What are some of the factors that led to your decision to enter the seminary and discern the question of a vocation to the priesthood?
As much as I enjoyed the work and freedom that my career as a marine engineer offered me, it often left me wishing that I was pursuing a career in which I was directly involved in helping people in some way. Obviously, this could mean a thousand different things, but it was really when I started asking myself the question “why do I want to help people?” that I started thinking more seriously about changing my career…and then later on, my life. It was through the encounter of a number of virtuous Catholic men through whom I experienced the first stages of reversion. Through virtuous friendships, prayer, reading, good spiritual direction, regular mass attendance, and becoming active in parish ministry, that initial question made a lot more sense. The way in which my own experience of faith gave me a deep sense of direction and meaning produced in me a strong desire to give that experience to others…even if it meant radically changing my life.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
As I mentioned, the friendships I developed with virtuous men of faith from all walks of life were, as they remain, . The fact that these men were able to find deep peace in living a life so contrary to “the modern-man dogma” was as perplexing as it was beautiful and inspirational. Like most American guys my age, I grew up hearing the stories of folklore legends like Paul Bunyan and John Henry, reading about sports legends, and seeing my fair share of war movies. It was ultimately the witness to the man of deep peace and humility, silently exhausting himself everyday of his God-given potential, “invincible”, yet routinely kneeling helplessly before the Lord, that any curiosity that I had regarding what I thought masculinity might be about vaporized. I never really looked at the picture of the King of the Universe laying in a manger amid farm animals the same way after that. God works in funny paradoxes.
What would you say is the role of prayer in the life of a seminarian and what effect does it have on one's ability to see God's call?
Every seminarian will tell you that prayer is paramount. That’s because it’s true. God will give you a variety of experiences throughout the course of your life to help guide you on the path that will bring you the most peace. The problem is, we can’t always recall, be thankful for, and thus make sense of these experiences on our own. This is necessary to understand God’s call and prayer is the tool that God has given us to do that. But don’t make the mistake of jumping right into wanting to know the truth about your vocation. Seek to really know Christ first, because through knowing Him, you’ll befriend Him, and through cultivation of that friendship, you’ll become loyal to Him. Discerning a deep act of loyalty to Christ, like priesthood and religious life, doesn’t make much sense without having first cultivated a friendship.
What advice would you give to a man who thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest?
Pray (refer to my previous answer), make good friends, and get involved in your parish community. With regard to prayer, find a spiritual director that will help guide your prayer life. Prayer is what forms the lens through which you view the world and consequently, your own purpose and meaning. Reflecting on the mere concept of vocation can yield a plethora of romantic ideas like becoming a missionary or renouncing your possessions and joining a Carthusian monastery. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Prayer and spiritual direction are what will eventually help you bring what God wants of you into focus.
With regard to friendships, make friends with holy, virtuous men, and move those friendships to the top of your priority list. Spending time with holy, virtuous men can lead you to discovering the real responsibility that fatherhood entails, which is integral to the priesthood. Additionally, it’s important to understand what Jesus Christ was doing when He dined with sinners. “Love thy neighbor” or “pray for those who persecute you” is vastly different from “befriend thy neighbor” or “seek fidelity in those who persecute you.” Don’t cultivate friendship with people who don’t practice virtue. It’s impossible for them to authentically desire what’s best for you if they don’t desire what’s best for themselves. Love them, give them the coat off your back if they ask for it, but don’t befriend them.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
The greatest challenge of our time facing a man considering seminary is probably the fear of uncertainty. Because we are so conditioned by empirical thought, we are disposed to think that we have to arrive at a certainty that is quantifiable in order to make a decision. The question over why we’re sad when someone close to us passes is quite different than the question of 2+2, though neither answer is any less certain than the other. The question regarding entering seminary is ultimately over whether God’s will demands it. His will is always certain, and it’s the only will that will make us happy, but we can’t quantify that certainty in human terms. While we ultimately have to decide through our own free will, the only way this decision is possible is through friendship with God, and understanding through that bond what He wills for us.
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your "free" time?
I’ve fallen in and out of a variety of hobbies, but the ones I’ve always stuck with are hiking/camping, climbing, biking, traveling, and playing guitar. I’ve had the privilege of having visited a lot of places both through prior work and leisure travel – some highlights were Patagonia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand’s South Island, and in recent memory, a backcountry trip with my brothers and friends through the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
Be men of prayer and live the Gospel.