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“How I Became a Priest”: the personal stories of 33 Orthodox priests

Photo: Facebook / @Kak.stanah.sveshtenik

Priests are both God’s servants and shepherds. If they do well, they have a large congregation with a lot of worshippers coming to the temple. But a priest’s mission seems increasingly difficult nowadays as consumerism has pushed faith and trust in God into the background.

“When one is talking to the parish - to the same people he goes to church with, he may hear the strangest views regarding faith. So one may start asking himself - why are some people believers, and why do others find their vocation to the priesthood?”

This is how it all began for Dimitar Mitev, the author of the book “How I Became a Priest”. The book consists of the life stories of 33 Orthodox priests and how they got their call to priesthood.

And before you form an opinion about the book you must know that there’s much more to it than the provocative title.

“The stories in the book give answers to more than just that one question - “How I became a priest?” Priests are people just like us, but at the same time they hear a lot of life stories. They can give us wisdom that, both humanly and divinely, is beyond what we can acquire on our own,” Mitev says.

His own life story is that of a boy who grew up in communist Bulgaria where atheism was the official religion of the Party. The clergy and the church were subjected not only to insults and ridicule, but also to organized persecution. Religion was viewed as the enemy, it was not on the school curricula, nor was it part of everyday life.

This attitude has changed over the last three decades, and much of the credit and responsibility for this goes to the priests. Priests are human beings too, although we tend to forget that fact. This is exactlywhere the book starts from – the curiosity of any Christian about priests and their personal stories.

“An interesting conversation startedat church one day after the sermon. One of the priests told us how he became God’s servant. He used to be an atheist, he said, and he added that he had been an ardent proponent of the materialistic world view. There were certain circumstances that led to him embracing Christianity. I was very impressed. This story cast new light over his personality and added a more human perspective to it. Any person can hear God’s call to become a priest.

The other thing that struck me was that the life events which have led some of us onto the path to faith were different but there was one thing in common – the presence of the One who is Creator of all things visible and invisible.“

This first life story of a priest led to another and soon Dimitar had a number of stories – all very different, yet similar. He started to search for active Orthodox priests who might be willing to share the story of their vocation.

“I spoke to priests in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and America. My confidence grew with every conversation. Soon I was sure that what I was doing was important, it definitely made sense and needed to be done because no one has done it before,” says Dimitar Mitev.

He met the priests in person or talked to them on the Internet with the idea of ​​narrating their stories beyond the dry facts. He wanted to share all these personal tales of faith, believing that they would touch a large number of readers.

The book “How I became a priest” took three years and a half to write. It was published at the end 2021 with the blessing of His Holiness the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte.

Now Dimitar Mitev continues to collect stories of faith as he is already working on the second volume of his book. He hopes that it will help readers better understand the priesthood, and that it may even inspire some of them to take the gracious path of service of Truth and Love, the path to God.

Interview by Hristo Botev channel, BNR

Editing by Vessela Krasteva

Translated from Bulgarian Elizabeth Radkova

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