Less virtuous than it seems: The motivations behind priestly vocations in Catholic Sri Lanka

Bernardo Brown


The formation of Catholic seminarians in Sri Lanka is dependent on rigorous prayer and study routines that are designed to shape a seminarian’s disposition towards religious life. These mechanisms are geared towards transforming youthful desires into virtuous dispositions for the priesthood. However, seminary recruiters also use a range of incentives that have to do with material comforts and quality of life to attract young men to seriously consider their religious vocation. Although these incentives are usually downplayed to emphasize a seminarian’s spiritual response to their “calling,” they constitute an important tool that helps prospective priests reaffirm their vocation in times of doubt. The motivations behind a religious vocation are complex assemblages that emerge from the spiritual, symbolic, and material concerns of young men in contemporary South Asia.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/727958