«That’s right…I can be a priest.»
I remember the moment that I decided to become a priest. How could I possibly forget it? It is a moment which is indelibly engraved upon my memory. I couldn’t be erased from my mind. It was a moment of humble greatness, initiated by God and freely accepted by me. After reflection, I dare to venture, by saying that it was a moment of great love.
Years before what I would name my true calling, I had promised our Lord, when I was in fourth grade, as I was altar serving for the first time, that if he would help me to serve the Mass without falling into error, that I would later become a priest. As Mass ended flawlessly, my promise was quickly forgotten. He would wait until a more opportune occasion to collect the dues for his fulfilled promise.
It was six years later as I was in the first semester of Catholic high school, that I honestly heard our Lord calling me to become his priest and that I found myself responding sincerely with my own ‘Let it be done.’ It is then; it is that moment that I remember with fondness and great clarity. How could I forget the forceful yet also gentle brush that our Lord gave to me that sunny autumn day as I sat in that last period class .
It was English. The teacher was speaking to us of grammar, and I was not interested. Earlier that day a Legionary priest had visited our religion class and he showed us a video of his ordination. I had been amazed with the files of young men in the ordination mass receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders. For the remainder of the day it seemed as if that video had been replayed in my mind.
As I looked up to the Crucifix that hung on the front wall of my English classroom, I found myself thinking of the young priest who had visited us. I saw his black suit and roman collar. I heard his answers to the questions which had been asked. I contemplated the newly ordained priest who processed out of the chapel in the video. Amazement!
Then, it was just then, as I sat there distracted from the nouns, adverbs and sentence structures that were being scratched out upon the chalk board, that I heard in the intimate silence of my heart the sweetest of invitations, «You too can be a priest.» At that very moment this extremely simple, yet profoundly strong thought seemed to fill me from head to toe with a true joy; a joy that I have only since experienced with rarity. A smile came to my face and I remember being happy. «That’s right…I can be a priest.»
As the bell rang and English class recessed and the school day came to an end, I walked quickly to the small campus chapel, about to begin another day, which is in fact still continuing now and has yet to see its sunset. I knelt down in the back pew. I prayed and I offered: «Lord, if you want me to be your priest, I will. I only ask that you show me the way.» Since then, the thoughts of maybe becoming a lawyer, an actor, a teacher, or any of the other dreams that had earlier filled my mind, all fell away, and from then on, only one single goal has shined brightly in my path: the priesthood.
For me that moment will remain forever marked upon my heart. That moment was more than the decision to choose a career. It was rather the beginning of a friendship. He called and I responded. He has lead and I have followed. I have asked and he has given. He has asked and I have tried my best to give. I am amazed with the reality that God has called me to be a priest. I love my calling and I am grateful that he chose me to follow after him. I look forward to my priestly ordination and for the remainder of my existence as a priest with joy. Yes, I will be a priest «forever»; I will follow Jesus forever.