The simple truth is I never wanted to be a priest. Yet now, as I look back on my life, it is clear that God was calling me to the holy priesthood from an early age. I grew up in a very Catholic family; my parents brought me to daily Mass, encouraged family prayer and taught us that the faith should be at the center of our lives, but it was not until the end of my junior year of high school that I first realized the call to be a priest.
My life, while focused on Christ, was full of distractions. I attended an academically challenging high school, played high school sports and worked a job. With all of those activities and an active social life, there was very little time for silence, where I could have heard God’s call. Just before the Triduum, one of the monks who taught at my high school, challenged me to make a three-day silent retreat over the Triduum at the monastery. I agreed to make the retreat, not because I really wanted to spend the time in prayer, but because I was challenged and was not about to back down from a challenge.
As the silence began to settle in on that retreat, deep down I felt an understanding that I was supposed to be a priest. I had previously been searching for colleges and discerning what to study in college but the thought to become a priest never crossed my mind. Yet as I continued in silence on that retreat the nudge towards the priesthood would not go away and the harder I tried to convince myself that priesthood was not for me the stronger the call became.
As I left that retreat, on Easter, I found myself lying awake at night for the next few weeks trying to fight off the call to be a priest. While I had never stopped before to think about where priests come from and I certainly had never heard of a seminary, I had other plans for my life that did not include the priesthood. Since the inner tugging towards the priesthood would not go away I finally gave in and decided to inquire into what it takes to be a priest.
I approached a priest to inquire what the process was to become a priest; deep down hoping he would tell me not to bother because the priesthood was not for me. Rather than turn me away from the priesthood, he encouraged me and directed me to the rector of the seminary. After visiting the seminary and learning about the formation required to become a priest I felt more comfortable with the idea of becoming a priest, yet I still had other plans for my life. While I had a great respect for the men at the seminary I had no desires to enter the seminary.
The harder I tried to suppress the tugging towards the priesthood, the stronger the pull to the priesthood became. After fighting the tug for months I came to realize I could not make it go away so I made a deal with God. I promised God that I would spend two years in the seminary and then leave, but in exchange for spending two years at the seminary, He would make the rest of my life, after I left the seminary, successful.
Thinking I had tricked God, by promising Him two years at the seminary, I entered the seminary after graduating from High School. As I settled into the seminary formation program and began to spend focused time in prayer I quickly began to realize that I had approached God’s tug towards the priesthood in all the wrong ways. It did not take long for me to realize that there was a lot of selfishness in the “deal” I made with God.
As I spent focused time in prayer and study at the seminary I quickly began to realize that God, who loves me with an unconditional love and wants me to be happy, was calling me to the priesthood and He certainly wants me to flourish so naturally it became clear to me that following His call was the only wise choice. As that first year in the seminary progressed I entered into a deeper relationship with the Trinity and began to trust God more and more. By the end of my first year in the seminary, I found the courage to change the question from what do I want to do to whom did God create me to be and what where is God leading me. As soon as I changed the question I found myself at peace knowing that I was being called to the Sacred Priesthood.
In short, the answer is simple, I became a priest because after prayer, study and discernment, I believe that is who God is calling me to be. While I had to overcome my own selfishness and learn to trust the Lord, once I changed the question from “what do I want to do when I grow up” to “who is God calling me to be” I have found great peace in following God’s call to the priesthood. While I know my life will not always be easy or feel fulfilling, I know God has called me to the priesthood and by faithfully living out that call to the priesthood, God will bring me immense joy and peace.