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Finding the ‘purpose of life’ at Sacred Heart

Brandon Elias, Theology II Chaldean seminarian from the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, shares about his experience at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

by Brandon Elias

When I was younger, I didn’t pay much attention to religion. As a Chaldean, I grew up with my mom forcing me to get up on Sunday morning to go to Mass until I was old enough to decide that I didn’t want to go. I loved my cultural background and the hymns we sang at Mass, but I never paid attention to the liturgy or anything related to it. I spent most of my high school life not attending Sunday Mass. 

I lived my life in sort of a dull way until one night in the winter of 2011. My sister asked my brother and me if we were ready to be uncles for the first time. That thought startled me quite a bit. I had always thought I was going to be a father one day but never gave much thought to my own future until my first niece was born. It drove me to ask the big questions: “What is my purpose in life?” and “What are humans made for?”

These questions weren’t answered right away. After my niece was born, I had a strong desire to find these answers so I could be the best uncle I could be while also hopefully becoming a better brother and a better son. I began to attend Mass on my own each Sunday and was a bit more intentional in the attention I gave while I was there. I also did my own research on other religions to seek answers to these questions. The more I searched on my own, the more the Catholic faith made the most sense. After about a year of attending Sunday Mass consistently, I remember talking to one of the priests at my parish and telling him I was thinking about becoming a priest. He encouraged me to start serving on the altar. From there, things escalated quite quickly in my faith life. I began to serve on the altar, lead youth groups, and lead retreats for young adults. Most importantly, I began to attend adoration two to three nights a week to spend time in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament. That is where the seed of my vocation was planted and from where it receives its life even today.

Before I took the step to join the seminary, I knew I had some things to work out in my life. I graduated college and worked as a mechanical engineer for a couple of years. During my time in college and after, I continued to spend a good amount of time each week in the chapel in front of the Eucharist. There wasn’t a specific epiphany moment, but gradually my heart kept burning with this desire to give myself completely to God. My question went from “What is my purpose in life?” to “How do I become a saint?” The desire to be a father was still there as well, but there was an overwhelming amount of peace and clarity in the vocation of the priesthood.

I entered seminary in the fall of 2020. I am now in my fourth year of seminary, Theology II, studying for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. Sacred Heart’s priestly formation has given me much more clarity and has allowed me to recognize that holiness isn’t so clear-cut. Rather, it is a lifelong process. I recognize that what I desire most is for my heart to be conformed to the Most Sacred Heart. My time spent at Sacred Heart so far has allowed me to see a couple of ways in which I am drawn to God the most, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26)

First, through the sacraments, especially receiving the Eucharist and confession. Receiving Jesus each day at Mass is the sustenance that my soul needs. Also, the human person grows in much more intimate self-knowledge through the sacrament of confession, especially if it is practiced with devotion and sincerity, for nothing is more generous than the mercy of God. Second, through family and community. My family (especially my nieces and nephews) have taught me how to love in ways that I didn’t know were possible. The same goes for my brothers at seminary. I entrust them to God each and every day. I encourage you all to pray for those whom you love and even for those you don’t! And while you’re at it, please pray for me as well! May we all in our own unique way become saints only that it may glorify God. 

by Brandon Elias

Brandon Elias

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.