St. Patrick Seminary, CA – Theology II
As far as I can remember, I was always exposed to the priesthood, being raised in a Vietnamese Catholic family: being a priest comes with a great deal of honor for both the priest and his family, and since none of my uncles discerned the vocation, my grandmother was always asking us children when she’d be able to give one of her family back to God. Of course, I didn’t pay her any mind at the time: I was more concerned about what she was making for dinner than what she was saying.
My first real exposure to the call of a vocation came through my first pastor at St. Juan Diego parish, Fr. John Kerns, who remains in my mind to this day as the embodiment of the perfect pastoral priest. He had a hug and a smile ready for anyone and everyone who walked through the doors of the gym we rented out every Sunday. He gave dedicated counsel to all who needed it. He preached with passion, reverence, and energy. Quite simply, he radiated the light of Christ. I wasn’t thinking too hard about what my vocation was, but I saw him and thought, “that’s the kind of man I want be.”
Thinking about the priesthood followed naturally, if sporadically, through school. People would ask me what I wanted to do, and I wouldn’t usually say “priest,” but it was always in the back of my mind. Or even the front, at times, increasingly so as I approached high school graduation. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, something I could be proud of before my family, before God, and before myself. As a priest, as a servant leader in persona Christi capitis, I hope to give myself fully to God’s people just as those priests before have done for me: if I can bring relief to just one person in reconciliation, if I can enlighten just one person through my preaching, if I can bring just one person to the banquet of the Eucharistic table, then I can hold my head high before God at the end of the day.
So I want to be a priest; I want to help people find peace in the best way I know how. But is that all it is, wanting? Some of my brother seminarians speak of receiving visions from on high, or life-changing providential experiences that shake the core of their souls. Me, I didn’t have anything of the sort. I’m still not sure I’m being called to be a priest of Jesus Christ. How could I be, the little one from suburban Beaverton, when all the priests I know are such great men? Me, the one who didn’t take his faith seriously until just a few years ago? Me, the sinner, the awful, awful sinner?
I don’t know, and as much as it pains me, I have to admit that I won’t know. What I can do is continue walking forward on the path I have in front of me, and that’s why I decided to put myself in the hands of seminary formation. Discernment is a lifelong process, they say, and I should be thankful that I have so much available to me in order to more fully discern my vocation in the seminary as I’m doing now. It’s been nothing but blessings thus far: I’m being formed into a better man, delving into my faith on a level I didn’t think possible for someone like me. One day with God’s grace, I hope that my vocation will reveal itself naturally through my studies, and maybe one day I’ll be worthy of calling myself a priest of Jesus Christ for His people.