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This website is sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento to help young men answer the divine call to embrace the ministerial priesthood. It also serves as a resource for parents to assist them in fostering vocations among their children.

Vocation Boom

Discernment Reflection: The Decision

I had a professor in seminary who gave a final exam of two parts, one required us to do “critical analysis” of the material we studied and the other part focused on objective information.  Since we were more focused on the analysis part he made quite an effort to help understand what he was looking for in the objective section. He said something to the effect if the question is: what color is the grass? The answer should be: green. While perhaps that was an exaggeration of the simplicity of what he was looking for it brought it into context, we gave an answer and didn’t have to think too much about it. Likewise if somebody asked me my favorite color I would just answer “blue” and if they asked why I would say “it’s peaceful, calm, relaxing”. A question and a decided answer. Oh, if only discernment was the same way, but it’s not. We agonize over every aspect, think, pray, reflect and do it again, second guessing ourselves, cross examining the things we took into account.
It would be awesome if it were a matter of just making a decision and sticking to our guns and holding fast to that decision. Almost paradoxically we have to make a decision and experience the effect of that decision. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m not sure so let us flesh it out together and see if we can’t make sense of it.
We all expect that making a decision is the final call and there will be relief and life will be sunshine and blue skies, but that isn’t quite the way it works. A decision ultimately gives us a chance to trust, and perhaps in small steps.  Each step gives us a sense of what to do next, sometimes it is overwhelmingly clear (I would say very seldom does it happen this way), other times it’s less clear but we feel something positive about the step. And I think that is what is important.
We mightn’t feel as if we have everything all sorted out but we have a sense that this was “good”, the right thing to do. There might be doubts, we might second guess it, we might not even like it but somehow there’s a feeling that this is the right thing to do. And so, we move forward to the next one and so one until we have a definitive decision. So let me look back to my own discernment in an attempt to make it more concrete. The first decision I made was to talk to a priest about this whole “priest thing” then from there I had to make the decision contact the Vocations Office and then enter seminary and to come back and to enter theology and to go through all the steps that are part of theology. Each decision was a positive experience even if it wasn’t definitive.  At a certain point though I remember thinking ” Yup, I believe priesthood is it and I”m gonna keep at it until I’m ordained or thrown out” and thank God I haven’t been thrown out-yet!  That was the definitive decision.
Throughout it all there were and are nagging questions, second guesses and self doubt, but each time the previous decisions helped me to be calm and more objective about the current situation. In discernment when we make a decision it helps us gauge how we are doing, how to respond more fully God’s invitation to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.  Discernment includes a lot of small steps and small decisions which build on each other. So don’t be afraid to make a decision, put your hand in His and follow without fear!
 

Highlights From the Hill

Time has really flown by and I am sorry I am late in posting again. To recap is gonna be quite the event but let’s give it a shot!  There’s two weeks to try and cover but I”ll do my best.

I don’t think we have ever laid out the process to priesthood here but there are certain events which happen in formation which manifest the progress we make to ordination. Some of those are directly related to the process of preparing for ordination and others are related but not part of the process itself. Examples of this last group are really the institution to the ministry of Lector and Acolyte, these ministries are open to any layman who wishes to prepare and receive them, assuming his bishop consents, but in the seminary they are part of the process in preparing for priesthood. There’s a caveat though, receiving them does not mean is graduating toward priesthood, or that one will be ordained a priest. Rather these ministries are conferred upon us so that we may be formed to be men of the Word, men of the Eucharist, and men of the Liturgy; not just by carrying out rituals but by living out what they signify. As we receive and prepare for lector there is a new importance to the place of the Word of God in our lives and our prayer, to know it, to pray it and to teach it. Similarly in acolyte we prepare to live Eucharistic lives and deepen that part of our spirituality. So why do I write all of this? Because on Oct 16  our second year men at St Patricks Seminary in Menlo Park received the ministry of acolyte, we offer our congratulations to Clayton Baumgartner, Ryan Francisco, Jesus Hernandez, Hector Jauregui, and Joshua Keeney!  This is photo is of them and their classmates after being installed acoyltes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week later at Mt Angel we had our annual Regents’ Meeting and that includes another important step to ordination, the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. While all seminarians are, in a sense, candidates for holy orders, this rite is a solemnizing of that reality. Before a Bishop and the Church, assembled for the Eucharist we declare our desire to be ordained and to complete our studies to be ordained, the Bishop, on behalf of the Church, accepts that intention and promises the Church’s support in that quest and if all goes well to be ordained. So while we are not promised ordination it is just around the corner for us. This rite takes place most commonly at the first or third year of theology. At Mt Angel we do it during third year, so this year my class made candidacy. It was an exciting day and at the dinner that evening became more than exciting when Bishop Soto turned to me and started talking about MY ordination to the diaconate. This photo is of my class, the bishops and priests who were here for the rite and then the meetings that followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Regents Meeting is an annual affair where the administration, Bishops and Vocation Directors discuss what has happened here at the seminary and any future plans. The same evening of the meeting we have the Regents’ Dinner which is a nice meal spent  together to celebrate the  many good things there are to celebrate and just be in each other’s company.  During this event I found out that we have three men who are applying for seminary, given how early it is that is a good sign! Here’s a pic of the party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please keep them and us in your prayers, while we have much motivation given these events we need your prayers.

In the midst of our celebrating here the Extraordinary Synod of Bishop concluded and despite all the talking, all the speculation, and all the cries that everything was up for grabs not much changed. The closing document was very different from the “progress report” that excited so many in so many ways. It just goes to show that theology is not nice and tidy business, rather it’s a lot of fist throwing and mud slinging AND, if everybody is nice, they help clean up after. In the end the conversation is guided by and returns to the Church’s definitive teaching.

All of these activities were marked by the regular appearance of midterms, that fortunately passed quickly and as far as I can tell with few victims. Now its time to study and write, especially the guys (like me) who are doing an MA thesis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discernment Reflection: A Matter of Wills

Some years ago Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas gave the retreat here at Mt Angel for the seminarians. It was one of the best retreats we have had here.  In one of his talks Bishop Flores talked about discernment. He put it, roughly, like this “first you ask is it God’s will, then is it your will and then you beg God to be ordained”. This is a key insight into discernment. Many people would like to discernment is a simple question one asks God and He replies with an immediate and clear answer. Others think that it is a powerful movement, like St Paul when he encountered the Lord. God has given us free will and so discernment is neither of those.

Discernment is a movement between those two realities. It is really those two points from Bishop Flores is it God’s will and is it my will? In the mix of those is also the question “Do I want to conform my will to that of God’s? ” Do I want to lay aside my own hopes, dreams, plans, and desires to take up the mission God has given me?”  Even more difficult is the actual doing of those things. Part of the discernment process here in the seminary is answering those questions and doing that work. A man doesn’t have to do any of these things, his free will allows him to say “no”. However if that is the case I would recommend he read the last discernment reflection “The Call”.

God, in His wisdom, (which is a pious way of saying “I have no clue why He does this”) depends on us and so when we reflect on what is God’s will and what is our will we have to take that into consideration.  That in the plan of salvation God works with us.  St Paul talks often of the will of God being accomplished in us through Christ Jesus.  This doesn’t mitigate our will, rather, it fulfills it in ways that we cannot imagine. This reality also forces us to ask “why am I saying ‘no’ to God”. True discipleship is about following the Master, learning His ways, and sharing in His plan and mission.

So, in the end we are free to say no to God’s will for us and let our own will guide and direct us, but we also have to take into account, and trust, the will of the One who made us, who knows and loves better than most. When we respond fully to His will and make it our own He truly says to us ” I no longer call you servants but friends” (John 15:5).

 

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The blog articles to the right are authored by the Seminarians of the Diocese of Sacramento. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, we have all come to discern a calling to become priests in the Catholic Church. Feel free to follow along in our journey to this great vocation. Questions welcome.

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