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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I was very young — maybe before the age of eight — I would have told you I would be a surgeon. If you asked me why, I would have kindly informed you that surgeons make the most money (so why would you want to do anything else?).
I have since learned that making a good decision is predicated on asking the right questions. When I reached the second grade, several things were going on within me at the same time to cause a change in my view of the world, myself and my future.
It was about that time when I started to notice the gaping disparity between what the world told me about what I should do or how I should act and what the Lord had to say about it. What began to become clear to me was that instead of asking what would make me the most money or the most “successful,” the correct questions were: What is the deepest part of me longing for? Who is the person I am supposed to be? How can I let myself be God’s tool?
Now I know what you’re thinking: "Wow, what an astute eight-year-old he was!" I may be representing these ideas more clearly than they occurred to me at the time; however, God was certainly moving within me and calling me to know him better. At the same time, the second grade, our religion classes had turned from memorizing basic prayers to focusing on our upcoming first Communion.
I was being taught some very intense ideas (“This is Jesus’ Body and Blood”), which demanded of me more belief, devotion, attention. And to be honest, this sacrament marked the first time I substantially encountered the Lord. I can remember on the night of my first Communion and several of my following receptions of the Blessed Sacrament, I had to try to hold back my smile.
And so, at that ripe age, I felt the Lord’s call and decided (inasmuch as eight-year-olds can make decisions on such matters) that I would make of my life a priest, with all of the innocent and idealistic notions that accompany a young faith.
As everyone knows, our faith should mature over time. Mine certainly has. But I’ve tried to hold on to the desire to do God’s will as best as I know. And the Lord’s joy, the joy that made me smile that night years ago, has remained constant, giving me the strength to continue following him despite some challenges.
The last year of high school was the most challenging in pursuing my vocation so far. I was faced with the opportunity to follow the paths of all of my friends. Being truthful, going down a “road less traveled” can be very difficult. It requires holding on to what you know to be most fundamentally true, and a whole lot of trust in Jesus. But the support of my parish and Catholics all over the diocese, especially by their prayer, makes this journey doable.
The support of my brother seminarians is also incredible. I partly expected them to be ultra-pious, but as seminarians, we are, in reality, nothing more than ordinary men who allow an extraordinary God to work on and through them.
With all of that, I feel I need to remind myself that the road before me is just beginning. There are surely years of joys, but also challenges, which lie ahead. To the parishioners of Blessed Sacrament, my home parish, and the people of this diocese: please pray for me and all our seminarians, and be assured of our prayers for you.