As I’ve mentioned before, my discernment process has always been separated into two questions: 1) Do I feel called to be a Franciscan (or more appropriate now, what does it mean to be a Franciscan?) and 2) Do I feel called to sacramental ministry as a priest? Though they’re not mutually exclusive questions, discerning each question apart from one another helped me to focus on the significance of each question, and to accept the answer to each whenever I was ready to hear it.
Back at the end of March, I was apparently ready to hear an answer: I feel called to sacramental ministry, and wish to pursue ordination to the priesthood.
It’s hard to say what changed in me from one day to the next, from being unsure to being sure of a call. For a very long time, I think I implicitly accepted that I would be ordained, always imagining myself in twenty years as having that aspect of my identity, but I never actually accepted the decision to be ordained in the first place. In my mind, there was enough drawing me in that direction that I always saw it as an inevitability, but never an aspect of my life in the here and now.
That being said, there were clearly two triggers that turned my implicit decision into an explicit one. The first was our habit fitting. Trying on habits for the first time and looking at myself in the mirror had more of an effect on me than I thought it would. I knew that it was little more than “dress up” for practical purposes, but there was still a gravity to it that is hard to explain. Seeing myself in the habit and getting a sense of what it felt like to wear one marked a strong distinction in me between being a postulant, one who is inquiring and trying out the life, and a friar who has fully accepted the life. It sounds weird, and is in a sense artificial given how similar our day-to-day lives are to professed friars, but that experience made everything seem much more real than it had been. The “future” seemed much closer than before.
The following day, I was reading a book about the mass, the eucharist, and the role of the priest. In it, I came to this line:
In this oratio, the priest speaks with the I of the Lord– “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” He knows that he is not now speaking from his own resources but in virtue of the Sacrament that he has received, he has become the voice of someone else who is now speaking and acting.
I can’t say that this was a new revelation to me (I actually mentioned a similar sentiment back in August). The idea of taking on the role of Jesus had always been both an inspiration and a deterrent for me in my discernment. Nevertheless, these words struck a chord with me, helping me to develop a slightly more nuanced understanding of the role. Whereas before I thought of “taking on the role of Jesus” in the sense that I had to live up to his magnitude and holiness, I now realized that it had much more to do with my willingness to let Jesus live through me and animate me in such a way to do his will. I realized that I need not overwhelming merit or tangible holiness so as to be “holier than thou,” I need humility, openness, and a sense of servitude for all. When I read this passage, I realized that, not only could I be called to sacramental ministry, I was called to it, and that I wanted very deeply to allow Jesus to work through me in that capacity.