Pope Francis during the Angelus on the Feast of the Epiphany speaks beautifully about the journey of every Christian as it relates to the journey of the three kings. Francis explains that these men were “attentive to the signs” along their journey and were “attentive, tireless and courageous.” So too, Francis demonstrated, is our journey as Christians who seek the Lord. How true this is for men discerning the priesthood.
A common problem that a lot of men in discernment face is an extended feeling of uncertainty—perhaps the idea of priesthood has been in the back of their mind for some time, but they see time going by and become pressured by outside influences; they become tired of asking God, “What is your will for my life?” They shift their attention from the different “signs” pointing them toward responding positively to God calling them to the priesthood and they become discouraged. Feelings of unworthiness, doubt, and fear can cloud one’s judgment as they move through life avoiding what they originally sought. Yet, as Pope Francis reminds us, the Magi can serve as an example to be attentive, tireless, and courageous on the journey of discernment.
Be attentive. When discerning the priesthood, or any vocation for that matter, it is very important to be aware. We must be aware of the different “stars” God places in our lives, which guide our way on our journey of knowing and doing His will. Simply going through the motions and daily grind blindly cannot get us there. That would be like the magi traveling through the desert and not paying attention to the star, the patterns of the wind and weather. Instead, the Christian must be attentive to how God is making Himself present in the daily grind. How is God speaking to your heart? Where, When, How do you feel His presence throughout the day? Are there certain instances when you do not feel His presence? Being attentive to these moments and instances of consolation and desolation can be extremely helpful in seeking God’s will.
Be tireless. Traveling through the desert and wilderness during the time of Jesus’ birth was no easy feat. We know that the magi were following a star, which means they often traveled at night. This was not safe, nor encouraged. They traveled through the desert and the wilderness and must have dealt with various obstacles, yet they were tireless in their quest, never letting the obstacles take them off course or cancel the journey. They stuck it out until they reached their destination—they reached the Lord.
Be courageous. The magi had to face both interior and exterior struggles on their journey seeking the Lord. Not only did they face natural obstacles, they must have dealt with interior struggles about their intellectual and spiritual search. Similarly, there are many things that can dishearten someone from pursuing their vocation. Common interior hurdles many discerning men face are feelings of unworthiness or being incapable of handling such a call; men struggle with letting go of desires toward a certain career or life goals; men fear loneliness and struggle with the idea of celibacy and not having a family of their own. Exterior hurdles include pressure from relatives or friends, different circumstances of life dealing with finances, loss, or worldly longings. It takes a great deal of courage to face these obstacles and allow oneself to become detached from them, allowing God to fulfill the longings and desires of the heart.
Be attentive; be tireless; be courageous. Christ calls each person to Himself and He speaks in the quietness of the heart. The call may take time to hear. The journey in response to the call might be long. But have courage; be not afraid for the Lord is with you, guiding you and He will never abandon you.