To Save a Thousand Souls
The new edition of Fr. Brett Brannen’s comprehensive book on discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood.
To Save a Thousand Souls is the definitive guide for men considering the priesthood. Using powerful and entertaining stories, this easy-to-read book explains how to carefully discover God’s call. To Save a Thousand Souls is used by hundreds of dioceses and thousands of seminarians. Many regard it as the standard “catechism for discernment,” with Bishop Robert Barron calling it a “classic of the genre." It has been re-printed in Europe and Asia and translated into Spanish, French, Romanian, and Vietnamese.
UPDATES TO NEW EDITION:
- Updated references to technology, internet addiction, and social media.
- Revised language about “four pillars” of seminary formation to “four dimensions.”
- Removed the section on pre-theology outside of seminary.
- Shortened the section on high school seminaries.
- Updated references to CARA studies of ordination classes.
- Added a section explaining the Propaedeutic Year (with qualifications that its implementation will vary according to diocese).
- Revised the section on the sexual abuse crisis and strengthened the passage on the absolute impediment of pedophilia and ephobophilia.
- Added an explanation of “moral certitude” in reference to discerning priesthood.
- Added additional qualifications to passages addressing same-sex attraction.
- Strengthened the emphasis on honest self-disclosure.
- Added to the section on leaving seminary in a healthy manner.
- Improved language and grammar in several sections.
- Added new inspirational quotes about the priesthood and the spiritual life.
- Removed the rosary appendix to reduce page count (will be available online).
- Updated appendix of questions
- Updated bibliography
- Updated page design and book cover.
“Over my decades of work in seminaries, Fr. Brannen’s book emerged as one of the most trustworthy and effective guides for men discerning the diocesan priesthood. It’s a classic of the genre. To this day, I still warmly recommend it to young aspirants.”
-Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire
“If God is calling you to be a priest, this book will help you discover the greatest gift you could receive from God and give to the world.”
-Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis
“Fr. Brannen is the perfect priest to write this book. His wisdom, knowledge, and obvious passion for priestly formation shine through on every page.”
-Fr. Luke Ballman Executive Director of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
“The very first thing I do after meeting with a serious discerner is give him a copy of To Save a Thousand Souls. It is a comprehensive overview of authentic and diligent discernment of diocesan priesthood.”
Fr. Jeff Eirvin President, National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD)
“Fr. Brannen’s book is tremendous—inspirational, imminently practical, and amazingly comprehensive. It is a clearly written “how to” manual filled with solid advice for men discerning the priesthood. A marvelous work of immense value.”
– Fr. Len Plazewski, Past President of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors
“This is an outstanding book, specifically for diocesan priests and those concerned with their work and spirituality. A really needed book in this Year for Priests.”
– Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
“This is the best book-length treatment of discerning a priestly vocation I’ve seen. In particular, Fr. Brannen’s treatment of celibacy is balanced and comprehensive. The book portrays the priesthood honestly and attractively, clearly expressing that faithfully living an authentic priestly vocation is an exhilarating, fulfilling, and joyful life.”
-Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archdiocese of Baltimore
“I compliment Fr. Brannen for this breakthrough work. I enjoyed the book’s conversational style and anecdotal stories, and I am especially impressed by the chapter on celibacy and chastity, which achieves remarkable clarity on difficult issues of discernment. It is a clear, helpful, and down-to-earth book which will prove exceptionally useful for men looking for answers about the priesthood, as well as those assisting them in discernment.”
-Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archdiocese of Newark, NJ
“During my many years of work with diocesan seminarians and priests I have not come across anything that would be as helpful as this thorough handbook. It is an amazing labor of love for the Church. I commend Fr. Brannen for his prayerful insights as he gently explains the discernment process with love and humor.”
-Fr. John Horn, S.J., Rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis
“A treasure chest for bishops, vocation directors and those discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood.”
-J. Kevin Boland; Bishop Emeritus of Savannah, GA
“Fr. Brett Brannen is the perfect priest to write this book. His wisdom, knowledge, and obvious passion for priestly formation shine through on every page.”
– Fr. Luke Ballman, Past Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA
“This book is anointed. It’s both inspiring and informative, and will be a tremendous help for men who are hesitant about priesthood and need practical advice. I know I will order copies for every man in my diocese who is discerning.”
-Fr. Tim McKeown, Vice-Rector of the North American College, Rome
“ This book is a real Godsend. There is simply nothing else like it in print. It will certainly be one of the most useful tools at a Vocation Director’s disposal when encouraging young men to consider the priesthood. It is clear, convincing, and candid. The many stories throughout the book are inspiring and very much to the point. Not only do I wish that I had this available when I was a Vocation Director, I wish that it had been available to me as a young man considering a vocation to the priesthood. It would have answered so many of my questions. All those involved in priestly vocation work owe Fr. Brannen a debt of gratitude.”
-Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, Rector, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD
“An unparalleled resource that covers everything men need to know when praying about their vocation. It will be required reading for my men.”
-Msgr. Rob Panke, President of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors
“To Save a Thousand Souls is a feast of information. Its detailed exposition is the most complete I have ever seen. It will help many men to come to a clear knowledge of priesthood and seminary. Fr. Brannen’s hard work is evident in the text; it is a labor of love.”
-Deacon James Keating, Ph.D., Director of Theological Formation, Institute for Priestly Formation
Fr. Brett Brannen is the Director of Spiritual Formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum. He also served as the vice-rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. He is widely known as a powerful speaker and an expert in priestly formation.
Fr. Brannen was ordained in 1991 for the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, and served as Vocation Director beginning in 1993. During his tenure, the number of seminarians dramatically expanded. By 2007, Savannah caught the attention of the national press as it ordained the second-highest number of priests per capita of any diocese in the country.
Fr. Brannen has given over 100 parish missions and retreats to seminarians, priests, and religious orders. He has appeared on EWTN, published several booklets on the priesthood, and released an audio series on how to discern a priestly vocation.
Fr. Brannen’s book, To Save a Thousand Souls, combines a lifetime of spiritual insight with practical advice and riveting storytelling. It is widely hailed as the most comprehensive resource available for men discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood. His book A Priest in the Family helps to quell parents’ concerns about their son’s vocation.
Breakthrough New Book about Discerning The Priesthood
For a man thinking about the priesthood, there are dozens of websites and pamphlets available on the subject. But until recently, there has not been a single, comprehensive guide to answer deeper questions and offer clear-cut guidance.
To Save A Thousand Souls, published in 2009, is a 400-page book that provides the answers commonly asked by men discerning the priesthood. The book, written by Fr. Brett Brannen of the Diocese of Savannah, has been called the most comprehensive guide ever written for men praying through their vocation.
“I always wanted a single resource I could hand to a man—something that answered all his questions about the priesthood—so I started writing a few chapters,” said Fr. Brannen, who until recently served as Vice-Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. “I love being a priest and I know that Jesus is calling a sufficient number of men to be priests in his Church. I hope this book will help these men overcome their fears and respond to God’s call.”
Fr. Benedict Groeschel phoned Fr. Brannen last summer after reading a transcript of one of Fr. Brannen’s talks on vocations—which the famed Franciscan mistakenly thought was a manuscript for a book. “Fr. Groeschel called out of the blue and told me, ‘This is fantastic. What can I do to help bring this book to publication?’” recalled Fr. Brannen. “I had to tell him that he couldn’t have possibly read my manuscript because I hadn’t given it to anyone! But his call was one more confirmation that the project needed to go forward.”
Much of the book contains stories—many from the author’s personal experience—that elucidate important aspects of discerning a priestly vocation. Many reviewers have commented that it manages to convey important concepts without use of heavy theological language. “I enjoyed the book’s conversational style and anecdotal stories, and was especially impressed by the chapter on celibacy and chastity,” said Archbishop John Myers of Newark, NJ.
Before To Save a Thousand Souls, no comprehensive guide was available for men discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood. “It’s the best book-length treatment of discerning a priestly vocation I’ve seen,” said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT. The subtitle says it best: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood.
Fr. Brannen had previously served as Vocation Director in the Diocese of Savannah. In 2007 that diocese gained national attention for its unusually large numbers of ordinations. That success was part of the reason Fr. Brannen was tapped to help train future priests in the seminary setting. “He’s the perfect priest to write this book,” said Fr. Luke Ballman, Vocation Director in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. “His wisdom, knowledge, and obvious passion for priestly formation shine through on every page.”
Bishops and vocation directors are hailing the book’s insights, humor, and thoroughness. Fr. Len Plazewski, the president of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, gave it a glowing review: “Fr. Brannen’s book is tremendous—inspirational, imminently practical, and amazingly comprehensive. It is a clearly written “how to” manual filled with solid advice for men discerning the priesthood. A marvelous work of immense value.”
“When Pope Benedict declared the Year for Priests, it was confirmation to me that the Holy Spirit wanted me to finish it,” said Fr. Brannen. Further confirmation came when Vianney Vocations—a new organization that helps promote vocations—agreed to publish the book. “The purpose of a priest is to bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling life in this world!”
Excerpt from Introduction
Does God want me to become a priest? How can I be sure? How do I know if I have the gifts and abilities to be a priest? How do I know if I am holy enough? How do I know that I will be happy and fulfilled? If you are asking yourself these questions, this book was written for you.
Excerpt from Chapter 1—What Do Priests Do?
“Priests bury the dead”
The couple spoke to me as they were leaving the Saturday Vigil Mass. They were a lovely couple and their twelve-year-old son was with them. He said excitedly, “Father, we’re going to get a hamburger at my favorite place and then we’re going bowling tonight!” This couple had tried to have children for many years and they spent a lot of money going to different specialists.
Excerpt from Chapter 3—What Is a Vocation in the First Place?
” Who will you bring to Heaven?”
I once heard a priest tell his vocation story: “I grew up in a very close, devout Catholic family with loving parents and we prayed together as a family every day… everything in my life revolved around the Church. Everyone would say the same thing, “You will be a priest when you grow up. Won’t you?”… I got tired of people urging the priesthood on me, because I did not especially want to become a priest.
Excerpt from Chapter 4—God Said Go and I Said No
“Inability to Make a Permanent Commitment”
A man in his late thirties was discerning priesthood in a certain diocese. The man had been engaged to be married twice, but both times, the man (not the woman) had broken off the engagement in the months closely preceding the wedding. His pastor suggested that maybe the reason he was not peaceful about marriage was because he was called to priesthood. So he discerned with his vocation director.
Excerpt from Chapter 6—Developing a Spiritual Plan of Life
” A Jesus Experience”
My first memorable Jesus Experience happened in eighth grade. Our pastor took five altar boys to spend the weekend at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a Trappist Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I did not really want to go. I would have preferred to stay home and play with my friends. But my mother informed my brother and me that we were going!
Excerpt from Chapter 11—The Blessed Virgin Mary and Discernment Fears
“Common Fears of Men Discerning the Priesthood”
Celibacy Fear. Always number one on the charts! “I can’t give up women. I could never be happy without sex. I fear that I will be miserable without a wife, children, and the sexual intimacy of marriage.”
Excerpt from Chapter 12—How Do I Tell My Parents I want to be a Priest?
“Father, wouldn’t it be wiser for my son to get a couple of years of college under his belt first, to date a few girls, and have some normal college life experiences? Then if he still wants to go to seminary, I will support him.”
Excerpt from Chapter 13 – Celibacy, Chastity, Charity, and Cheerfulness
“Can I Go to Seminary If I Have Not Yet Achieved Sexual Integration?”
No man has ever been ordained a priest having already achieved perfect sexual integration. However, a man must be able to demonstrate that he can live chastely for a significant period of time. But what exactly does this mean? I will answer this question by giving five examples.
Excerpt from Chapter 14 – My Path to Priesthood: When Do I Start?
“When should I contact my Vocation Director”
The short answer is now. Even if you are much too young to go to a seminary or if you are just beginning your discernment, make contact now. Send him an e-mail and tell him who you are and where you are in the stages of discernment.
Excerpt from Chap 19 – Ordination Day
There is one Sunday morning that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It is the Sunday morning that I woke up the day after being ordained a Catholic priest.
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