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Recognizing Christ’s Presence in Order to Share it

Joseph Lennon, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Detroit, describes his journey to seminary.

by Joseph Lennon

After a year and a half of community college, I found myself in a place where I realized I needed a serious and intimate relationship with the Lord. I had never lost my faith at any point in my life, but at the time I was not fully relying on the Lord and was looking to worldly things to find comfort. I was preparing to start Exodus 90, a fantastic program for Catholic men to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus through prayer and asceticism. The weekend before I was to start Exodus 90, I went on a silent retreat with a religious order called Miles Christi.

On one of the evenings we were having eucharistic adoration, and the priest gave a talk. During the talk, he asked two key questions. 

The first was, “What is something in your life that the Lord is calling you to give up for him?” I knew exactly what the Lord was asking me to give up for him, a worldly comfort that had already been put on my heart to remove from my life. But I asked the Lord, “How can I do this; how can I give this up?” I was weeping. I remember specifically telling the Lord, “I will do this because you are asking it of me, but I really need your help because I cannot do this on my own.”

The second question proposed by the priest was, “What is the Lord calling you to do; what is your vocation?” Immediately there was a burning in my heart and the Lord spoke to me in a moment of clarity, “Be a priest for me!”

This was not the first time I had thought about being a priest. My first desire to be a priest came when I was four years old and my grandma made me vestments and bought me a chalice and paten to “play Mass.” But now, on this silent retreat, I asked the Lord, “How can I be a priest? Look at how broken I am . . . look at what I have done in my life.” But despite my worries, there was peace in that encounter, and as with the first question, my reply to the Lord was, “I will do this Lord, if it is your will, but you need to help me because I cannot do this on my own.”

After the retreat, my life radically changed. With the aid of the Exodus 90 program, I grew tremendously in my spiritual life. I began to pray a daily holy hour, go to daily Mass more regularly, and grow in my practice of asceticism. I went on to apply to seminary and was encouraged to wait a year in order to work on some things and to make sure this was a true calling from the Lord. After that additional year of discernment, I was accepted to the program of priestly formation at the seminary, studying for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

I am now in my third year of seminary, my last year of undergrad, and it is an exciting year! The culmination of this year of discernment will be Candidacy in the fall at which time (if admitted) the Church recognizes my call, and I commit to a deeper, more intentional process of discernment as I begin theology studies. As I grow in my relationship with the Lord, three dimensions of seminary life appear as avenues by which I can take this next step with confidence. 

The first is through daily, eucharistic holy hours. This is time to sit before the Lord, pour out my heart, and encounter Jesus. Without silent time for prayer every day, I would not be able to grow in my relationship with him, nor could I hear him call me to my vocation. Secondly, is spiritual direction. It can be easy to become discouraged while discerning and think that everyone else has everything figured out and that I have nothing figured out. Having a spiritual director helps show me the truth and recognize where Christ is present in my life. Lastly, is the pastoral work I have the opportunity to do in seminary. To receive the love of God and then be able to show that love to others is the most fulfilling thing we can do as human beings. This is what it means to be a person: to seek truth and pursue it, conform our lives to that truth, and then share it. This truth is Jesus Christ! It would be an incredible gift and a blessing to be his priest, and I pray and ask for your prayers that if the Lord is truly calling me to be a priest, that I will be a good and holy priest for him. 

by Joseph Lennon

Joseph Lennon

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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.