North American College, Rome
My vocation story really starts out with a conversion story. Upon reflecting on how and when I felt the Lord calling me to discern a vocation to the priesthood, I am led back to a moment in my late twenties when I concretely felt His presence in my life. It wasn’t the first time I felt that way but it was the first time in a long time.
I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in a pew in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the center of New York City. The world outside was noisy, chaotic, unknown, a little bit dangerous; this is not a reference to the city. In the quiet, sacred space of that iconic gothic cathedral I found myself in sincere prayer. My heart was crying out for help to our Lord. It was in that moment that I felt a consolation that changed my life. I felt peace, a peace that I didn’t even know I was looking for until I felt it. It’s a feeling that is really hard to describe, but one that I will never forget. Considering that moment of grace it may not come as a surprise that I later chose St. Augustine as one of my patrons. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” These words from his Confessions have a special significance for me.
At that time, I was the stereotypical twenty-something year old male. I had spent the past decade of my life chasing everything that the world was telling me I needed. I was just going through life checking things off this secular wish list, never taking into account where or if God fit in my life. Perhaps that was the problem; I was trying to fit so many things into my life that I didn’t leave any space for Christ. That moment of silence, in the city that never sleeps, was the first of many that have guided me on the path to where I am today.
When I returned home from that business trip in NYC, I didn’t feel the call to discern a vocation to the priesthood right away. No, I had a long road of daily conversion that eventually led me to the seminary. It started as a call back to the sacraments, to weekly Mass, to the confessional, eventually to daily Mass. Active ministry at my parish, silent moments with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament, in slow but consistent ways I was centering my life back around the faith. At the time I was actually discerning whether I was being called to marriage, when to my surprise, the Lord placed a different call in my life. My first reaction went something like, “no way, you’ve got to be kidding me God, you’re calling me to do that?” But through persistent prayer, spiritual direction, even counseling, the excuses that I was coming up with to say no kept fading into the background. I knew it was time to pick up that phone and call the Office of Vocations.
Today I am still discerning. I feel like our vocation stories never really end. If we seek to continue to follow that daily call to conversion of life, God will continue to lead us in the direction that He has always wanted us to go. For me, that place is seminary formation. I have found so much peace and happiness since entering into the formation process. I’m not on this journey alone, I have many brothers journeying with me. I have the formation staff who want to see me develop into a man of Christ. I have the support of my family, the support of the local Church, and my home parish. I am so thankful for all of this support and for the opportunity to dedicate myself entirely to this work of discernment and formation. Please keep me and my brothers in your prayers as we continue to give our ‘yes’ to the Lord. If you are reading this and find yourself wanting to enter a deeper level of discernment, please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Vocations here at the Archdiocese of Portland. The staff is wonderful and they have many great resources to help you along your journey of faith. Know that we are praying for you as well.