I was blessed to be raised in a family in which the Catholic faith was the first thing I learned and truly the center of our lives. From a young age, I had a love for our faith and a desire to know more and more of its truths. I was also surrounded with the stories lives of the saints which provided so many vivid expressions of what living one’s primary vocation to holiness and then one’s particular vocation to priesthood, married life, or religious life looked like. I was particularly drawn to the stories of St. John Bosco, a priest who spent his life ministering to the youth in some of the worst neighborhoods in Italy, and St. Dominic, the great evangelist, preacher, and father.
As I grew older, especially during high school, I lost sight of the beauty of holiness. Rather than having a desire to bring the good news of Christ to others I wanted everything to be about me. I wanted to have as much fun as possible, even if it meant making poor decisions. I wanted to be well liked, to such an extent that I was deeply prideful and egoistic. Because of this, none of the ways in which I employed the gifts God had given me ever made me happy. I had plenty of friends, but I felt isolated. I did well in sports, took up various leadership positions, pursued many hobbies, and even began taking college classes at the age of 15, but none of that made me feel like I was doing anything worth the time I have in this life which is so precious. Looking to the future and to what I might pursue after high school, I was scoring well and receiving positive feedback from ROTC and had the opportunity to pursue academic scholarships and a beneficial professional jump-start in positions in the military. However, none of this brought me life, none of it fulfilled me, and looking back I can see I was only doing it because I was capable, not because I deeply wanted to.
Thankfully, this changed near the end of high school when I became conscious of my increasing emptiness and sought a relationship with Jesus Christ in a more real way than I previously had. This turned into going to mass and praying the rosary, first just sporadically but soon every day. Regular confession also became a habit of mine which allowed me to stand before the Lord in humility as the person I truly was; a sinner in need of God’s mercy who is called to serve Him in holiness. Thus, I began to focus less on myself and more on serving Christ and his church. I began to desire that other people be happy, and I knew that ultimately meant their being in relationship with Christ. Then, when I was at Catholic Youth Summer Camp [A fantastic youth ministry program in the Diocese of Columbus] the summer before my senior year began, I was blessed with a very clear call to fulfill this desire in service to God and his church through the holy priesthood of Jesus Christ. I could write many pages regarding what it was like to hear that call, clear and distinct as it was, but I will simply say here that through the witness to great holiness of various priests, that week and throughout my whole life, I was able to see in the priesthood a means for me to use all the gifts God had given me in a selfless way that would bring souls Christ and Christ so souls. So, I went for it and entered seminary right after I graduated high school, at the age of 17, and haven’t looked back since.
Now in my third year of seminary formation, I can say without the slightest reservation that choosing to pursue Christ and trusting in his call, intimidating as it was, has been the most fulfilling decision I have ever made in my life. I thank God every day that he has put me in this place, a place of intimacy with Him in prayer, a place of growing alongside so many brother seminarians towards being the man I am meant to be, and a place of unbreakable peace, purpose, and fulfillment. Know that it is only in being open to the voice of God and responding to his call in total trust and whole hearted self-sacrifice that we will find happiness and meaning in this life. So, to any man who thinks he may be called but is not sure if he will follow, I commend you with all my heart to hear the words of Our Lord: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” [Matthew 11:29-30]