“Yes, heresy, Khim, for no matter what you may think, the tradition of the Church, the teachings of the Fathers, the Councils, the Doctors, and even downright common sense tell us that God does know all things. If He did not, He would not be God. Don’t give it another thought.”
That settled that. God knew I was a seminarian. The fear that one day, as He was benignly observing His world, He would spot me in a diocesan habit and question, “How did you get in?” was dispelled by the sage advice of my Uncle.
It would be difficult to say how it started. As news got around I was planning to enter the seminary, many people raised questioning eyebrows that screamed, “You won’t last!” When these doubts become the query, “Why do you want to become a priest? The reply would be cynical enough, “Oh I’m getting little tired of having girlfriends.” That always stopped them cold. Perhaps the answer might be a simple statement of the fact: “No girlfriend problems.” But to the sincere, those who seriously wondered how a mixture of an avid online gamer, Arthur Bernard Dolino Liu-Pio and his Hale band, and St. John Marie Vianney would fit into the routine and spiritual climate of a diocesan community, the answer came equally sincere, “I think it is what God wants me to do.” No sentimentality, no how-wonderful-to-stroll-beside-a-creek-and-meditate idea.
It was a hard reality, and I wondered myself how I would fit in. I was older; I loved my family very much, I had been out in the world- all these things would make hard to adjust. Then, too, seminarians were so gentle and holy; I was neither and far from it. However, if this is what God desired of me, I knew He would supply me the grace necessary for any sacrifice, provided I did not hold out on Him. Furthermore, if it were God’s will that I serve Him as his future priest, I knew that no matter how long I resisted His call, even should I eventually silence it, I would never find peace of soul and I would end up by defacing the years He has allowed me on earth. I was well aware that a priestly vocation is an invitation, one which we are free to accept it or reject it, but I was equally aware that this freedom determines, not so much our life in time, as our life in eternity. These convictions were reached in a rather round-about fashion. You can say it happened this way.
Like most first graders, as soon as I saw the priest celebrating the mass, the goal of life had been determined. How nice to wear a long dress all the time, and to be able to scold people legitimately during your sermon. The seed had been sown. My mother was so good. Never once can I remember her asking me for her duster I used as alb (a long linen robe worn by priests), although I’m sure she found it absurd that her only son wearing those.
That reminds me…The Family. Well, it wasn’t exactly what one call pious- not even remotely so. We abstained from meat on some Fridays, went to mass on Sundays- please do not misunderstand. What I mean is that we did not say the family rosary, we argued over who was going to say the grace at meals, we did not indulge in spiritual reading or any of those, but we did have a lot of fun as well as our share of heartaches. We lived in a wooden three-room house. Probably the best of it was the front yard. There the whole neighborhood would gather on summer evenings to talk, or sing, or listening to the radio.
Technically speaking, the family by blood numbered five, but a couple of years ago a man came to live with us and has been there ever since. We also “adopted” a young woman; my sister’s classmate, added to the pride of our otherwise renegade household. One summer there were ten people living in our house. Where did they all fit? I don’t know, but there was never a dull moment.
The seed which was planted in the early years was not fostered by this conglomeration of people I called family. In a few years the vocation reposed, silent, in the depths of my soul, not to emerge again with any insistency for a number of years. This lovable, thoroughly maddening and slightly hysterical piece of society was a little uncomfortable when a priestly vocation suddenly sprang up in its midst, but no more surprised than the recipient. We both accustomed to it, though.
A public high school education cannot be called a nursery for religious life, except the negative sense. There were no signs around to remind one of first Fridays, oftentimes no prayers before the class, no teachers exhorting one to frequent Communion. If you did these things, you did them on your own, gaining merit thereby, perhaps. I cannot say I always did them. During these years I can only trust that the seed was sinking deeper and deeper and will some day result in the tree growing taller than a superficial planting would allow.
Childish and the ways of the younger years simply did not go over. In an institution of 500 students, one meets and deals with all kinds of people, many good, some not so good. I did all things that people do during the carefree period of life, living for the present, little thought for the future. Much of my spare time was spent in the virtual world and of course with virtual friends.
College life can be so simple at times and then again so complex: simple in terms of the curriculum, complex in terms of extra-curriculum. The boards and chalk produced a nostalgic reaction, and once again spare times were spent at the virtual world, cramming in Mathematics, much to the distress of the professor. Life went on normally enough- normally, that is for a college student. A curtain was drawn or the door closed whenever priestly life was mentioned. Fighting? Yes, fighting lest the young shoots show themselves at all.
Then it happened.
But before I tell you why I become a seminarian, let me check off some of the reasons that did not influence my decision. First of all, let me say that I become a seminarian not because I wanted to. Nor was I disappointed with love. There was no parental influence forcing me, and the life did not appeal to my youthful romantic notions. None of my friends were entering religious life, so that did not impel me to make my decision. Definitely, I didn’t have the desire of becoming a priest- but the Lord had other plans. Like practically every other normal boy, I, too, dreamed of a family of my own, so I did not enter seminary after high school graduation because I had a warped outlook on life. If there are any more false notions about why a boy enters the seminary, cross them off, too. The truth of the matter is that I, like many others, did NOT want to be a seminarian.
It took time and though and much prayer that all things are in God, that without Him there is nothing. This is so true. The real wealth is not in having money, but rather in living a life that is profitable as God measure it. It was mine to decide, but decision was difficult as long as I did not want what God planned. Now, indeed, I thank Him for the inestimable grace that, though no merit of mine, He conferred upon me; for He it is who calls each individual soul to follow Him. But no one has to accept the invitation: it is for each one to decide. Indeed, vocation is a paradox- one is both called and sent.
And what I have found?
I have discovered-faintly though it may be- the joy and peace to be found in God, and now the life that once seemed complex, so filled with myriad cares and concerns, has taken on a new proportion; and the complexities have resolved themselves to suit the proportion of harmony. Somehow all the thousands of little daily events seem no longer trivial, and my life seems no longer merely individual, but rather all activity and my own individual life are part of the great whole.
Many times in past two years I have said that if I had any regrets about entering seminary life there would only be one: that I had not entered sooner. But happiness leaves no room for regrets, and happiness is what I have found.
Why did I enter the seminary? Because it was God’s plan for me, and He showed me this by giving me the desire to help others, and through them to help and love- Christ.