to this process. Priests are “on-call” all day, every day; and their lives are lived in a constant connection with the church, with God, and with their congregation members.
If you plan on becoming a priest, you must be ready for this type of commitment. Also, you should know that there are two different types of priests within the Catholic tradition. Diocesan priests are one type and religious order priests are the other. A diocesan priest lives with the diocese (or parish) where he works. A religious order priest is affiliated with a Catholic religious order. Why is this important to know?
Well, a diocesan priest is responsible for purchasing and taking care of their own possessions. They are given a small salary. They can also receive gifts and offerings from people for their service. However, they cannot ask for money when delivering the word of God. A diocesan priest does receive room, board, food, and health insurance from the diocese where they work.
Religious order priests have few material possessions. They usually have the clothes on their back and that’s it. They are provided with food, shelter, and a room. They have to share things such as television, computers, radios, and transportation. Religious order priests also share the home where they live. Their work for God and the church trumps their need to focus on money and material possessions.
If you are a person that does not (or simply cannot) want to live life with very little money, then the priesthood might not be for you. Also, if you don’t like to share your possessions, feel like you should have a lot of possessions – don’t become a priest. Again, the focus of a priest is on God, their congregation, and their spirituality.
What type of lifestyle should a priest have?
If you want to become a priest, you should follow the Bible’s guidelines for pastors and priests. The first book of Timothy provides a basic guideline for any person that decides to become a priest.
Guidance Given in 1 Timothy 3: 1 – 7
This is a true saying, if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desire a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The above passage of scripture makes it clear that not everyone can be (or should be) a priest. It’s important for God’s leaders to have these fundamental qualities to become leaders within his church. In this passage of scripture, a priest is thought to have a wife. However, Catholic and Orthodox traditions don’t allow for celibate priests to marry. However, if a priest is married before taking on this responsibility, they cannot remarry if they are widowed.
Chastity for Orthodox and Catholic Priests
Orthodox and Catholic priests are not allowed to have sex. If a person gets married before they are ordained to the priesthood, they must remain faithful to their spouse. As a side note, Orthodox priests can get married but Catholic priests are not allowed marriage if they started out as a single person when they were ordained.
Remember that neither tradition allows for remarriage if they end up in a divorce or if their spouse passes away. A married priest that ends up in a situation of divorce or becoming a widow will also be expected to remain celibate.
Keep in mind that some people have the gift of singlehood as spoken by the Apostle Paul.
Paul’s Writing in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.
But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—
and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
The Apostle Paul was not against anyone getting married. Actually, he knew that it was a sinful thing to forbid people to marry. The reality is that marriage was created for sexual fulfillment. He also stated that if a person cannot control their sexual desires that they should get married.
Further in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul tells believers that they should stay single if God has given them the ability to control their sexual desires. Some people don’t have this ability. Paul’s ultimate purpose of singlehood was to get believers to focus solely on God. He just wanted people to be free to worship and serve God without hindrance. The Catholic and Orthodox churches also have this mindset when it comes to priests. The bottom line is that you should not become a priest if you cannot control your sexual desires.
Should You Become a Catholic or Orthodox Priest?
The answer to this question will depend on you. Becoming a priest within the Catholic or Orthodox faiths is no trivial matter. You will be responsible to God, the church, and your congregation. You will be required to live a holy lifestyle and you will have to be morally upright. Don’t forget that money and material possessions cannot be that important to you. Also, being sexually pure is another big requirement. If you can’t handle these requirements and demands for priesthood you should probably answer another calling on your life.