Fr. Derek asked me to write about my vocation journey so I want to share with you an important event in my discernment to enter the seminary.
In December 2016, I returned to Ireland to attend the ordination of a friend in County Donegal. At Fr. Damien’s first Mass, my heart was touched by the hauntingly beautiful Irish songs, the Irish dancing performed by the school children and the hospitality of the parishioners.
After the reception, newly ordained Fr. Damien invited me back to the church to attend the baptismal ceremony of his two nieces from England. As Fr. Damien was getting ready for the ceremony, I found myself preparing his two nieces for their baptism by describing the beauty and joy of life with Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the ceremony, Fr. Damien invited a fellow priest, Fr. Brendan, to give the baptism reflection. Fr. Brendan had been a later vocation, he had a long career in hotel management. As I listened to his insightful reflection on baptism, a sense of peace, joy and “calling” welled up in my heart at the prospect of becoming a priest and serving God and God’s people just like Fr. Brendan. If God called Fr. Brendan at a later stage in life, I wondered if he could be calling me too. For the first time, I could sense the priesthood as something potentially fulfilling.
On my way back to the hotel that night, as I reflected on all the events of that evening, I began to understand why as a 10 year old child in primary school, I had so enthusiastically and mysteriously put my arm high up in the air in response to a visiting Irish missioner’s invitation to join his religious order’s minor seminary in Co. Cork. God had planted the seed of my vocation in my heart from a young age, possibly even from birth. Fr. Damien’s first Mass had tilled and watered the soil of my heart to allow this seed of my vocation to take root and grow. God had just answered my prayer from three months earlier by giving me a “heartfelt” sign to apply to the seminary.
Regardless of what vocation we discern, whether it is marriage, single life, priesthood or religious life, each of them is beautiful in their own way and God wants each vocation to be life giving to oneself, the Christian community and the world. I sense priesthood and the other vocations are something that we grow into over time and so we must be patient with ourselves. Until we are fully converted to Christ, there will also be difficult moments in life because a little bit of “Adam” and “Eve” will continue to live in each of us – that part of us who wants to do things “My Way” as Frank Sinatra’s song goes instead of depending on God’s grace to live life God’s way, just like Jesus did. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) that leads to our fulfillment as human beings, no matter what vocation we discern.
May God give all of us the wisdom to seek God’s knowledge and will in our own vocations, especially in those difficult moments of temptation, so that we may experience the joy of depending on God’s grace and doing God’s will. Amen!