Saturday, February 16, 2013
Should I Be A Priest II
I wrote a post titled “Should I Be A Priest?” a while back, and I see that lately there are more Google searches on that question, and hits on that post --- but what I wrote then had only an indirect relationship to the question it seems more men are asking. And so I feel compelled, as I sit here in the adoration chapel, to write a more direct response to the question: What is that small, still Voice saying to me?
Internet searches are usually done to find some data or facts; so let me tell you right now that you will not find those things here. I have no factual answer to a question which only God can answer. What I can offer, however, are my life’s experiences, my growing in faith, and how I asked similar questions as the title one.
“We plant the tree; God makes it grow.” What I can offer here are some things which I deliberately did in my life (perhaps with the Holy Spirit’s promptings?) which fertilized the soil for my growth. Many of those actions came very late in my life, Late have I loved Thee (St. Augustine). Perhaps learning something here from me, you might take those actions sooner.
I assume your question “Should I be a priest” was not arrived at willy-nilly. If someone in a book or at some huge auditorium asked you to consider that question and you had not thought about it before, I’d encourage you to back up. Relative to life choices, the first question you should be asking (and who you should ask it to) is: “Lord, who did You make me to be?” and then, “Lord, help me to be who You made me to be.”
It doesn’t take a mirror for you to see that you are unique in the world, in looks, in feelings, and in thinking. No one else is you and no one else can exactly do, with the same intentions and results, what you can do. You were made uniquely, for a unique purpose. What is this purpose and how do you find it are important questions, for in finding it you will find your utmost happiness (and provide the utmost happiness for the One who created you for this purpose). So, having asked the question, “Lord, who did You make me to be,” how are you hear the answer? I would suggest that you need to PREPARE to hear the answer, as I said, to plow your heart and fertilize the soil of your soul to be ready to receive the answer, and then you can hear it and utilize it to the utmost.
For me, the plowing started when I decided to read the bible, front to back, and along the way I found new insights into this Jesus Christ, Who I thought I knew. Later, after my conversion experience, I read books on the saints and later still I began to read the Liturgy of the Hours, daily prayers meant for all Catholics to pray. All these opened my heart more to who this Jesus was, how He thought and acted, and then how He likely wanted me to act. Like the bracelet question, WWJD – What Would Jesus Do, I began to anticipate how He would act in a situation, and I was better prepared to consider how He wanted me to act --- with all my talents, with all my education, with all my inclinations --- as He created me to act. And so when I deliberately ask the question, as I often do, “Lord, what would You wish me to do in this situation?” I very often hear His answer.
I have often heard God speak to my heart, very clearly and forcefully. I seem to ask a question of Him, as I might ask a friend at my side, and answers come --- in something I read, something someone said, or even “coincidences” way beyond the odds of coincidence è miracles. I’ve had many miracles in my life, things I know where God has spoken to me. I’ve written about some of them in this blog. They do happen.
But, back to the title, the question of this post: “Should I be a priest?” I hope you see that the answer is not here, because I don’t have the answer. I don’t know. But God does; He may have made you for that very purpose. Ask Him. And if you tell me you have, and you can’t hear an answer, I will tell you now that you are lying. How many other thoughts have you had today, or how many questions did you ask: Will it rain later? When will this light turn green? What will I have for dinner?
How long did you think about those questions? How long have you been thinking about: Should I be a priest --- a day, a month, years? I suggest to you that the length of your questioning is your answer. If God made you, if the reason you exist, is to be a priest, God won’t easily let the question be forgotten.
God spoke to Moses and He spoke to some of His saints --- nothing is impossible with God, but if you are waiting for a voice from heaven to tell you to be a priest, you don’t know God. It (likely) isn’t going to happen that way. He calls (softly), and you get to choose to answer --- or not.
A couple of days ago I was wrestling about the money I was lending to my neighbor who is out of work, not that I can’t afford to lend to him or even the growing balance, but rather I wrestled with “Am I making a difference?” I recalled another person I helped out a few years ago – I wrote about Mark here – and how he turned his life around, financially and with God; I wanted to tell my borrowing neighbor that he really should try to follow that example. I thought about our culture’s “fair sharing” of money and my giving to him; was he REALLY better off? I wanted to tell him to straighten up his life ---- but I didn’t. But I still did have thoughts about: “Am I making a difference with him; am I doing right?” And God heard my prayers. That very night, as I sat a mom’s house I got a call. Thinking it was my neighbor asking to borrow MORE money, I answered. “Hi, Tom,” the voice said. “This is Mark. It’s been a long time since we spoke, and I’m on my way home after 12 hours of work --- work I’m grateful for --- and I thought I’d give you a call. It’s been a couple of years, but I still remember what you did for me, and I want to tell you I still think about what a difference you made in my life.” A man I thought about that afternoon calls, after two years, that night. “Am I doing right?” And God answered me: “Look at how this person who you helped turned out. You plowed the ground for his life to turn to me, and I made it better. Why do you question whether you should plow the ground for this other neighbor?”
If anyone wishes to be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me, says the Lord.
Lord, may everything we do begin with your inspiration, continue with your help, and reach perfection under your guidance. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Liturgy of the Hours, Thursday after Ash Wednesday)
You can always read, study, pray more to get to know God better, and to better recognize His will for you – even in your day to day decisions, but religious vocations ARE important. Shepherds are more important than the flock. So the Church has arranged helps, to help you focus on hearing God’s call, and discerning if He means for you to be a priest (or nun). Most religious orders and dioceses have discernment weekends or retreats, aimed at helping you listen to God’s will for you. If you are bugged by this question, that’s something you could easily do. I would. And if you are still unsure, you can begin training, you can enter a religious order or seminary, where final commitment vows are not taken until years later. Like any other career choice, if it isn’t working as you thought it might, then change! If God created you to be a father, with a loving wife and children, then He doesn’t want you to be a “Father.”
I’ve often heard how some young men (and women) wrestle with the vocation question --- I follow some of their blogs during their religious training. They often worry that the religious vocation may be something they cannot live up to --- I’m not “that holy” --- but they don’t realize that a person getting married isn’t that “in love” either. A married person is meant to grow deeper in love during his marriage, even as we are all meant to grow holier throughout our lives. No one entering the priesthood is holy; but he makes a public commitment that he wants to become so. He wants to become “another Christ.” St. Paul said it; I say it. What’s wrong with you saying it?
What would be wrong is for you --- or anyone --- to ignore who they were created to be, in favor of who they WANT to be. Look around. If we all choose to follow the urgings of our culture as it exists today, we’d all choose to be great sinners. And that is NOT who we were created to be!
And He said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. (Luke, 9:23-25)
All life is about choices. First seek to do the will of God, and then: Do not be anxious.