Monday, June 25, 2012

You want me to be a priest? Yeah right!

In every Catholic family, lies the desire for someone else's kid to become a priest.  We pray for vocations, or at least we hear of the church praying for vocations, but many are really just not that excited to participate in the push or support. 

Last week, I took 34 students and 6 adults into the heart of New York.  We stayed in a convent with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens Village.  We spent some time working with Catholic Charities, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, Queen of Peace residence home, and the Sisters of Life.  I was blown away by the lifestyle of the general population of a New Yorker.  We saw a few nice neighborhoods, but most areas we past through were pretty rough.  On the bus, I visited with a guy that had been held at gunpoint over 7 times - twice with a gun in his mouth, and a few times slapped across the head with the butt of the gun.  I couldn't imagine that being a regular threat in my life and it makes me feel extremely blessed to be in Texas. 

While on this mission trip, we had the incredible opportunity to stay in the Convent with the Little Sisters of the Poor.  They were so welcoming and allowed us to participate in their morning prayer, daily mass, and evening prayer.  Their spirits were so beautiful and radiant.  They had a true passion for life, and love.  When you spoke with them, joy was emitted from their souls.  It was such a beautiful thing.  They love each other, they love their life and most of all, they're in such a close connection with our Lord Jesus Christ. It was such a beautiful site that I wish all young mom's and dad's would have the opportunity to see.  The joy of being a sister, a brother, or a priest is such a powerful thing. 

We also had the opportunity to meet the Sisters of Life who work with women who have been challenged to choose abortion rather than life.  They help those who are in shame and guilt from their decision, as well as those considering their options.  They also work with any cause that promotes inner dignity and purity.  Let me tell you - these women were AWESOME!  They would have been the popular girls in their schools who chose to be a sister.  They were the athletes, and the well spoken women that could have gone in the business world and dominated!  They are just incredible and yet chose the life of a sister instead of XYZ.  The average age was around 35.  Sister Bethany's words of our inner desire for the Lord were just incredibly moving.  If you're considering the vocation of a sister, these women should certainly be visited! 

One morning, a young man who had been ordained a priest for a week, came to say mass.  After mass, he felt called to share a little of his call to the vocation of a priest.  He expressed how there is no greater joy he would have in any other life, and only in serving the Lord would his heart be content.  For all of us - the only way our heart will be content is when it is content in the Lord.  This includes following his will and forgoing our own.  This means living in a relationship with Him as our primary source of strength and support.  If we go gallivanting around doing our own thing, and ignoring the path he calls us to, we'll be left feeling abandoned, alone and confused.  In the end, we won't even know why.  However, if we choose the path he wills for us we'll find true joy and happiness.  For some, he calls to be mom's and dad's.  For others, he calls to be sisters and brothers.  If you're a parent, I'd suggest helping that option of the priesthood, or the life of a sister to be a great option.  It's not an encouragement to go and be a priest - just the encouragement to be open to it.  To be open to the vocational call of the religious life, just means that if called, the student would answer with a willingness to do the will of the Father.  In my personal case, I was called to be a father.  I considered the vocation of the priesthood.  I went on vocation retreats, and was open to it, but being a dad, a husband and a youth minister is where the Lord wanted me. 

What I like to think about for discerning priests is the difference they'd make if they chose that vocation.  There are benefits and challenges to both lifestyles. 

If you're married, the benefits are a loving caring spouse who is always there to support you and challenge you to be a better person.  There is the potential for children and the experiences of being a mom/dad.    On the down side, there are tons of difficulties sharing your life with another person.  You have to clean up after yourself.  You share different opinions, want to go on different vacations, want to eat different foods, want to see different movies, and the list continues.  If you get in an argument, it doesn't just go away....  you have to work through it and move on. 

If you're in the religious community, you have your own space.  Life has very few things to worry about.  You don't have to pick out your outfit for the day.  You don't have to worry about the bills, or making enough money to support your family.  You choose what to do with the majority of your time depending on what kind of religious institution you join.  You are surrounded by a community of men and women.  The whole world is drawn to you.  If you're a cool priest as a pastor, you're like a celebrity!  Everyone wants to have dinner with you, and invite you to all their gatherings.  The negatives are you don't have a spouse or the relationship that a spouse provides.  You will have tons of spiritual children, but none of your own flesh and blood that you know deeply and intimately. 

I'd like to end on this... Be open to the will of God.  In all things - do as he is calling you to do.  Go to the inner place within your heart, that even your closest friend doesn't know.  Go to the place your heart speaks to you and whispers great things - and there you will find the will of the Lord for you.  Listen, and be open to what is being said.  Ultimately, you have to trust.  Trust that you're in the hands of an incredible God who wants great things from you, and only through his will will you be most happy.  

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