At seven years old, I told my mother I’d think about being a priest when I grew up, “if they still needed them.” And at twelve, I was convinced I was supposed to be a priest and dove headfirst into my faith.
Two years later, I had no interest in priesthood or religious life. But God doesn’t give up so easily.
When I was on my junior Kairos retreat in high school, I went to confession. When I was done, I thanked the priest for his vocation and mentioned that I once thought about doing what he was doing. He told me God might still be calling me to priesthood, but I dismissed the idea. After all, I had been dating the same girl for almost two years at that point. We broke up seven months later, but that didn’t affect a significant change in my thoughts about priesthood.
Others, however, could see that potential in me. During my senior year, I remember my mom asking me if I was still thinking about being a priest. Confused, I told her that I wasn’t. My classmates voted me most likely to be a priest, but I just chuckled to myself and shrugged the thought off.
I met the Jesuits when I enrolled at Loyola Chicago (LUC) and began attending daily Mass. A class I took in the spring of my sophomore year at LUC helped shift my entire perspective on my life and the Church. It was called “Church in the World,” and the professor taught us the basics of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), a topic I was only vaguely familiar with.
Every class left me pondering the implications CST should have on my life. Ultimately, I was left with one question above the others: how was I going to live out my faith when I graduated? What was I going to do for a living that would allow me to be a good and faithful Catholic?
Near the end of the semester, a possible answer to that question presented itself when three young Jesuits 1 came into the class and talked to us about why they had decided to become Jesuits. I was captivated with their stories and how they’d found their way to a vocation.
One of the men had a promising career in politics ahead of him, but he gave that up to be a Jesuit. Another was engaged to be married before he realized that God was calling him to something else. None of them had any regret from leaving their previous lives behind. They found joy in their decision to follow God as Jesuits.
That night, I wrote in my journal that I could see myself as a Jesuit. These men seemed so alive and happy with where they were. And the other Jesuits I had met were academically brilliant, inspiring in their preaching, and full of a deep love of God.
In considering the question, becoming a Jesuit felt like a natural solution to my question from class. In a way, it even felt like the “easy” solution. Jesuit life would allow me to live with people who would help me to grow in my faith. Of course, being a Jesuit would have its share of sacrifices, particularly the prospect of forfeiting the possibility of any romantic relationships. Seriously considering a Jesuit vocation meant embracing these sacrifices.
Still, I tried to dismiss this solution. I told myself becoming a Jesuit didn’t make sense. I would have to change the plans I had for my life at that point, and I didn’t want to do that. But, no matter how much I ignored it, the desire to be a Jesuit kept coming back. It hounded me. I decided to talk to a good friend, a student two years older than me and the man who had taught me how to pray a few years prior.
I stared at the ground as I told him that I was thinking of, maybe, possibly, becoming a Jesuit. He smiled warmly and congratulated me on the news. He said that, he had once thought about being a Jesuit. I exhaled. And then I talked about all of my fears, doubts, and insecurities. He listened patiently, nodding at points.
But I didn’t convince him becoming a Jesuit wasn’t my vocation. Instead, he affirmed my process of discernment. He told me to not be afraid to keep exploring the vocation.
A few weeks later at daily Mass, the priest preached on the day’s first reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles. He said that if the early Church was from God, it would last (as it has) and if it was not it would fade away. I smiled and laughed at myself, knowing then that this was to be my lens in discernment: if the thought of a Jesuit vocation persisted, it must be from God.
Thanks to a lot of prayer and conversations, some two years later I showed up to the Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota in August 2013. I was nervous, but I took the first step through the door, trusting that this was God’s call.
Now I’ve been a Jesuit for seven years. The little signs of the call were there all along, and in hindsight they seem obvious. But it took other people to pull my vocation out of me.
What are God’s people calling out of you?
- All of whom are now priests ↩