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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Studying for the priesthood

As I approach the end of my seminary studies and the arrival of my ordination date, an issue of understandable importance is the reasons why I have chosen to follow this particular path. I can speak somewhat to the Franciscan charism and how I find it to be compatible with much of my own character - not that other religious communities might not also be compatable, but having not lived them I can't really speak of them. In any case, I find that my own desire to find joy in a life that often seems joyless, to see in God the perfection of goodness and mercy, to seek out a life balanced between action and contemplation all find similar expressions in the life of the Franciscan. I make no claim to be the perfect image of Saint Francis, in fact I am not a very good one at all. Yet, as many of the older Franciscans stress - there was only one Francis, my responsibility is to be fully myself or as Gandalf says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring - "All we have to do is decide what to do with the times that are given us." This may give some insight into why I have been attracted to Franciscanism, but it doesn't speak to my call to the priesthood.

I have no doubt that all vocational choices are filled with struggle and indecision. Is it better to keep as many doors open for as long as possible so as to avoid making the "wrong" choice or is it better to chose one door immediately and forsake the rest?

Marriage or celibacy? Both are good and certainly I continue to see the married life as attractive, if a bit more realistically than earlier in the lives of my married friends and relatives. Yet, I feel that the celibate life gives me an opportunity to form intimate [yet, celibate] relationships with many people that I could not [and should not] if I were married. Certainly I miss out on the intensity of the relationships between husband and wife and children but there are other relationships that are made possible.

I guess what I am thinking as I continue to mull the reasons for my decisions and seek answers to these mysteries, I see the priesthood as a means of sharing the relationship that I have and continue to form with God and to join with other men and women as we seek out the presence of the divine in our lives. Priesthood seems to require the ability to speak words of consolation and correction to oneself and others at the same time as it requires the ability to speak words of praise and prayer with the people of God. Perhaps, especially today, it seems to require the ability to join with a suffering people in asking God "Why" while grounding such questions in a hope that there is an answer - even if it can't be placed in words.

Why do I wish to be a priest? I guess I can't give any concrete response right now other than to say that it seems to be the right choice for me right now in my journey with God. I expect that after my ordination, I will be better able to speak to my priesthood as I can now better speak to my Franciscanism after having lived as a Franciscan for almost seven years. I also expect that the real answers will only come with prayer and in relationship with all the faithful who seek to be first and foremost good Christians.


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