When I was quite young, I really enjoyed (and still do) a nice pot pie. The kind that is cooked evenly across the top to form a firm, golden crust. When I was fortunate enough to get a pot pie like this, the first thing I did was carefully remove the top crust in one piece and hold it up just like the priest holds up the consecrated host at the Mass. Though I might not have identified it while I was growing up, it’s easy to look back on things like this and see a fascination for the priesthood, and the small, quiet seeds of what would become such an important part of my life in years to come.
As seeds tend to do, these movements in my heart were buried quite deeply, and as my school years went on, I never took all this too seriously. I knew that I wanted to help people, and I thought that I wanted to be a doctor. However, as I approached the end of high school, my parish priest pulled me aside and for the first time mentioned that he saw some of the qualities of a good priest in me and wondered if I had given any thought to the possibility that the Lord was calling me to the priesthood. I responded that, since the priesthood was such a big decision, I was going to need to “feel” it a little more in order to make any changes to my plans.
Two things happened to me in my last year of high school. First, in the context of praying about my next steps, especially which college I should attend, I finally grasped the all-important truth that what God wants for me is what I want for me too. I finally understood that, since the Lord made me, I would be happiest and most fulfilled doing what he created me to do. Second, I watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time, and this movie imprinted deeply upon me the reality of just how much Jesus suffered out of love for me. My immediate response to all of this was that if Jesus was willing to suffer so much out of love for me, I was willing to do anything for him. He deserved that gift of myself back to him.
I was in the habit of altar serving each Holy Week, and the Holy Week at the end of my senior year was filled with even more meaning for me than any that had come before. It was my last year at home; where would I be next Easter? What was the Lord’s plan for me? With all these thoughts and emotions at the forefront of my mind, I distinctly remember the Easter Vigil Mass and a moment when I clearly felt the Lord place on my heart the thought that he might want me to be a priest. True to my word to my parish priest a year earlier, I did “feel” the call to the priesthood a little more, and so I decided to change all my college plans and attend Franciscan University instead.
At Franciscan, I joined a group on campus called the “Priestly Discernment Program,” and it was exactly what I needed. There, I was surrounded by a close-knit circle of college men all focused on discovering the Lord’s will and growing towards him. My growth in self-knowledge and relationship with the Lord there, along with the friendships I made, cause me to look back and see these years as some of the most exceptionally blessed in my life. After graduating, I was given the unique opportunity to spend a year in a rectory to see—as closely as possible—just what the life of a priest looked like. After this, it felt like the right next step to come to seminary.
This is now my third year at Sacred Heart, and each year seems to go by faster than the one before. Similar to my time at Franciscan University, I know that I have received countless blessings here, and I’m so grateful for each of these past three years. The opportunities for spiritual growth feel so accessible here. I know that in the blink of an eye, these quieter years of seminary formation will be over, and I pray that the seeds that are now being planted in my heart through formation will come to maturity, just as happened with my earliest fascinations with the priesthood so that one day I might hold up something infinitely greater than that pot pie crust of my childhood.