Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
To all the seminarians,
The other day I got a phone call from a wonderful friend of mine named David. David is a great friend from high school who is a seminarian serving for a year in the Philippines. By his holy and selfless example, David teaches me how to love, serve, and give of myself relentlessly so that others would come to know Christ. I am consistently inspired by his willingness to become a seminarian and answer a call to the priesthood.
Throughout my travels, I meet countless numbers of you. Each time I meet one of you, I am overwhelmed by your bravery, because I cannot imagine what it must be like to answer a call to the priesthood in 2015.
We live in a culture fully centered on self and success, and achievement in our world is based on what we own and what we have accomplished. You have thrown this ideal out the window in the most inspiring way. You have decided to center your life completely on sacrifice. I watch as you give up your freedom to live where you choose, make as much money as you can, and go from job to job as you please. You teach me by your choosing to throw these cultural ideals out the window in my own life. Thank you.
I am inspired by you, seminarians, because you are young men willing to lay your lives down for whole communities of people. You are willing to wake up in the middle of the night to go administer Last Rites, or to run the financial and the relational sides of a parish at the same time. You may have to hear confessions day in and day out - even when you are at the end of your rope - because you care deeply about the souls of people. Many of you will wear a million hats - CEO, listener, giver, friend, teacher, helping hand, the list goes on and on. Thank you for signing up for all of these things. Our Church needs you.
As I see you valiantly answering this call, my heart breaks in a way because I also know that the priesthood can also be a very sore subject in our society. Because of all the terribly tragic and unfortunate circumstances of child abuse in the past many years, we live in a society with a good number of rightfully angry people, but many of whom think and speak very poorly of Catholic priests as a whole. I wish that our great priests were able to have the other side of the story told to the world - but beautiful, quiet lives of sacrifice rarely, if ever, make the news. I am sure you have heard the opinions of angry family members or angry people. Thank you for saying yes even in the face of this terrible adversity.
I admire you even more because I know how many of you have sacrificed your desire to be a husband and a father to become a priest and give Christ to those looking to be loved and to know Love. I will never forget sitting at a table at a wedding reception with a young and vibrant priest friend of mine. We were talking about what it must be like to be a parent and have a child get married one day, and he said, "I always dreamed of how cool it would be to be a dad to daughters…"
And my heart was heavy and light all at the same time as I looked at his white collar that speaks of his great sacrifice.
So to David, Taylor, Mark, Ben, Joe, and Tim... all the rest of you that I know and have met and all the rest of you that I do not know…thank you. Thank you will never be enough but today it is all I can offer to express how much I admire you, how brave you are, and how grateful I am for your yes because of all the ways you are needed in our Church and in our world.
Hold steadfast and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and the cities of our God. 1 Chronicles 19:13