Advice for Seminarians and Priests from The Priest is Not His Own by Fulton J. Sheen

1: Study

“We must study to be priest-victims. This will attract more vocations!” (40)

“Only labourers, not idlers, are acceptable instruments. The priest must study to perfect his mind, not wearying the people with stale repetitions” (81).

2: Pray

“The intercession of the priest before the throne of God must be a tearful one” (41).

“There are probably hundreds of thousands of vocations hanging from heaven on silken cords; prayer is the sword that cuts them” (82).

“The search for vocations begins on our knees. One bishop had no candidates for the priesthood in two years. He began a campaign of prayer in the schools of his diocese, and without any other publicity, he had activated forty vocations and the end of one year” (83).

“How fruitful a vineyard of vocations is the sacristy! To see a priest making his meditation before Mass does more for an altar boy’s vocation than a thousand pieces of inspirational literature” (69).

3: Make the Holy Hour

“Because the Holy Hour is a personal prayer. The Mass and the Breviary are official prayers. They belong to the Mystical Body of Christ. They do not belong to us personally. The priest who limits himself strictly to his official obligation and adoration is like the union man who downs tools the moment the whistle blows. Love begins when duty finishes” (236).

“Allow no difficulty in making the hour to be an excuse for giving it up. When making it is a pleasure, we can think of ourselves as priests; when it is an effort, we can remember that we are also victims” (245).

4: Be a victim first in your own body

“Each priest must first win the spiritual victory alone and within himself before he can repeat that victory in the lives of others” (93).

“Our priesthood is best illumined in the fires of victimhood” (46).

We become significant to our fellow men not by being a “regular guy,” but by being “another Christ.”

“The consequences for all priests are tremendous, for if He did offer Himself for sins, then we must offer ourselves as victims. The conclusion is inescapable” (14).

“No deep conviction is aroused in the incredulous until they see the scarred hands and the broken heart of the priest who is a victim with Christ. The mortified priest, the priest who is detached from the world – these inspire, edify and Christify souls” (64).

“Our Lord made his two greatest converts when He was tired” (64).

5: Enter into the Mass as victims

“Do we offer Mass as if we presented a victim for sin who was totally unrelated to us, like the scapegoat or the bird? Do we ascend to the altar as priests and not as victims? Do we offer the Christ-Saviour to the Father as if we were not dying with Him?” (17)

“As priests we offer Christ in the Mass, but as victims do we offer ourselves with Christ in the Mass?” (20)

“Do we act as mere spectators at a drama in which we are intended to play the lead role?” (20)

“See all humanity on the paten and in the chalice during the Offertory. The bread and wine repesent mankind” (42).

“The priest must also offer Mass up for himself for his own failings and sins” (45).

6: Be a victim for your parishioners

“Is our priesthood a two-story house to indicate our apartness, our reluctance to be a victim for others? On the first floor is a family suffering physically, disturbed mentally, lacking food and drink. On the second floor, we live. Through intermittent acts of charity, we descend to their misery from time to time to relieve it; but do we go back right away to the relative comfort of our own lodging?” (17)

“We offer our repose of body in order that others may have peace of soul; we are pure in order to recompensate for the excesses of the flesh committed by sinners” (18).

“It is through its exhaustion in priestly ministrations, its constant use in preaching, teaching and converting, that it becomes a “living sacrifice” (24).

“The emptying of self for the people of the parish produces the spiritual prosperity of the parish” (28).

“The parishioners are not disturbers; they are our heart, our body, our blood” (29).

“Contact with people for Christ’s sake is the victimhood that makes the priesthood” (30).

7: On Vocations

“The priest on fire with the Holy Spirit will never be barren. His parish and his school will flower with vocations. Thus has every priest a measure of the fire that blazes in his soul” (50).


“Increase and multiply” is a law of sacerdotal life no less than of biological life (57).

“Every priest should ask himself how many adults he baptized in the past year as the fruit of his zeal and how many fallen-away Catholics he brought back to the Father’s house” (63).

“Priests should talk to altar boys about the priesthood and thank them when they serve Mass” (68).

“The priest must avoid the methods of the world in promoting vocations… whatever he do must be done through the foolishness of the Cross” (87).

“Every priest, when he goes before the Lord for judgment, will be asked, “Where are your children?” The vocation of the priest is primarily to beget souls in Christ. Shall we mount the pulpit and denounce unnatural birth control in the flesh, while we practice it in our spirit? Shall mothers be blamed for not having more children when our baptismal records show no souls begotten in Christ in years?” (104). 


8: On Poverty

“Three aspects of priestly poverty can be distinguished. In the priest’s personal life, poverty directs him to limit himself to the strict necessity. In his apostolate, poverty of spirit inspires him to use spiritual means to attain his apostolic goals. In his use of resources, poverty obliges him to count only on God” (126-7).

“The priest must seek in particular a spirit of poverty in regard to time and self-satisfaction… Siesta time is not sacred; the day off is not sacred. These legitimate recreations are expendable if a soul can be saved” (128).

9: Don’t complain

“The priest will never complain if he sees that the Spirit is the author of his trials” (142).

10: Be humble

“There is no such thing in priestly spirituality as being satisfied because we have done our duty… The less there is of self-satisfaction, the more zeal there is in Christ’s service… When we think of all the Lord has done for us, we can never do enough… We are worthless servants when we have done our best… To our Redeemer alone belongs the merit and glory of our services; to us belongs nothing but the gratitude and humility of being pardoned rebels” (131).

“The priest must never think that his own preaching or zeal won the convert… We priests are only spiritual farmers; we till the soil, God drops the seed. We make no converts. We must never count up our converts, or we will one day begin to think that we, not the Lord, made them” (108, 111).

“The worth of our efforts is in proportion to the expanse of sympathy and feeling we have for unconverted souls. The depth of a priest’s compassion is the measure of his apostolic success” (114).


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