"Your wish to become a priest, or at least your wish to discover if you are being called to be one. And so the question is a serious one, because you have to prepare thoroughly, with clear intentions and an austere formation." (St. John Paul II)
As a married woman I can never completely understand the radical call to the priesthood. Or the severity of being called to lay down one’s life to serve Christ and lead many souls to sanctity. It is undeniably a massive sacrifice and one that has arguably been more challenged by our modern society in the western world.
I have been reflecting on this lately as a friend recently shared that she had encountered some seminarians who are very tempted by the vocation of marriage.
I am sure that some men validly do have an honest struggle and need more discernment when evaluating their vocation, or could be in fact called by God to the vocation of marriage (shout out to Bobby Angel).
Yet, part of me is naturally drawn to conclude that some of their struggle is a temptation to flee the cross of Christ, and the fascination with belief in some illusion of a fairy tale life that does not exist.
Again, I do not suggest this is the case for everyone. I am assured with good spiritual counsel from one much wiser than me these issues are properly discerned, or these men should seriously take a one week candid retreat at a young married couple's house and watch the presumption of fairy tale smash entirely before their eyes, I digress.
Sacrifice does not feel good. If it did you can be assured that you are more about following yourself than our crucified Lord. To serve under Christ is to get over oneself daily.
Perhaps this is where myself and my seminarian brothers can have a moment of understanding.
This call of shedding oneself motivated by an authentic love of God is the same for all of us as Christians; it must be present in both married life and the vocation of the priesthood.
To renew ourselves in this love daily is to remain present to where God has called us and orient our thoughts and minds in a way that we can be attentive to God's true will for us.
The call to embrace the cross out of love for love should lead each of us as individuals. This temptation to flee and to find something beyond the horizon more alluring and captivating is a challenge that arises in any state of life.
Temptation manifests and confronts us daily in the most cunning simple ways, it challenges and test our hearts. This tension aids in purifying our intentions and prepares us thoroughly for where God is calling us to serve.
It is dangerous when we abruptly assume that this tension we are facing or allurement of some other life is a concrete sign of God’s will.
God will shake us and rattle us, this is the birth ground of great virtue and sanctity, we respond appropriately by surrender not escapism.
Satan will do anything to stop us from glorifying God. There is nothing more important for the transcendence of faith than the witness and presence of holy priests.
How threatening this is to the evil one who would prefer nothing else than to destroy the Kingdom of Christ! Married life is not free from the same threat. There would not be a Synod to discuss the fragile reality of the family and the threat it is under universally if this were not true. An understanding of the celibate life is sharpened by a healthy and genuine understanding of the true symbolism of married love. As a seminarian is often challenged by the image of married life, the engaged man, or young espoused may be drawn to the reality of single life and things of bachelorhood. Such is the consequence of a society largely focused on self gratification in many ways.
When we are pulled by the flesh to flee commitment and sacrifice we can be comforted that this is not of God’s will for us.
We embrace true love of God when we commit ourselves deeply to sacrifice.
Christ needs us where He has truly called us. Let us pray daily for the eyes to see and the heart to love Him above all. May we always find the strength to remain patient during God's pruning and hold steadfast in our faith. (CC)