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
Growing up, my parents made sure I would have a relationship with God. They used to pray with me and took me to Mass almost every day. When I was little, I really enjoyed praying as a family. I was always happy to spend time with my family, especially when we did things in the Church. My parents were also very protective of me. They made sure I would not waste my time watching worthless things on television. For this reason, most of what I used to watch on T.V. were things that helped me with school, religious movies about the Bible, or the lives of the Saints. I felt very inspired when watching the lives of those who gave up everything for God, consecrating themselves to God. At that time, I really wished to be like them.
Yet, as I grew older and advanced in school, I started to envy my classmates because of the many “things” they had—like phones, cable T.V., video games, etc. Those things made them look "happy", and would make them “fit in” with the rest of the class. Hence, I started questioning God about why these people had all these things and I did not, and why I was born in the family I had. Eventually, this led me to question God about my whole life and I began to hear a lie that God alone could not make me happy. My life changed and I no longer wanted to have anything to do with God. My main focus became to “fit in” and to look for happiness in those things the world presented to me. From that moment on, my life started to lose its true meaning. Thanks to the insistence of my parents, however, I went to the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil. This event was fundamental for me. Being in the midst of all those youth dancing, singing and praising God, gave me joy again. I no longer felt like an outsider because of my being part of a practicing Catholic family. God showed me that He could make me happier than everything else I was determined to put my life in. God reminded me of His love for me. Moreover, on this trip, I participated in a vocational call for any young man who felt God was calling him to become a priest. I felt very nervous and anxious as if it was something I wanted to do: as if God was calling me to follow him. Yet, at that moment I became scared again and I rejected the vocation.
However, this “uneasiness” never left me. Three years later I went to the World Youth Day in Poland, knowing this would help me make a decision. In fact, at that time, I had already started college. I had no idea about what I wanted to study or what I wanted to be, if not a priest.
The uncertainty about whether I was called to enter the seminary or not was killing me. During those days in Poland, I was terrified, and I did not want to answer the call that God was giving me. Then, thanks to a passage of Scripture that I heard during a celebration of the Word, I felt God was clarifying my doubts. Thus, I followed the advice of those who were telling me that the best way for me to discern was to enter the seminary.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
The pastor I had as a child made me fall in love with the priesthood. The image of the priest that he gave me inspired me to follow in the same way. He was always very friendly to me and my family. I was always happy to see him. The times I was sad or angry, this priest always managed to make me smile. He inspired me a lot, and I loved seeing him every Sunday. My parents were also very supportive in this regard. They would listen to me with patience, and whenever I would speak to them about the possible vocation to the priesthood, they would give me advice. The priests in charge of vocations from the Neocatechumenal Way in my Diocese helped me as well. They helped me distinguish God’s voice from the devil’s by using some strong examples from the Gospels. They told me about some of the things they had to go through when they were discerning. These priests showed me how priests are normal people, human like I am. I used to think they were some kind of superheroes: people who neither sinned nor suffered! Their acquaintance helped me take away those doubts which were hindering me from entering the seminary.
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
Praying is essential in the life of every Christian, and it takes on an even greater role when a person is discerning a call to follow Christ and be an image of Him in the world. For this reason, in the life of a seminarian, prayer is very important. Prayer is, a dialogue with Christ. A seminarian is invited to use it to discern the identity of the one who is trying to speak to his heart—be it God or “the other.” Christ prayed always, and so did many saints. This was the only weapon they had to persevere when tempted by the devil, or had to go to places where they would have rather not gone. It certainly becomes harder to follow Christ if one does not speak to him. In the seminary, prayer is what allows us to ask God for help, to ask for faith or for signs that confirm our call to the priesthood. Prayer helps us to silence the noise of the world, so as to be able to listen to God’s voice.
What advice would you give to a man who is thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest?
I would invite this man to take it seriously, and to think with a sincere heart about the signs God has given him about his vocation. If he feels he is called to the priesthood, he should seriously pray about it because, as it happens in any other vocation, trials accompany it. Since we are weak by nature, I would certainly advise this man to rely on God in trials, and to use the Word of God as strength against the devil. Sometimes, in fact, temptations can be clearly seen as not coming from God; other times, instead, the devil tries to use the word to confound us, like he did to Jesus in the desert. Finally, I would advise him to seek for help in discernment from others who are wiser and more experienced in the spiritual life.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
I like that everything is an adventure. Life is never boring or still. In the seminary, we are always doing something. Before coming to the seminary, I was mostly bored. Every day was the same to me. I would get up in the morning, go to school, play sports (mainly basketball), eat dinner and go to bed. Unexpected events would be the most exciting parts of my day.
Now, although the life in the seminary is mostly scheduled, unexpected events constantly surround us. Losing a bit of the control over my life was something I would have never thought I would be happy about. Yet, every day is a new one in the seminary, and life has become an adventure.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
The biggest challenge is the fear of somehow losing one’s life, or the fear of making a mistake. He may also fear that all the trials, the stress, the questioning, and all the time put into the seminary will only result in a waste of time. It is hard to get over the question “Is this real?”, “Is God really calling me?” This is answered with more ease when God sends you a clear sign regarding your vocation. Yet, a vocation is first of all a call to take a leap of faith: a leap that is scary, because it means to run the risk of losing a little of one’s life. It is an invitation to follow Christ with no clear certainties. It is hard to get over this fear.
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your "free" time?
I like to play sports a lot, especially basketball. I recently got to play on the official basketball team of the seminary. It was the first time I ever played on an actual team! I have also started to read more books—something I hated to do before. Sometimes I like to look for information on the internet about different interesting topics. For instance, I like getting to know about animal species that do not exist anymore, or check sports news, etc. Finally, I also like to play the guitar, to sing, to visit friends and watch movies.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
I think that if those who are considering the priesthood could have some recreational time with seminarians or priests, it would help to encourage their vocations. This could help them get to know and connect with those who are already discerning or have discerned the call. Many good fruits could come from these meetings. Many doubts or misconceptions could be clarified. Thanks to these moments, these men could be inspired or get closer to God, and have memorable moments in their lives. It would also give them the possibility to hang out with a different crowd than that which the world offers. These recreational moments could certainly provide for them some serious moments of reflection and prayer. Having a series of talks and catechesis could also help these young men to think seriously about their faith and about their vocation. Finally, there should always be people inviting and encouraging vocations to the priesthood, people who engage the youth, and are willing to listen and to guide them.