Faith and Trust
How does a man make the final decision to enter the seminary? What are the indicators that he should look for? Is he to wait until he has absolute certainty that this is the path chosen for him by God? Should he anticipate a miraculous sign or hope to receive a type of revelation in his prayer?
Most priests and seminarians will tell you that they did not experience a miraculous sign or even that they had absolute certainty that they were supposed to be a priest when they entered the seminary. What they will tell you is that they had an interior sense they were being led by God, that they desired more out of life, that they wanted to serve and lead people closer to the Lord, and that the thought of the priesthood was frequently on their hearts. But when it comes down to making the actual decision to enter the seminary, it really comes down to faith and trust. To make the leap from discerning a vocation outside the seminary to entering the seminary takes faith and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the power of faith (“if you have faith the size of a mustard seed…”). When a man is discerning a vocation to the priesthood he is bound to go through times of trial and maybe even times of doubt that God is truly calling him; but this is so that his vocation will ultimately be strengthened. The priest is called to be a man of faith so that he can lead people in the journey of faith. Ordinarily, then, the Lord in his wisdom does not give a miraculous sign revealing a vocation to the priesthood; rather he allows the man who is discerning a call to the priesthood to go forward in faith and trust.
To illuminate the importance that faith and trust plays in discerning a religious vocation, we have only to look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. While studying and later teaching in India, she witnessed tremendous poverty. On September 10, 1946 she was on a train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for a spiritual retreat. During this train ride, the Lord spoke very clearly to her about the mission to the poorest of the poor he had prepared for her. This experience, mystical in character, was a defining moment in her life. Without questioning the Lord, she responded to his invitation. She left the community of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto and she began the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa trusted the Lord unconditionally. Most likely, she didn’t see everything the Lord had in store for her future. In fact, we now know that much of Mother Teresa’s life was filled with spiritual darkness and desolation. But she always trusted that the Lord had called her and given her this particular mission.
Mother Teresa teaches us that we will not always have absolute certainty of the future. But, we are invited to put our faith and trust in the Lord. We can trust that, if we are open to his guidance, he will never lead us astray. This is a great consolation for the man who is discerning a call to the priesthood. If you are a man who is open to the call to the priesthood but you’re not sure if God is truly calling you, you may need to take a leap of faith. The bottom line is that, in time, the Lord will make it clear to you if this is the path you are to follow