“Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.” (Ps. 109:4) The priest is a man of God. By his ordination, he participates in the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is set apart for the worship of God. His role is not a job; it is a life.
Every priest has two main functions: to offer the things of men to God, and to bestow the things of God on men. Our Lord Jesus Christ, being true God and true man, is the supreme High Priest. He performs these two roles in the most perfect way possible. He offers himself as an infinite sacrifice to God to atone for the sins of mankind. By this same sacrifice, He obtains and distributes by right all supernatural blessings which flow from God to men.
Jesus Christ did not will to exercise His priesthood alone, but chose and to this day chooses certain men to participate in His priestly powers. He wants these men to re-offer His sacrifice to God and apply its fruits to their fellow men until the end of time. Catholic priests, by the power given by the character of Holy Orders, are able to offer Jesus Christ to the Eternal Father at Mass, and bestow the grace of Christ on men. They do not, like Jesus Christ, have authority over the supernatural order, but rather exercise the certain determinate power bestowed upon them, as instruments of Christ’s priesthood.
Catholic priests are also given by the Church the roles of teaching and governing the faithful entrusted to them. In these roles, the priest builds up the Mystical Body of Christ by instructing Catholics in the faith and leading them to their supernatural goal.
Because the priesthood is an office that is essentially supernatural, only God can decide who should or should not become a priest. While there are certain minimum requirements on the natural level to become a priest, the ultimate determinant for a vocation is the inner attraction for the priesthood placed in the soul by God. A young man needs much assistance to ascertain whether God is calling him, and a clear answer today can only be obtained by entering a house of formation. Only there does God’s will become evident to both the young man and those discerning his vocation.
In short, Jesus Christ calls some men to exercise His priesthood here on earth, to provide the most important benefits possible for mankind. A young man who asks himself whether Jesus Christ is calling Him is posing the most crucial question of his life. Its answer is obtained by prayer, reflection, consultation and, definitively, by discerning one’s vocation at a seminary.