“May it be done to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Five Excuses You’re Using to Avoid the Seminary
It’s not always easy for a man to decide to enter the seminary. Giving up a career, a home, a comfortable life is very hard. There can be some resistance from parents, family or friends. There is fear in stepping out into the unknown, to take that leap of faith, and to trust that God has a plan for your life. When a man feels called to enter the seminary there are many excuses that he can give. The top five excuses will be dealt with in five separate articles.
1. I’m just not sure if God is calling me
In one of our Catholic High Schools there was a young man, a senior, a great young man, and I kept asking him if he wanted to be a priest. He said he was thinking about it. Towards the end of the school year I asked him if he was still thinking about it and he said, “Yes, because you keep asking me.”
God calls each one of us. Sometimes we answer the call and sometimes we try to run away from it and put it out of our minds. The problem with running away from it is that God, in a quiet way, will keep calling you to the priesthood. The more you try to push it out of your mind, the stronger it can become. You can run away from it, you can pursue your own dreams, you can keep denying it, but the call will remain.
Is God calling me? How can I figure this out? When you pray is the idea of being a priest on your mind? Do you constantly wrestle with the idea, questioning your life, knowing that God has made you for something more? It’s a mystery and for some reason you just can’t put your finger on why God is calling me. Everything, and maybe other people are drawing you closer to the notion of priesthood. That’s proof right there that God is calling you. The best way to find out if God is calling you is to give it a try. The seminary is the best place to discern a vocation to the priesthood. The seminary will give you all the necessary tools to help you find the answer to the question “Is God calling me to the Priesthood?” You have daily prayer and Mass, you have spiritual direction, talking to a priest one on one, formation in which you better understand how God is calling you. One of the greatest things about the seminary is you are surrounded by men who are asking the same question, thinking about the priesthood and searching for God’s will in their life.
Is God calling you? Take some time and listen to the voice of God.
2. I’m not holy enough.
I’m not holy enough. Who is? Who ever was? Look no further than the 12 Apostles. Nowhere can we find evidence that they were the holiest men on earth. Most of them were just simple men. By no means were they perfect. They probably weren’t the brightest men around but Jesus called them anyway. They took that leap of faith and because of their great faith they were led to become the leaders of the church. In the preface for the Mass of Martyrs it reads, “He chose the weak to make them strong in bearing witness to Christ.” Jesus didn’t call them because they were perfect; He called them so that he could shine through their weaknesses, so that they could be a light in a world of darkness.
We’ll never be perfect. We’ll never feel that we are worthy. It is in taking that leap of faith that we can see God leading us where he wants us to be. For a man thinking about the seminary it will lead him to the doors of the seminary where he can find peace and support. It is through faith in God and knowing that he can “choose the weak and make them strong” so that we can bear witness to Jesus Christ.
When I was in the seminary there were men who were constantly asking the question, “why me?” They wondered why God had called them. Trying to answer the question can be difficult. Trusting in God and his eternal plan, that’s where it’s at, that’s were you can find peace knowing that you have been called, called to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
We’ll never be perfect but the seminary, through prayer, reflection, and through taking a leap of faith can give you a sense of peace about God’s plan for your life. God will take you as you are and make you a servant of the Gospel. Have faith that God can do marvels with your life.
3. But I still have the desire to be a husband and father
This can be hard to deal with. When I was in the seminary I can remember those of us about to be ordained to be Deacons went through this questioning. I believe there is a natural instinct that we need to pass things on to our children. Being ordained a Deacon and then a Priest I knew it was something that I would never be able to do and hit me hard. It wasn’t until after I was ordained that I found that I may not be handing down things to biological children but that I would be handing on things to God’s children in the parish.
If you feel like you would make a great husband and father, you would also make a great Priest. A Priest is the head of a family, a parish, and in that family he loves them as if they were his children. Transmitting the faith, passing on the traditions of the church, education others, our ways in which a Priest can be a father to his parishioners.
A priest is there in times of joy, in sorrowful moments and in the glorious events of the lives of his parishioners. It was said that a priest can sometimes experience in a week what most people experience in a lifetime. During a week a priest can be there at a joyful event such as baptism. The priest can be there to comfort a family whose loved one is sick or is dying. He can also be there for glorious moments such as the marriage of a couple. Within a week a priest can be the father who cares for the children entrusted to his care.
Thinking about being a husband and a father is wonderful. You can be both to your parish family, over and over again. They will turn to you in their time of need, in all situations you will care for them. God gives us the grace to follow him with faith and entering the seminary will help you sort through this and find the plan that God has for you and for your life.
4. I know He may be calling me, but I want to keep my options open for now
So you want to keep your options open? What are you waiting for, a house, a nicer car, or a successful career? What holds you back? Do you reply by saying I will do that later? Are you afraid to give up everything to follow Jesus?
Once again, it all goes back to faith. Do we trust the words from the Prophet Jeremiah, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans to give you a future full of hope.” That’s what awaits you if you enter the seminary and become a priest, a future full of hope. You can continue to hold on to your options, you can delay responding to your vocation, you can wait five years before you decide to go, but will it change the fact that God is calling you to discern the Priesthood? Delaying or turning away from God’s call just postpones the plan God has for you.
Entering the seminary doesn’t mean that you will become a priest. Entering the seminary gives you the opportunity to search for God’s plan for your life. If you go and discern that you are not called to the priesthood you don’t lose anything, you gain so much. You have a great prayer life. You will have a devotion to the Eucharist through Mass and Adoration. You will become a better Christian man. You will be of service to the church in some way. If you discern that God is calling you to the priesthood and follow through with becoming a priest you will see the great plan that God has for you.
Answer the call of God. Make a move. Then the grace of God will be with you and give you everything you need to follow Christ and bring others to him.
5. Honestly, I’m just afraid
Fear is nothing new. Was Mary afraid when the angel came to her asking her to be the Mother of God? Why would the angel say to her, “Do not be afraid?” Joseph heard those words as well, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Jesus says the same thing to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” The phrase. “Do not be afraid” appears over and over again in scripture. John Paul II said it many times during his pontificate, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid God will take care of things. Fear places obstacles in our life and keeps us away from deepening our faith in God. If, for a moment, you would look into your life and see why you fear going to the seminary, it’s a fear of the unknown. If that’s the case visiting a seminary to see the daily routine, the prayer life, the structure of the seminary, can ease those fears. To put those fears out of your mind do not be afraid to visit, to talk to seminarians about their daily life, to talk to priests about their time in the seminary, and their life as a priest. Facing those fears head on will ease your mind.
If you feel you are called to be a priest the seminary is the best place to find out where God wants you to be. If you go to the seminary you may very well find out that God has called you to be a priest for the diocese. You may find out that you’ve been called to join a religious order. You may find out that you are called to become married. Whatever your call in this life the seminary will give you the tools to find an answer and give you peace. Do not be afraid for God has a plan for you, to give you a future full of hope.
The best way to address these common excuses is to talk to someone. For information on vocations to the priesthood contact Father Andrew Young, vocations promoter, at (859) 392-1566.