Loving God is my greatest goal in life
LETTER FROM the SEMINARY
This series was written when seminarian Mauricio Carrasco was studying for the priesthood and chronicles the joys and struggles of his formation along the way. Today, Father Mauricio Carrasco is a priest serving the people of the Diocese of Little Rock.
By Mauricio Carrasco
"But whatever gain I had, I counted as a loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:7-8)
When I was struggling with the decision to enter seminary, a priest recommended the following mental exercise: He said, "Think of yourself as an 80-year-old man. Imagine yourself looking back in life, a life in which you married and became a professional. What comes to mind and how does that make you feel? Then think of yourself as an 80-year-old man that lived his life as a priest. When you imagine looking back on your life, what comes to mind and how does that make you feel?"
When I considered the first option, I would imagine myself as an 80-year-old proud parent of several children, all of whom were well accomplished. I saw myself proudly bragging about them; glad also to have a wife that always affirmed me and thankful to be surrounded by people who knew me. Even at 80 years old, people knew me and respected me because of all my accomplishments. I felt really good.
When I considered the second option, I would imagine myself as an 80-year-old priest, that priest that everyone knows and respects. He is that priest that wrote all those wonderful books. He gave wonderful conferences. He served so many parishes. And now, as a wise, kind and loving old man, he is a spiritual director. He no longer has to go out to people, they come to seek him. This also made me feel really good.
In the end, this mental exercise wasn't very helpful at all; both options seemed to me to be equally great. But the problem was not the exercise, it was my underlying dream. I was imagining two vocations, but my underlying dream was to find affirmation. As a married man, I wanted to find affirmation in my children, in my accomplishments, in my career and in my wife. The same was true when I imagined myself as a priest; only in that case, I was dreaming of finding affirmation in my parishioners and in my success as a preacher and spiritual director.
A few days away from ordination, I must say I feel a great sense of peace and joy. I am sure that the Lord has called me to this vocation, and I cannot see myself being anything but a priest.
If a young man was to ask me how he should go about discerning his vocation, I would say the following: Think of yourself as an 80-year-old man. Do not imagine yourself as either married or as a priest. But only imagine that as an 80-year-old man you can no longer speak or write, and that mostly everyone has forgotten everything great you have done. Imagine that you don't have people acknowledging your great accomplishments in life.
When you are ready to let go of all this worldly affirmation, then you are ready to start thinking about a vocation. No vocation in life is an accomplishment, and if it is, it is a very small accomplishment on our part. Our greatest blessing and affirmation comes from knowing Christ. This is a lesson I have to keep learning over and over again in my life.
So here is my dream and my greatest expectation as a priest. I pray to God that at the end of my life, I will have come to know Christ Jesus so intimately that I will consider all my accomplishments a loss, insignificant at the very least. And I pray that when people remember me, they will not remember what I have done, but that they will say, "That man knew and loved the Lord."
This was the final "Letter from the Seminary" from Mauricio Carrasco. It was published in Arkansas Catholic on May 19, 2012, and he was ordained a priest on May 26, 2012 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock. This article is copyrighted by the Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. It may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.