Mr. Dennis Strach, one of our candidates at Moreau Seminary, filed this blog post for our monthly report from our major seminary. Dennis shares a beautiful reflection about how in "giving up" this year to the candidate program has helped him come to give away his gifts in service of others.
"You're going to enter the seminary and become a priest?? Think of all that you will be giving up!" -- This may have been one of the most common responses I received from friends when I told them that I was going to begin formation at Moreau Seminary with Holy Cross. Like the rich man in Luke's Gospel (18:18), people may become disheartened when they consider the great commitment and dedication that the Lord's call requires. The fact is, however, all of us are called to answer the invitation to do His will, and, in doing so, find the happiness and peace we were created for.
Living out the religious vocation is not about stifling our talents and gifts. It is not about living with less and being miserable, giving up the families that we could have in order to trudge through the life of the "higher call," so that one day we might finally be happy and receive our reward in heaven. No! Instead, when the Lord asks us to follow Him, He simply asks us to strive to glorify God and not ourselves! And, while it is true that the men of Holy Cross "give up" their time, their talents, the potential of possessing earthy treasure, we do not simply throw everything away; we give up these things by giving them to others. It is in this task that all of us, in every vocation, find new life, joy, peace and happiness. In answering the call, God gives us the grace to be our most true self and discover gifts and treasures that we could have never imagined possible.
When I recall my own experience discerning with Holy Cross, I can remember feeling so much anxiety about the future, particularly in regard to all of the changes that would ensue if decided to apply. I could not help but worry about how I would adjust to life at the seminary (spiritually, academically, socially…the list goes on). Was I called? Was this the right time? After three years of rehearsing these questions, talking with numerous Holy Cross priests, reading books about discernment and priesthood, praying for "THE" answer (a simple, audible "yes" or "no" from God would have sufficed!), I finally realized that I did not need to discern whether God was calling me to be a priest, I needed to discern whether God was calling me to apply to the seminary. This simplified things a little. I did not need to figure out the rest of my life overnight. The whispering, "Come, follow me," in my heart was enough; after those three years of searching for "the" answer, I recognized that I had all the information I needed. He was calling me, but he was asking me to take baby steps. He was not asking me to give up my entire life. For now, He was asking me to set aside a year of my plans and consider His. Some people may say that my year in the Candidate program has been time "given up", and I would have to agree; it has been time given up at the price of gaining a deep sense of fulfillment, belonging, joy and peace.