By Deacon Miguel Colunga Santoyo, Diocese of Lansing
“Before I knit you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Before the thought of priesthood could ever enter my mind, I needed to first hear the invitation to a loving relationship from the one who knit me in my mother’s womb. I had to first come to know the God who knew me before I was even born.
In his wonderful design, the Lord chose to do this through my family, and specifically through their devotion to our Lady.
The Blessed Virgin Mary played a significant role in my father’s faith conversion. When my father lost his faith in our Lord, he still mysteriously entrusted himself to Our Lady who eventually brought him back to belief in Jesus. For my mother, the rosary was an integral part of her faith growing up. Even at the age of six, she would remember how consoling praying the rosary was and would imagine with childlike wonder the various scripture scenes for each decade. One of the first gifts my father gave to my mother while they were dating was St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary. Needless to say, the rosary was a big part of my family growing up.
I, on the other hand, did not like praying the rosary. I knew it was important to my family, but it was not so important to me, and my attitude towards the faith reflected that same attitude. Still, I credit the daily rosary and the intercession of Our Lady to what happened next.
Fast forward to my freshman year in high school. My parents had just read the Church bulletin, in it they found an announcement for a parish youth retreat and thought it would be a good idea for me to attend—I did not want to go.
Unable to get me to budge, my father later prayed saying, “Lord, I don’t know why my son doesn’t want to go, and perhaps I have failed my duty as a parent in this regard, but I place him in your hands. He is yours.”
Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (Jn 10:27-28).
“no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
My own earthly father placed me into our Lords’ hands, and the Lord would not let go of me.
Later that week, by God’s grace I found myself going on that retreat–on my own accord. On the first night of the retreat, the entire group split into small groups. I sat with a group of four other guys, and the small group leader led with the question: “Why are you here?”
“Oh, this is going to be good,” I thought. “He is probably not going to like our answers.” That is until I heard the first guy say,
“I’m here to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
I was completely taken aback. Then the next guy repeated the same thing, and so did the next. I was so dumbfounded by their answers that by the time it came to be my turn I didn’t know what to say.
“Where are these guys from?” I kept thinking, “I thought no one my age would ever say something like that.” It was my turn, I realized my previous answer was not going to cut it around these guys and I found myself saying, “Well, I’m here to make my parent’s faith my own.”
Everyone congratulated me, but inside I kept thinking, “What is going on here? Why did I say that?” It was the Lord at work, and by the end of that retreat, I had encountered the Lord in a new way and left on fire for the faith. My dad wondered, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?”
At that time I began to hear my first calling to the priesthood. Talk of the priesthood would always catch my attention. Thoughts about possibly becoming a priest kept persisting. It was hard to ignore the nudges in my heart to consider the vocation;. I could not help but see these nudges as one giant sign pointing towards the seminary, and the next step seemed clear to me.
Entering Seminary has been one of the most wonderful gifts in my life. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “Seminary is a time to fall in love with Jesus Christ.” How perfectly that has been the case for me, and how I long to lead others to that same love as the Lord’s priest.