As promised, I wanted to explain my journey of discernment related to the priesthood and to let everyone know where I stand now. When I started to discern religious life, there were two questions I had to answer: 1) Am I called to be a Franciscan? and 2) Am I called to be a priest? (Without wasting a lot of time in the technical side, I do want to make it clear that not all Franciscans are priests, and that all Franciscans are supposed to be viewed as equal brothers whether they are ordained or not.) Clearly, I have answered question number one with a loud and clear yes; when it comes to question number two, there are still some big questions I have that leave me hesitant and still searching for an answer.
Though it would seem like an oversimplification of the matter, an interesting question that I have been advised to ponder is this: “Do you like doing things that priests do?” The only way that this question can be answered is by imagining oneself in that position, and wondering how it would feel. Every time I’m at mass, confession, or any of the other sacraments, I ask myself that question: “Can I imagine myself doing that, and would I like it?”
In a typical on-the-fence response, I have to say that I would and I wouldn’t. I love the eucharist and find it to be the most beautiful Christian experience possible, but I’m not sure if I want to be the one doing it. I have no problem speaking in front of people, and I have enjoyed my roles as altar server and such, but there is a big difference between setting the table and actually breaking the bread.
Confession on the other hand is something that I would find great joy in as a priest. I’ve often found myself in many counseling or mediating roles over the years, and cherish deeply the conversations I’ve had with those willing to open up and trust me in such a way. I can think of few greater things than aiding someone in their journey from separation to communion, and find it to be a wonderful privilege of being a stand-in for Christ.
The great thing about the friars is that I don’t have to choose between being a priest and other things such as a professor or administrator of parish education (two professions that I am very interested in pursuing). As long as a priest does priestly things, i.e. the sacraments, he can take on other roles and professions. Though this is a great freedom as to allow greater versatility, there is a danger in this freedom, and requires this question: “Do I want to take on all the responsibilities and obligations of a priest to keep up the life of the Church, no matter what is required of my other professions, or do I want to be a priest because of the added authority and status within the Church, only to use it whenever it is convenient?”
The reason that this is post is labeled “Pt. 1” is because there is another factor in this discernment process: What God is calling me to do? What I want to do is all well and good, but ultimately, the discernment process is not about what I want (though I would hope God would motivate me with joy as well, not just obligation). Check back in a few days for Pt. 2 where I’ll share a few of my experiences determining the will of God.