There is no more serious event in the life of a man or woman than the perception of a vocation to Holy Orders. As Catholics, we believe that vocations come from God and are accepted or declined by those to whom they are given. Acceptance of a call to Holy Orders involves a commitment of body and soul; heart, mind, and spirit all joining in dedication to the service of God and the Church. Accordingly, a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate cannot be compared to a desire to enter some ordinary profession or field of human endeavor. It follows that the discernment and preparation process cannot be likened to the search for secular employment or admission to a conventional institution of higher learning.
Approval for ordination is not obtained solely through the completion of a series of organizational requirements or the accomplishment of a set of educational objectives. The decision to grant or withhold ordination is far more complex. It involves the mutual discernment of a call from God and a realization of that call through moral living, academic preparation, and spiritual development. In contrast to secular occupations, there is no entitlement to ordination, no matter how much it may be desired. The simple fact that one perceives a strong call to Holy Orders is no assurance that they can or should be granted. To be valid, a vocation must be discerned and affirmed not only by the individual but also by the Church acting through its people and bishops.
The Church is at liberty to ordain those whom it considers suitably called and prepared. At the same time, the Church has a moral obligation to turn away those in whom it cannot discern true vocation or who are found to be inadequately prepared by reason of education, spiritual development, physical and mental health or manner of life. The selection of those called to ordination is among the most serious and solemn of the Church's obligations. It must and does employ all the resources given to it by God and by society. Thus, the decision to ordain is not based merely on the sincerity of the applicant or the achievement of some series of educational or institutional tasks but is likewise grounded in the revelations of prayer and meditation.