By Michael Bollinger
Whenever I admit to someone I meet that I’m a seminarian (and assuming that they know what that means), a picture of what my life is like immediately jumps into their mind. By and large that picture is either based on half-truths or is just made-up. No, I don’t live in a monastery. I have a day off, I go to the beach with my friends, I have a Christmas break just like every college student in the country, I find it mildly uncomfortable that I have to wear a man-dress to mass, I don’t have the Bible memorised, I listen to the same music you do, I still really like girls, and I watch Mr. Robot (which is the best show on TV for those who don’t know). Seriously, I’m normal. With some important exceptions, I have the same desires and habits as any other 21 year-old American male.
I didn’t do this for myself
When my alarm clock goes off at 6am every day of the week there are two thoughts that go through my head. First, I thank God for a new day and ask him to help me love him more, and then I immediately ask myself (sometimes outloud) “What am I doing?” I really do ask myself that every morning. And I can tell you in all honesty that the only thing that gets me out of bed every morning is thinking about the people that I could one day help as a priest. If there were no people to minister to, well, forget about it. I don’t want to be a priest because of the clothes they wear or anything superficial. There’s only one reason why I want to be a priest, and the answer is for you, the people reading this.
I gave up a lot to be here
Another misconception that runs deep in the myth of the Seminarian is that I just didn’t have much going for me, so I figured that this was the best I could get. I remember the facial reactions of a hand full of people who looked at me as if I had three heads when I told them I was leaving Engineering to go study to be a priest. The truth is everyone has given up a lot, and not just in terms of careers. A lot of the guys have given up long term relationships to pursue the calling to be a priest, and if not, they still gave up the future reality of a normal family life with a wife and kids. That’s not something to overlook.
Seminary is hard
What doctor looks back with fondness at the innumerable hours of studying in Medical school? What soldier thinks boot camp is awesome? Do mothers really like carrying a child inside them for 9 months? Similarly, it shouldn’t be shocking to people to learn that Seminary is less than pleasant most of the time. When I followed God’s call I really wasn’t picturing seminary. I was picturing preaching and hearing confessions and being with the sick and dying. Seminary isn’t what the life of a priest is, so it really shouldn’t be all that great if what you really want is to be a priest.
In spite of it all, I really am happy
God’s calling, His vocation, for each one of us is mysterious. It doesn’t seem to make sense why God calls us here or there, especially when we seem so well fit over there! So, there’s a lot of hope and trust built into what God wants from us, but when we take that leap of faith…that’s happiness. That faith is what makes a St Paul or a Mother Theresa or a John Paul or a St Francis or a St Catherine. Answering God’s calling is inexplicably difficult, but if we have the faith it promises us an eternity of unending joy.