One of the most endearing gifts we possess as human beings is an imprint of God’s image. We hold a distinctive anthropology rooted out of God’s love allowing us to have an intimate union with Him. The irony of this gift is that it’s often overlooked. The strengthening of our identity in baptism for example solidifies the reception of this distinctive mark, one that can never be repeated nor removed. It is this distinguishing sacramental identity that intimately opens our intellect and will toward the Father’s love for his children.
The uniqueness of this gift is that we are called to be like God. The understanding of our Father’s love is very important as it has prepared me as a father to hand my oldest and only son to God as he prepares to discern the call to Priesthood as a Seminarian this month. With the current state of Priestly affairs attacking the Church amongst those who have not held or authentically lived their identity with God one may argue that this could not have come at a worse time for all young men preparing to enter or continue their Seminary formation. I would argue quite the opposite; this is the most opportune time as it provides an authentic backdrop of the challenges my son and other men will face across the world both spiritual and carnal.
Called by God
As my son began to intently discern a call to the Priesthood it wasn’t due to a St. Paul moment nor was it based on a singular retreat, or Priestly witness. It was a gradual process of listening, learning, asking questions and openly discussing what his relationship with Christ meant to him personally and how he envisioned it maturing. He conveyed to me that he knew Christ was asking him to be faithful and to listen intently. A unifying theme of Priestly discernment lies with an open and burning desire to serve Christ and imitate Him. Christ echoes this point when he instructs the Israelites in the temple; “my teaching is not my own but his who sent me” (Jn 7:16).
One who answers the call to Priesthood desires a Trinitarian life with our Lord (Eph 1:10). This involves an engagement in and with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the central means of being united with Christ (CCC 2014). This unity allows a young man to be conformed to Christ and seek His Kingdom. And through this conformation understand the importance of self-renunciation by embracing the cross of Christ (1 Tim 4:5-8) and fostering a genuine holiness in suffering with Christ that brings an everlasting joy (CCC 2013).
The Seven Most Important Things
Owing our existence to God one of the most important things I can tell you my son is to live out your baptismal call. This simply means that as we are baptized into the life of Christ we are also baptized into His death. It’s the first direct engagement offered by Christ to have an intimate relationship with Him and understand the importance of the Paschal Mystery and His redeeming suffering.
The second most important thing I can tell you is to strive to live a life of genuine holiness even during the most difficult of times and circumstances. Sanctification in Christ supplants all worry, fear, and temptation that may lead you away from Christ. Actively engage Christ even when you do not sense His presence, this is where you will discover a deeper and more intimate union with Him.
The third most important thing I can tell you is to rely on the Word of God and the fruits of His Word in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These distinctive pillars of truth will serve you well as you prepare to engage the faith with others and clarify misconceptions with genuine charity and honesty. An important characteristic of a sound catechist is one who listens to Christ intently and then faithfully transmits His message with rigor and vigor.
The fourth most important thing is to constantly engage the sacraments to sustain you on your journey toward Heaven (Mt 6:31-33; CCC 1076). Christ instituted the sacrament for the very reason you are discerning Priesthood, to convey Christ in an intimate way. I recommend that you never lose sight of our Blessed Mother the perfect model of holiness (Lk 1:38-55) who exemplifies a mother’s love for her child. Never stray away from her, keep her close to you in your daily rosary as she will always be a beacon of light even in your darkest times.
The fifth most important thing I can tell you is to exercise the virtue of Prudence. Prudence will guide you to properly discern good and evil, right from wrong, false faces from true faces. It will allow you to rule and measure all actions according to your moral conscience.
The sixth most important thing I can tell you is be faithful to the Church of Jesus Christ. The gift of fidelity reflects a person’s desire to place Christ first before Himself. It also means a call to love others before yourself. Fidelity exudes the willingness to obey God (CCC 144) which means an openness to listen to Him.
The seventh most important thing I can tell you is that the Creed is Christ. You are about to embark on a journey where the apex of your discernment will challenge your willingness to guard the Creed i.e. the Deposit of Faith (1 Tim 6:20-21). Why is this last step most important, because Christ died for the sake of the Creed i.e. the transmission of the Word of God. Hence, the Incarnation makes sense, the Holy Eucharist makes sense because of the very sacrifice offered by Christ and if it is God’s will a sacrifice you will also offer in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
As you prepare to walk with Christ in a more intimate way, know that your mother and I love you and are praying for you. Know that you are God’s son and I must turn you over to Him. Know that regardless of the final outcome of your journey, you will come out a better man. I now leave you with some final words from St. Louis’s Spiritual Testament to His Son which perfectly reflects my hope for you;
“My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all of your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders.
Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies.
In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly.” Amen
(Acta Sanctorum Augusti 5  546)