A Living Sacrifice: Guidance for Men Discerning Religious Life


A comprehensive guide to help men discern if God is calling them to religious life. Written by Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P. and Fr. Andrew Hofer. O.P.

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A Living Sacrifice is a comprehensive guide for men who are discerning God’s call. It serves as both an introduction to religious life as well as a guide for discerning vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

With clear language, engaging examples, and solid theology, the book tackles the big questions: “Should I date while discerning?”  “Should I be a diocesan priest or a religious brother?” “What community should I join?” “What should I expect during formation?” “What is religious life anyway?” and “How do I know for sure if I’m being called?”

A Living Sacrifice offers a solid alternative to “cyber discernment” by addressing men’s most common questions in a single volume. Perfect to bring into the chapel to spark a heart-to-heart conversation with Christ.



Co-author Fr. Benedict Croell has been called the most successful religious vocation director in America, with over 100 men entering his community during his time of service. (He is now assigned to The Angelicum in Rome.)  Co-author Fr. Andrew Hofer oversaw the initial formation of new brothers, and offers both real-life insights and a solid theological foundation. Together, they amass their considerable experience to provide reliable advice during every stage of vocational discernment.



Importantly, A Living Sacrifice includes an overview of most forms of religious life in the U.S., as well as contributions from priests and brothers in many different communities, such as the Franciscans, Jesuits, Holy Cross, Norbertines, and many more. While authored by Dominican priests, the book is deliberately written for men discerning any religious community.

Foreword by Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, O.S.B.

Nihil Obstat, Rev. Basil Cole, O.P.
Imprimatur, Rev. Msgr. Charles V. Antonicelli, V.G.


“I commend Father Benedict Croell, O.P. and Father Andrew Hofer, O.P. on the publication of A Living Sacrifice: Guidance for Men Discerning Religious Life. Here young men as well as Vocation Directors will find solid material to help in discerning a vocation to religious life. The information is at once practical, giving details on the various forms of religious life which a candidate might seek to explore, and rooted in the tradition of the Church. The example of many saints provides concrete testimony to the charisms of the various religious orders which go to make up the rich mosaic of religious life in the Catholic Church. This book will undoubtedly prove invaluable in helping young men respond in a confident and trusting way to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as they discern God’s call.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments


“A Living Sacrifice is an inspiring book, but it is also intensely practical. The authors lead us through sensible stages in discernment, clearing away obstacles and distractions — what to do and what not to do — but they never lose sight of the tremendous mystery at the heart of vocation. It’s the Trinity, and they dare to say it. Nothing is more profound and essential to life than this encounter. You’ll feel that on every page of this book. And if this gets out into the right hands, we can expect to see an increase of holy and worthy vocations to the religious life worldwide. Since many are called… many should read this book!”

Scott Hahn
Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization
Founder & President, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology 


“FOCUS works with many young men, some of whom have heard the calling to enter the fraternity of religious life. A Living Sacrifice is the fruit of lives lived discerning the will of God, and especially in this noisy world, I highly recommend this book to those men discerning the religious life, and to those vocation directors devoted to helping them!”

Curtis Martin
Founder of FOCUS


“As a former Vocation Director I wish I had this book to offer men who were discerning their vocation. It is a clear and practical guide for any young man discerning God’s will. Also, it is a wonderful resource for vocation directors or anyone who promotes vocations to the priesthood and religious life. No doubt Fathers Benedict and Andrew are offering realistic advice based on their years of prayerful experience ministering to young men called to serve the Lord. The Church finally has a book it so desperately needed at a time so many young men are searching how they can genuinely offer themselves to the Lord.”

Fr. Mark Padrez, O.P.
Executive Director, Conference of Major Superiors of Men


A Living Sacrifice is a very practical book for men discerning a vocation to religious life in all its forms. It is theologically sound  and written in a style that is attractive and easily understood. Not only does it help young men in their inner search for a possible vocation to the religious life; it also gives them practical counsel on how to find the right community for them. I highly recommend this book for all young men who are searching for God’s will in their life.”

Fr. Thomas Nelson, O. Praem.
National Director, Institute on Religious Life


“I have heard it said that the problem of being ‘a living sacrifice’ is that when things get uncomfortable, one can crawl off the altar. The Church has needed a book for men discerning religious life for a long time. Fr. Croell and Fr. Hofer have provided this excellent resource covering all the bases! Their experience in living religious life and guiding others rings loud and clear in these easy-to-read and practical pages. Religious life is the most perfect form of life; the offering of oneself in a holocaust to Jesus. This book will contribute to the renewal of religious life in the Church!”

Fr. Brett Brannen
Author of To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide to Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood

“This book is a ‘must read’ for any man considering the religious life. Practical, accessible, and packed with information, it is also a work of profound wisdom, a theologically rich and spiritually challenging book that presents and explains the religious life in the ultimate context of Trinitarian life and love. Highly recommended!”
Carl E. Olson, Editor of Catholic World Report


“In every generation, the Lord calls some men to follow him in radical ways, even to share intimately in His own way of life, poor, chaste and obedient.  If the Lord is calling you to this privileged life of belonging totally to him, then this book will give you the foundational principles and real-life examples to help you respond with generosity and trust.”

Most Rev. Reverend Andrew H. Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis


“Surveys consistently show how a culture of encouragement is necessary for a young man to discern positively a vocation within the Church. While A Living Sacrifice is specifically written for young men who are discerning a vocation, it would also benefit those who are responsible for promoting vocations among the men in their parish community.  Everyone should consider themselves a promoter of religious vocations, so everyone should read this book!”

Most Rev. W. Shawn McKnight, Bishop of Jefferson City


“Diocesan Vocation Directors accompany many young men in the discernment process. This book asks the fundamental question of the discerner who is genuinely seeking holiness, “Am I called to live for Jesus alone as a living sacrifice?” Every man discerning the priesthood should read this book. It will give clarity to the vocation God has created him to live in this world, whether that is religious life or diocesan priesthood.“

Fr. Jeff Eirvin, Vice-President, National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors


“Spiritually sound and eminently practical, A Living Sacrifice is a rare find that will inspire men who desire to give the totality of their lives to God with generosity and courage through the profession of the evangelical counsels. The world today needs zealous, faithful religious, and this book offers us hope that God is indeed still calling!”

Mother Anna Grace Neenan, O.P., Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Nashville


“St. John Paul II began Vita Consecrata with these words: ‘The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit.’ This book offers to young men the opportunity to explore this Trinitarian mystery by listening to Jesus Christ, the poor, chaste, and obedient One.”

Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., Vatican City


“I’m delighted to see this book made available.  It offers practical guidance with valuable pastoral and theological principles for young men discerning religious life.  I pray that many will benefit from the wisdom contained within its pages.”

Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City


“Discerning what God wants for us is foundational to our lives as Christians. A Living Sacrifice is an extremely valuable resource for young men discerning the vocations of priesthood and religious life, especially in a world that so desperately needs more holy priests and religious. This volume provides clarity to concerns posed by those who are discerning or those who walk with them on their spiritual journey. May our Blessed Mother guide them to always do what her Son is telling them to do.”

Fr. Sean Sheridan, T.O.R., President of Franciscan University of Steubenville 


“Every year my wife and I host several dinners for students discerning about a religious vocation. I always feel a little inadequate, having myself chosen another path in life. In the Dominican spirit, A Living Sacrifice offers straightforward and accessible responses to many of the questions I can’t answer. Balancing practical information, personal narrative, and Catholic tradition, Fr. Benedict and Fr. Andrew have compiled an excellent resource for men at all stages of discernment.”

John Garvey, President, The Catholic University of America


“When the desire to commit one’s whole life arises in the heart as the most appropriate response to the call of the One who comes to reveal God’s friendship with the world, the path that then opens up before us is both exhilarating and intimidating. It is then that we are glad to find companions on our journey who extend their friendship to us by sharing their experience, by making our steps sure, giving them both realism and daring, and by placing trust in our ability to find our path as we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit. This little book comes from such invaluable companions.”

Bruno Cadoré, O.P., Master of the Order of Preachers, Santa Sabina, Rome 


“In prayerful Dominican fashion, these pages are filled with indispensable advice on realizing one’s vocation in Christ that is at once sensible and sanctifying. Religious life must always be discerned in community and this book brings its readers into contact with not only the figures and theologies of religious life’s earliest beginnings, but also with all the lived realities of the 21st century.”

Fr. David Meconi, S.J., Director, Catholic Studies Centre, Saint Louis University


“Like the authors of A Living Sacrifice, I was helped by Benedictine monks in my priestly vocation. The world needs more monks, canons, friars, and other religious. This book will be of great service to a young man discerning a calling to religious life.”

Very Rev. Joseph C. Taphorn, M.A., J.C.L., Rector, Saint Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN  


“As Vocation Director for my Dominican Community, I have been blessed to work beside such great Dominicans as the authors of this book. A simple glance at its table of contents compels one not only to read this but to spread its message to the ends of the earth as it is sorely needed due to the lack of the presence of Religious men and women in so many areas. Christ promised to be with us until the end of time and a portion of his fulfillment lies within the hearts of youth who are being called to Priesthood and Religious Life. But young people need assistance in discovering this precious call. A Living Sacrifice proclaims the reality of the vowed consecration, a reality explained through a myriad of insights—in ways so practical, spiritual and inspirational that one experiences sitting at the foot of the masters and drinking from the springs which have nourished saints through the ages. Above all, this treasure trove gives a precious glimpse into the Joy of such a vocation to Religious Life….a particular Joy that radiates throughout the entire world from age to age!”

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, O.P., Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist


“Sensitively written, its deep theological insights wrapped in accessible prose, A Living Sacrifice offers solid practical guidance for Catholic men discerning religious life. The authors draw wisdom from Fathers and Doctors of the Church, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as recent Magisterial teachings. Expertly avoiding the twin pitfalls of overpsychologizing and overspiritualizing, they provide a candid account of the joys and challenges of living out the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.”

Prof. Dawn Eden Goldstein, Holy Apostles College and Seminary, author of The Thrill of the Chaste


“As parents who pray that our children will be docile to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, wherever it leads them, we could not be more grateful to Fr. Hofer and Fr. Croell for A Living Sacrifice: Guidance for Men Discerning Religious Life. At points deeply theoretical and tremendously practical, this book is a tour de force on men’s religious life. The reader will find tips for discernment, counsel for thinking about and conducting oneself during a visit, as well as the trials and temptations which await one after entering a community. Clearly, these authors speak from a wealth of experience. In addition, the Church’s teaching on religious life—as an eschatological sign of the Kingdom—comes across with beautiful clarity, as well as a treatment of essential Christian virtues, with a particular emphasis on their application to an aspiring religious (e.g., faith, hope, charity, and prudence). Along with this tremendous theoretical and practical instruction, the reader is exposed to a dazzling array of men’s religious orders, their histories and distinct charisms. If this weren’t already exhaustive, the book is punctuated by concise, practical tips from both saints and contemporary religious. In this work, the Church explains herself and speaks with the wisdom of the ages, both past and present. Any young man (or anybody helping young men discern and commit to a vocation) will find this book indispensable. What a gift to the Church!”

Dr. Andrew Swafford, editor and contributor, Great Adventure Catholic Bible
Sarah Swafford, author of Emotional Virtue



Foreword by Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, O.S.B.

INTRODUCTION: The Lord’s Invitation to You

PART ONE: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Ten truths to set you free from discernment traps

Chapter 2: Ten things to do when considering religious life

Chapter 3: Ten things not to do when considering religious life

PART TWO: The Trinitarian Call to Religious Life

Chapter 4: God the Father and our desire for happiness

Chapter 5: Christ’s invitation to be poor, chaste, and obedient with him

Chapter 6: The Holy Spirit and the holiness of religious life

PART THREE: Religious Life’s Distinctiveness

Chapter 7: Diocesan priesthood, religious brotherhood, religious priesthood, and discerning the differences

Chapter 8: Charisms and communities: a history of holiness present for you

Chapter 9: Stories of the saints in religious life

PART FOUR: Applying, Entering, and Expecting

Chapter 10: The application process

Chapter 11: Entering the life and stages of formation

Chapter 12: What to expect (and not to expect) in religious life

PART FIVE: Hearing from Other Religious

Chapter 13: Holy religious of the past speak about religious life

Chapter 14: A day in the life of religious

Chapter 15: Advice from religious priests and brothers

CONCLUSION: Give Everything Over to Our Lady


A: States of life for Catholic men

B: Glossary of religious life terms

C: Lectio divina for a religious vocation

D: Rosary meditations for a religious vocation

E: Holy Hour prayers for a religious vocation

F: Recommended readings for a religious vocation

Among his assignments, Father Benedict Croell, O.P., served as novice master for four years in Kenya and as vocation director for eight years for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in Washington, DC. He presently heads the development and mission advancement office at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas—the Angelicum in Rome.





Among his assignments, Father Andrew Hofer, O.P., served in formation for eight years at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, after earning his doctorate in theology (specializing in patristics) from the University of Notre Dame. He continues to teach on the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies.

Download Press Release


Priests Offer Advice after Community’s Surge in Vocations

New book A Living Sacrifice offers guidance for men discerning religious life

WASHINGTON, DC, APRIL 4, 2019 – When Fr. Benedict Croell was vocation director for the Eastern Dominican Province of St. Joseph, over one hundred men entered his province in just eight years.

By any measure, that is a phenomenal figure. In some years, the Dominicans had more men entering formation than some of the largest archdioceses in America.

Fr. Benedict Croell has teamed up with Fr. Andrew Hofer, who oversaw formation at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, to author a new book, A Living Sacrifice: Guidance for Men Discerning Religious Life. Such a book is much-needed, given the state of men’s religious life in the United States. In the past fifty years, the number of religious brothers and priests has declined by more than half, from about 33,000 in 1970 to about 15,000 today.

The book comes from their experiences in vocations and formation work. “We have an attractive life—we’re out preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls,” said Fr. Benedict. “When it comes to vocations, we were very cautious; we didn’t let in just anyone. We worked hard to find men who were healthy and balanced.”

Working with hundreds of men from various backgrounds gave Fr. Benedict a unique perspective. Over time, he began to see patterns—healthy and unhealthy—in how men approached their vocations. “Maybe I didn’t see it all, but I feel like I did,” laughed Fr. Benedict. It was this broad range of experience that led to A Living Sacrifice, which offers a clear pathway for men who may be confused about their call.

A professor of the Church Fathers, Fr. Andrew Hofer assisted men during their student years of Dominican formation. “My great joy has been to see these young men say yes to the Lord,” said Fr. Andrew. “They could have done so many other things, and they have accepted Jesus’ invitation to live for him in poverty, chastity, and obedience.”

2017-18 Dominican Student Brothers & Formators, Washington, DC. The Dominicans were blessed with many vocations during Fr. Benedict Croell’s time as Vocation Director. After first vows, they came to Washington where Father Andrew Hofer oversaw their student years of formation at the Dominican House of Studies.


A Living Sacrifice is a compendium of the real-life advice that Fr. Benedict and Fr. Andrew gave young men in their college and young adult years. With clear language, engaging examples, and solid theology, the book tackles big questions about chastity, how to know if you’re called, which community to join, what religious life is really like, and a host of other topics.

Importantly, the book also contains a survey of many forms of religious life in America today, as well as wisdom from religious men in the Jesuits, Norbertines, Franciscans, Holy Cross, Benedictines, and others. Fr. Andrew says, “Fr. Benedict and I want this book to be useful for the broad spectrum of men’s religious life today.”

Initial readers have been enthusiastic in their praise of A Living Sacrifice. Popular Catholic author Scott Hahn said it could spark “an increase of holy and worthy vocations to religious life worldwide.” The book has even gained attention at the highest levels of the Vatican, with Cardinal Robert Sarah saying that it will “prove invaluable in helping young men respond in a confident and trusting way to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”


Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P., benedict.croell@opeast.org

Fr. Andrew Hofer, O.P., andrew.hofer@opeast.org

To Contact Publisher: Sam Alzheimer, Vianney Vocations, sam@vianneyvocations.com





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Weight 1 lbs
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