John Howard, a soon-to-be seminarian in England, invited me to pen my call-story (the story of my vocation) to put on the website that he runs: http://www.catholicpriest.me.uk/. As far as I know, his website is the only religious vocation discernment site run by teens for teens. My good friend John Bender (of http://www.writingsofaboydiscerninggodscall.blogspot.com/) also moderates this site. It has been an inspiration for me and has given me many resources which have aided me in my discernment. I hope all of you check it out and pray for him, as he is entering the seminary this year.
Though I was a little reluctant to post such a personal piece, after prayer and reflection, I accepted John’s offer. This the following is the piece that I sent:
What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it. You will, as a result, satisfy your heart, better than with something towards which you yourself are inclined. – St. John of the Cross O.C.D. (1542-1591)
Hello, my name is Ken. I am 15, and I live in Colgate, Wisconsin. My call story is not one of an earth-shattering conversion, nor has it been sparked by one of those “amazing mystical experiences.” I have – since about the age of 3 – experienced an irresistible draw, rather than an audible call.
As I mentioned, it all started for me at the age of 3. My (then Lutheran) Grandpa had a great love for Catholicism (not to mention, his Catholic wife), and he often took my family and I to Holy Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. There, I squirmed in the pew, sang very loudly, banged the kneelers, stole the holy cards from the missals and had great desire to be a Carmelite priest. My young mind had a strong curiosity for what happened “up there” at the altar. After we would come home from the Basilica, I would dress up in my “vestments”- which consisted of a black, XL men’s tee shirt- pull out my “Mass Kit,” yell for my congregation (Mom) and “say Mass.” It was unexplainable, I was irresistibly drawn to the altar – I wanted to say the Mass, I wanted to be a priest.
As I grew older, my desire and spirituality grew as well. I am greatly indebted to my parents, particularly my mom, who did-and still do-everything in their power to foster my vocation. Indeed, I am also deeply indebted to many a priest who shared with me: his call story, his prayers, his admirable guidance and amiable example.
If you have not noticed, a reoccurring theme in this story is the Basilica of Holy Hill. The Discalced Carmelite Friars, who serve at the Basilica, have had the most impact on my discernment. Their spirituality, legacy, and charism are like a magnet to my soul.
At about the age of 7, I had pretty much made up my mind that God wanted me to be a priest. My family had started going to (almost) daily Mass, and my vocation, already rooted in Holy Mass, experienced newfound nourishment. I was then puzzled with a new thought, does God want me to be a diocesan priest – like my pastor – or an ordered priest – like my good Carmelite friends? I prayed on this question for quite sometime and found myself drawn to Carmel.
In this day and age, I see that there is great confusion in the differentiation between the fundamentals of career vs. vocation. I have sadly seen many take their vocation – their call from God – and try to turn into a 9-5 job. I realized that I had a vocation, and that I wanted to live it in such a way as to safeguard it from the temptation of turning it into a career. I wanted a tangible brotherhood to assist me in my prayer and duties. I prayed on this, and found myself drawn to Carmel.
Around the beginning of my teen years, I started to serve Holy Mass and once again experienced newfound nourishment for my vocation. I was the closest of “un-ordained” to the altar. Fr. Redemptus Short O.C.D. said it best, in a conversation with me. He said “When you serve [Mass], you take the place of the angels.” I truly felt at home when I served. I had arrived, I was here; this was where I belonged. The experiences which occurred when I served Holy Mass, spurred me to pray and discern with more zeal. It was unexplainable.
Last year, I met with my spiritual director for the first time, christening a new leg of my discernment journey. We discussed my draw to Carmel and my aspirations. Father gave me a book, God the Joy of My Life the life and diary of St. Teresa of the Andes. As a read this book, I realized this was what I wanted. Her life was, in some ways, much like my own – yet her sanctity was far above mine. St. Teresa exemplified the virtues of long-suffering, humility, and joy. She found herself in Carmel. When I finished the book, I knew that I belonged in Carmel. I just knew that I was called to be a small, insignificant, humble friar – not called to perform astounding miracles, not called to change the world, but to joyfully suffer the cross of humility and to pray.
Many people now ask me, why the Discalced Carmelites – they’re a contemplative order? We need you on the front lines in the war against paganism; not shut up in a monastery praying. My answer is simple – the active are the hands, the contemplative are the heart. If you chop off the hands, the heart bleeds out. However, if you remove the heart, the hands are useless. Both are necessary, and I am drawn to be the heart. My answer continues as I point out that we are called to holiness, to be close to Christ and his mother. How can you get any closer to the Blessed Mother, and thus Christ, than by wearing her garment – the brown scapular -the habit of the Carmelites?
So please pray for me, the Lord (and my family) knows – I need it. Please pray that I stay on the path of holiness, discerning and not straying. Please pray for an increase of vocations, for “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” Above all, thank God for calling mere men, to serve in persona Christi. Thank you and may God Bless You!!!