“You will be the priest, or the groom at my daughter’s wedding.” My friend’s mother told me moments before jumping behind the wheel of the car and moving 400 miles away. I was 14 years old, about to start my freshman year of high school. To be completely honest I was stunned by her comment. How could I be a priest? I was just a goofy and immature teenager.
This wasn’t the first this was mentioned to me; in fact, as little kid I wanted to be a priest. I vividly remember little me telling my associate pastor that I wanted to be a priest like him. I also remember in grade school visiting a family friend who was in the seminary and leaving thinking, “wow, he seems so happy. I want that too.” But, this comment from my friend’s mom is so memorable because it was the first time in my life that someone I knew and cared about told me that I should be a priest. After the initial shock of the comment, I brushed it off and went on with my life.
The First Steps
My first year in high school I was active in my parish’s Life Teen program, but I normally attended for the social aspects instead trying enriching my faith life. My prayer life was halfhearted at best. I attended Mass with my family each week, but things changed after freshman year when I attended Life Teen Camp Covecrest for the first time. My week in the Georgia mountains changed my life. I had never before experienced Christ in such a an authentic way, I could truly feel Christ moving through my life. I returned home and expanded my prayer life, going to Mass during the week at my Jesuit high school, becoming more active my Life Teen community, getting a spiritual director, and speaking to my theology teachers about the faith and the Christian vocation. As I grew in my faith, I had this big dream that I would start my own business, have a big Catholic family, and die happily ever after.
Yet, everywhere I turned people kept encouraging me to pray about entering the seminary. My home parish is a source of a lot of vocations vocations, which meant I was surrounded by a really encouraging community. I was often approached by members of the parish encouraging me to pray about a vocation to the priesthood. Coming from a community like this I have some very close friends who are now priests, who went through the same Life Teen program that I went through and so seeing them help out with my parish and to strive to holiness while living and discerning their call to the priesthood was incredibly inspiring.
I have to admit I was also very nervous about telling other people about my thoughts of becoming a priest. I was scared people would think I was weird, but I received such loving support and encouragement from my family and friends. After a lot of prayer and encouragement of friends and family as well as well as intentional conversations with priests I started exploring a vocation to be a priest.
I contacted vocation directors from various religious orders, as well as my local diocese. I soon visited their seminaries and communities and felt called to explore and pray more. The summer before senior year of high school I decided to apply to enter formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross, and apostolic religious order which focuses on Education, Parish Work, and Mission Work. I loved the missions and the work of Holy Cross. I was particularly struck by the sense of community felt during my visits to the community.
In November of 2014 I received a call from the vocation director accepting me to Old College, the Undergraduate Seminary program for the Congregation of Holy Cross. I was so crazy excited to follow God’s plan in my life. Realizing that Christ was moving in my life in such a dynamic and real way made me fall in love with Him and His church more and more. Just a few years before I entered seminary and was actively seeking holiness in my daily life, I had absolutely no prayer life. It is insane to see how much one’s life can change if you just let Christ into your heart!
The last three years in formation with Holy Cross has been extremely beautiful. I have grown to love Christ more and more. I have been challenged to grow by my brothers in community as well as by my formation staff. Sometimes the challenges are things I need to hear, yet don’t want to admit; but after reflection and prayer they are always help me become a better seminarian and man.
One of the coolest parts about being a seminarian is living in an intentional and authentic Christian community. It is humbling to sit in the chapel and to look around and think “wow, my weaknesses are complemented by my brothers strengths.” That is the beauty of an authentically Christian community, working together for the betterment of Christ’s Kingdom.
Living in community also has its struggles as well. When living and studying with the same people one’s quirks are easily noticeable. It can be easy to get annoyed by each other’s oddities. Yet, maybe living with each other fully, in their quirks and craziness, it helps us to realize that we are flawed as well, I know it has for me.
These past three years in formation to the priesthood has been extremely life giving. I have never felt so fulfilled in my relationship with God, and this fulfillment has stretched into other parts as my life as well. There are good times and bad, but through it all I know that following God’s will will make me a better man.
If you’re a young man thinking of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, don’t be shy, tell others. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayers from others. I also strongly encourage you to speak to a priest who you know and trust, he can be a wealth of information and can help point you in the right direction! Don’t forget to pray yourself either, prayer is such an important point of discernment!
And if you happen to a friend who you think would make a great priest, tell them! Similar to me, other people might just need a little encouragement!
Know of my prayers for you during your journey! You are not alone in this journey, there are plenty of other people discerning their vocation. Also please pray for me! I am crazy excited to continue this journey towards the priesthood. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for each of us!