by Fr. Michael Ibrahim
“Father, why did you become a priest?” This is a question many people ask any priest they meet for the first time or even when they get to know him.
Before I give my personal answer, I want to clarify an idea about priesthood, which a lot of people misinterpret.
Priesthood is a CALL. It is not a JOB.
This call starts in the heart of the person, not in his checking account. It is not taught. Priests do not go to seminaries to be called. We go to seminaries to learn how to use this call; how we can serve the Lord; how to serve the faithful and help them to get closer to God. We use the call to get to know Him more and show our parishioners the ways that lead to their salvation.
So the priest is a servant and not a master. When he becomes a master then his call is false.
Yes, there are too many ways to serve the Lord within the church and outside the church. A person does not need to be a priest to serve the Lord. That is why priesthood is a CALL, and a very special one. And believe me, when a man is called, he cannot run away from it. It becomes a part of his daily life. It mingles with his blood.
Priesthood is not a job. When it becomes a job, it loses the essence of the CALL.
St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews wrote, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.” Hebrews 5:1-4.
This call can happen at any age. It could start at an early age or at a late one. Sometimes, it starts at an early age but is not fulfilled until a late age of the person’s life, which is exactly what happened with me.
I knew that I had the call very early. I could feel it, and lived it. But my actual ordination to the holy priesthood came late (when I was 49 years old.)
The CALL was on my mind all my life but the decision was made late (although I guess it is never too late).
I could stay a layman and serve the church and the Lord but the truth is that there are a few factors that encouraged me to make this decision.
One of these factors is that there are a lot of lost sheep that need to be brought back to the Lord. There are too many churches in this country, too many sects and they all claim to hold the truth.
This atmosphere encouraged me to make my decision to fulfill my call. When people meet a priest, they feel more comfortable to talk about religion and to ask questions. In most cases, they trust his answers more than if they hear them from a layperson.
Another factor that led to my decision is that people nowadays need prayers more than any other time. There is no peace in our world, no more harmony, unfortunately. People are looking for a place to say a prayer, to light a candle for someone in need. People are looking for a person who would listen to them and guide them in the right direction.
Too many values are lost nowadays. There is no more respect, no more patience, no more love.
Another factor was that the freedom in this country allows people to preach and evangelize freely. This religious freedom is a precious gem, and often, only those who have lived in other countries understand its value.
These are some of the reasons that led to my decision to become a priest. I CHOSE to become a priest. At the end I used my free will that God gave me, hoping that through my service I can be that person who will listen to people and guide them to their salvation.
I hope and pray to the Lord God that I will be able to evangelize His word and bring back some of the lost sheep to His house. So please remember me in your prayers, brothers and sisters in Christ, because I need every one of them. So help me God.