Young man discerns call to the priesthood - Catholic Courier

Young man discerns call to the priesthood

I have been asked to write a few words about my year of discernment in the Becket Hall program. As I reflected on this, I couldn’t help but think there were many aspects I could discuss.

First of all, discerning whether or not I am being called to the priesthood is a very hard thing to do, and living with a group of very different men has its peculiar challenges. Working in our parish assignments and taking classes, while building a lifestyle more focused on prayer and the Eucharist, can be quite overwhelming, especially since this is new to some of us. The formation goals that each of us developed this year presented us with spiritual, human, academic and pastoral objectives intended to contribute not only to personal growth, but to the formation of effective priests.

I found great value in the formation experience. Concerning the actual discernment process, I can say two things: Firstly, amid all of the distractions, I found that the best way to look at discernment was a daily or weekly evaluation not of the goal, but, rather, the path; secondly, whatever thoughts and feelings I had concerning whether or not I should become a priest have been deeply altered since the papal visit.

Every time anyone asks me whether or not I think I’ll “go through with it” the question strikes me immediately as odd. How could I possibly know the answer? My mind is divided into two camps on this: the answer I would give if ordination were today, and the reality that my formation will continue for the rest of my life. The question cannot be answered, because any answer I would give now would only show what I wanted now, not what God wants for me tomorrow. So, every once in a while, I ask myself whether or not the path seems right. I like this way of looking at it. It helps me enjoy the view, so to speak. This way if God leads me in another direction, I will go willingly and without regret. On the other hand, I set myself up for shame and disappointment if I try to hold on to what can only be a human want.

The other aspect of this, although recent, is the message of the Holy Father during his U.S. visit. I felt as though he were speaking directly to me. I was so impressed by him. His schedule was astonishing and his energy was terrific, and the words that he spoke are truly blessed. At St. Joseph’s Seminary, in Dunwoodie, he addressed the youth and seminarians. At the following words, I had to wipe away tears:

“Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth!

“Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation and the beauty of our Christian faith. What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God.”

And also for this, directed to seminarians:

“I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Talk heart-to-heart with him. Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism or conceit. Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 33). Dear seminarians, I pray for you daily. Remember that what counts before the Lord is to dwell in his love and to make his love shine forth for others.”

I know that one of the reasons I reacted so strongly to this is that it is completely consistent with the direction of the formation program that I’ve had for the last nine months. This did not surprise me, but it certainly made me very happy. So, having said that and perhaps capturing only a tiny bit of the impact the Holy Father had on me, I go forward into seminary encouraged and having received a message of love from our directors, bishop and pope.

As a final thought, I’d like to mention one other aspect of discernment. Many people discerning the call to the priesthood are doing so outside the practice of their faith. We tend to look among those we see every week in church, but I know from my personal experience that those who walk away from our churches do so in part because they cannot find an answer to a particular concern or hunger. The Holy Father mentioned this as well:

“I think we are speaking about people who have fallen by the wayside without consciously having rejected their faith in Christ, but, for whatever reason, have not drawn life from the liturgy, the sacraments, preaching. Yet Christian faith, as we know, is essentially ecclesial, and without a living bond to the community, the individual’s faith will never grow to maturity. Indeed, to return to the question I just discussed, the result can be a quiet apostasy.”

Pray for these people! Often, I believe, their need to understand is a promising sign of character that will ultimately be of immense worth to our community. Whenever possible, we should be available to invite them to conversation and patiently wait for God’s will to be done in their lives.

I think I’ve represented the key points of my year in discernment of the call to the priesthood. I can only say that I am very happy to offer myself for service among such wonderful people, and the generosity of our church is staggering. I have learned, and witnessed, Christian values this year in a way that has given me more hope than I could ever relate in language. Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you all.

Costik has spent a year at Becket Hall, the diocese’s program for men discerning the priesthood, and plans to enter the seminary.

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