“Believe your beliefs. Doubt your doubts.”
-Mark Hart (@LT_TheBibleGeek)
I was just talking on the phone the other day with a dear friend of mine and we were sharing with each other what we needed prayers for. I couldn’t help but to ask her to pray for me because I’d had a moment that day where I wanted out of the Seminary. It was for sure a confusing moment, one that’s going to stick with me for a while, but a moment that really, in the end, can really make my vocation stronger. After all, none of us can really follow our vocation if we don’t follow it freely, lovingly, and facing the doubts we have honestly.
Bear with me for a moment, but I think I’m going to blame you all for this confusion in my heart (trust me this is a good thing!). Being a part of Holy Week at home and spending last weekend with a lot of you during the Confirmation Masses and celebrations, singing with some of you in the choir at the Sunday evening Mass, and even joining a few of you for a walk on the pier on Saturday, it all felt so right, a great reminder of the kinds of relationships that have gotten me here into the Seminary in the first place. To be a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit moving in your lives: what a gift for me! And when I come back here to the Seminary, I have to leave behind so much of this interaction, my family, my friends.
But that’s just what made my momentary questioning of whether or not I still wanted to be in the Seminary seem so silly. If I’m going to make my life all about your life with God and about helping you all bring that life into my life too and into the lives of others, I’ve got a lot to learn about life and a lot to experience right here. Fr. Jack, one of our Field Education directors said it beautifully, honestly, and bluntly the other night: “None of us are born ministers. We have to learn how to do it.” And it seems that this is the place where I’m going to better learn to serve you all and every one God has blessed me to know.
But I’d be lying if I said there was no tension because of this.
It really hit me the other day that this tension is a beautiful thing, like a collision between the need to serve and the need to learn how to serve first. Our Second Year guys just got their assignments for their internship years coming up next year. That’s what I’ll be doing after next year, a chance to live at a parish for a year, facing the joys and challenges of parish life, away from the academic studies. These guys have been waiting all year to find out where they’ll be sent. And I hear that sometimes the greatest challenge is to come back to the Seminary, back to the studies and community life after being out among the people, sharing their lives with them, praying with and for them, facing their joyful moments and their heartaches with them. I’ve seen firsthand how tempting it is to become bitter after having to leave a community that one had fallen in love with. And I think that is what I’ve been feeling this week: after sharing the holiest of weeks with my home parish at St. Monica’s and then getting to experience the gift of the Holy Spirit with all of you newly Confirmed, it was kind of hard for me to get back into the rhythm of Seminary life, I admit.
But I’m still here and, regardless of any doubts and frustrations that come up here at St. John’s, this too is my home. These men I live with are my family too. I am indeed sharing their lives with them, praying with and for them, facing their joyful moments and their heartaches with them. And it’s becoming clearer that I am needed here. Every man here is needed here. And all of us, you and me, may very well be right where we need to be. So let’s hope to see that we are needed right where we are and that right where we are may very well be the place we will learn to love the best.
So I’m not too worried about my little doubts and my moments of questioning my own vocation. I’d be worried if that wasn’t a part of my daily life. It’s all a part of having faith, of discerning a vocation. I’ve never felt freer in my decision to keep on going towards the priesthood. And I’ve never wanted to be a priest more. And I blame all of you for that. After all, we’re never truly free in our life and our discernment unless we can believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.