Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Not You?

During the 6 – 7 years that a young man spends in seminary he will come across a wide variety of other young, and not so young, men and each of them comes from vastly different backgrounds. In my 6 years of seminary I journeyed towards priesthood and the same was true for me. Those I met on the same path as myself had sometimes come to seminary directly from High School, but there were also many who had taken a longer road, a detour you might call it. Some were teachers, one was a law graduate, one was a St, John of God brother, one was a psychologist, one had spent time living in a hippy commune, three were chefs, there were a couple of accountants, one was a scientist, one was a meteorologist, one was a doctor, and one was a former U.S. Marine – you didn’t mess with him. All called in their own particular way to serve the Lord in the Holy Priesthood; all bringing with them vastly different life experiences, and the many gifts and talents the Lord had endowed them with.

And all that goes to prove that God chooses his priests from among the men of the world. God doesn’t magically snap his fingers and hey presto – he creates a priest. No he calls those men aside and offers them the gift of priesthood. For some that call came at a time when it was inconvenient – they were doing well in their chosen path, for others the call to priesthood had always been a niggling feeling, an itch they didn’t want to scratch, but somewhere, somehow the Lord’s invitation became irresistible to them. Sometimes that invitation came in unexpected ways.

A major pastoral priority for us priests has to be the planting of seeds for vocations. We can’t have a pastoral plan that works if we don’t have enough pastors, enough priests to provide the sacraments which are the life blood of the Church. But I, as a priest, can’t turn every conversation I have with a young man into a recruitment drive. That’s where the lay faithful play such a pivotal role. They must encourage young men to consider the call to the priesthood. The majority of the seeds they sow will never sprout, but every now and then the Lord might use them, and somewhere in their throw away remark a young man might discern the voice of Christ. If you think some man you know might have a vocation – pray about it, pray for him and maybe the Lord will direct you to speak and encourage him.

To any young man reading this I say – why not you? Are you any more sinful than was St. Augustine with his mistress? Are you any less intelligent than was St. John Vianney who barely passed any exam in seminary? Are you any more uncertain about the strength of your faith commitment than was St. Peter who denied the Lord, though he had spent three whole years in his company. Yet all these became great priests and the Lord used them to bring about the salvation of many many souls. Every priest I know, myself included, can find a hundred reasons why we are not the right person for the job, but despite all our many shortcomings, the overriding reason we respond and continue to respond is that Christ has called us to it – not because we are perfect, but because the priesthood is our road towards perfection, our road, please God, to heaven.

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