By John D. Herrera
For the Sooner Catholic
For young men discerning the priesthood, there is no better way to really get a feel for the seminary life than to go experience it. I figured this out after I signed up for the “Come and See” weekend at Conception Seminary in Missouri. As our bus pulled in to Conception, I was struck by the incredible beauty of the countryside. The large campus, Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Benedictine Monastery with burgundy-colored brick and a small lake contrasted well with the rolling green hills surrounding it. It gave me the impression of a modern day castle that had been secretly tucked away in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Missouri. And I mean middle of nowhere. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but farm country, a few modern windmills and occasionally a farmhouse.
My first thought was, “Why would anyone establish a seminary way out here?” Nevertheless, as the weekend progressed, the answer became clear. It was tranquil. A silence like nothing you can find in a city, or even a small town was there.
And in that silence, God can speak.
You can hear him speaking in the monks, in the priests and the seminarians. Not just in their words, but in their lighthearted demeanors, and more than anything in their laughter. This excited me. In addition to two soccer fields, a lake, multiple dormitories, a guest house, a recreational facility, great food and an amazingly beautiful basilica, there was this: a truly spiritual commune where education, silence and joy in a holy life are all cultivated together.
The culmination of a great experience that weekend was in the basilica. During the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, amid the solemn resonating chant of a hundred or so other men, I realized this is where I wanted to be. This is where I want to continue my discernment. This is where Jesus has been calling me.
A few weeks ago in the Sunday gospel, we heard the confession of St. Peter (Mt. 16:13-20). Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter rightly answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But a few verses later, Jesus also says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me.” How does Peter, the rock of the Church, become associated with the prince of darkness so quickly? The simple answer is that Peter doesn’t want to accept the suffering and death that our Lord would have to undergo in Jerusalem. Jesus’ response may sound like a rebuke, and I think on one level it is, but his strong command for Peter to get behind him might also be his way of saying, “follow me.”
God has a plan for every person, and even though we may not understand what that plan may be, he calls each person by name to follow him. All of us have a vocation—to the single life, the married life, or the religious life—and every vocation includes sacrifice. Later in the same scripture passage, Jesus instructs the disciples “to take up his cross.” This command to “take up” is not just a matter of accepting sacrifice because there is no way around it and so we must resolve ourselves to it. Rather, the Lord is asking us to willingly embrace sacrifice, as he did on the cross. For it is only in laying down our life for others that we gain eternal life.
If you are discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life, I encourage to you to consider what it means to embrace sacrifice, to lay down your life for something and someone greater than yourself, for in doing so we find fulfillment and joy in this life and in the life to come.
Please contact the Vocations Office for more information about following the call of God in your life. (405) 721-9351.