Ask a Priest

Age limit for religious vocations

May 02, 2014

Is there a minimum age for someone to enter religious life or become a priest? I know that plenty of the Saints were really young, but surely in modern times this is generally not a good idea. What if it is the wrong decision and they are too young to realise at the time?

Also, is there a maximum age – for example if someone has lost their spouse, is it too late for them to enter religious life or become a priest?

Asked at 03:39 am on May 02nd 2014

Dear Leanne:

The Code of Canon Law says that you have to be 17 years of age to enter a novitiate. In terms of diocesan seminaries the minimum is mostly 17 or 18, although it is not uncommon for dioceses to prefer candidates to enter a bit later than this. The minimum age when you can be ordained a priest is 25. In many cases there is a preference for seminarians or novices to have had some kind of tertiary studies, or some work experience before entering, to avoid as you say the situation where they are too young.

There is no maximum age, but while there are exceptions where men have entered at quite an advanced age this is very much an exception. It can be quite difficult for someone who might be forty or fifty or more to be able to adapt to what is a substantially different style of life.

Replied at 03:37 am on May 02nd 2014