Yes, But Under My Conditions

Am I trying to fool God or myself with the fine print?

As I continue to discern whether God is calling me to be ordained or not, I have come up with an analogy that describes my current disposition: I am like a potential parent that says, “I want to have a child… but only if it’s a boy.”

Like the would-be parent who is comfortable with the possibility of having a catch with his son or teaching him how to ride a bike, I have taken the big step forward over the past two years in acknowledging that there are some aspects of “being a father” that are appealing enough to me to take on the new role. Back in August, I mentioned that the sacrament of Reconciliation was one of these aspects. Besides that, I’m feel a strong calling to get involved in social justice activism (such as the ones run by our activist organization, JPIC), a ministry that needs the sacraments to remain fruitful. In this way, like the potential parent, I am very open to some of the roles a “father” might have to fulfill.

The problem with this sentiment is that it is not open to the all of the possibilities one may face. What if it’s a girl? Mentally handicapped? Doesn’t like baseball? Like the parent, there are aspects of ordination of which I am unwilling to accept at this point in my formation. What if I were assigned to an upper-middle class suburban parish so removed from poverty and hardship that it became difficult not to fall into complacency? Or, what if I were made pastor of a one-priest church, required to take on large amounts of administrative duties and left  tied down to one particular schedule and place? These are among the many hypothetical situations (along with a few theological issues that I won’t mention here) that leave me saying, “Yes, but under my conditions.”

Like a potential parent, I don’t think this is the proper disposition one can have to take on such a role. To be ordained is to say “yes” without condition, open and prepared for anything the kingdom of God needs here on earth. It means being a malleable instrument for which God can use whenever and however he pleases. To do so with conditions would be to misunderstand the role entirely; “yes, but under my conditions” is not really a “yes” at all.

As I move forward, this will be the focus of my discernment. Can I be open to all of the possibilities for which God will use me? I’ve certainly come a long way over the past few years in accepting new possibilities, and will just have to see how far that goes. I continue to thank you for all of your prayers in this process.

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5 Comments on “Yes, But Under My Conditions

  1. Ah, Casey, I have so enjoyed all your posts! Now that you are popping up more regularly in my conversations with your Aunt Mary, I figure it’s time to send a note of encouragement myself.

    I am confident our Lord will show you the “dire poverty” in many upper middle class suburban parishes; Mother Theresa saw it in the very fabric of our country. And I am confident, also, that God will remind you that just through your Baptism and Confirmation you have been called to unconditional “yes” …ordained or not. So let the journey continue….you will remain in my prayers.

  2. Casey,
    Be assured that every friar pastor we ever had at Holy Angels in Little Falls (before we were turned over to the diocese), was NOT tied to his desk. Yes, we’re a suburban, middle-class parish, as well, and while not poverty stricken, like most middle class parishes, there are very poor areas near our parish. Being in one of the middle class parishes would allow you to minister to the poor, and lead others to do so as well.
    As to how you stick to your vow of poverty, the temptations away from that will be with you wherever you are assigned. The only difference is you might get nicer Christmas presents in the suburbs, and I think even St. Francis, himself, would accept such gifts just to gracious.
    You remain in my prayers.
    Love,
    Mary Louise
    P.S. I’m married and children never came our way. I’m also the children’s librarian at the Little Falls Public Library, I run our Children’s Liturgy team at Holy Angels, and I feel like second mom to every child in town. I watch them grow up. I help raise them both at work and at church. They are mine as they are God’s. There are benefits to life without children of your own. You get all of the fun, and no 24/7 responsibility.

  3. Hi Casey,
    I love your complete honesty. Comparing “the decision to become a priest” to “becoming a parent” is a good comparison – many uncertainties lie ahead – many fears and anxieties – and the big question … could I love the next child as much as the one I know now??? Could I love the people in the next parish as I do the ones in this one? Here’s something to think about: with our very large family and from all of your aunts and uncles, you know children come in all shapes and sizes, and with gifts of their own. Some are easy to get along with and some are not so easy. The same experiences will be for any man who takes the vows of the priesthood. Each parish will come with many uncertainties. They come in all shapes, sizes and with gifts of their own. Some are easy to get along with and some are not so easy. And, in the case of our own family … some are very rich and some are very poor — but they are all God’s children and there’s not one we’d deny. So, as you continue to discern, keep in mind that sometimes the richest parishes are very poor in spirit. God will allow you to see poverty no matter where He sends you in this world.

    Am I trying to talk you into being a priest? No. I know God will place you wherever He needs you most. I’ll continue to pray that you will hear Him clearly.

    Love,
    Aunt Mary

  4. Casey,

    Trust in the Lord, and He will take care of all of the details. As a Franciscan, you will probably be moved from time to time. Thus, not all of your time will be spent in assignments that are not your first choice, but your services will be sorely needed in any case. We need both ordained and non-ordained friars, but the need for ordained friars is greater because they can do so much more. I am praying that the Lord will help you accept ordination. “. . . not my will, but thine be done.”

    God bless you,
    Emil

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