Ordination Day

Today I received an invi­ta­tion to my ordi­na­tion.

Not real­ly, of course. I just cel­e­brat­ed my sec­ond wed­ding anniver­sary, my wife and I are hap­pi­ly rais­ing our four-month-old son, and I wouldn’t change any of that. But the fact that I spent almost four years in a Catholic sem­i­nary, trav­el­ing near­ly halfway to the priest­hood, is some­thing that is always in the back of my mind. And this year the mem­o­ries are espe­cial­ly poignant: had I stayed the course, I would be receiv­ing the sacra­ment of Holy Orders this sum­mer. In a par­al­lel life, where I dis­cerned a dif­fer­ent voca­tion, I would be a priest in six weeks.

I have two class­mates get­ting ordained in July. I have not seen either of them in almost five years. We have not kept in touch. They have been study­ing at a sem­i­nary in Rome, far away in a dif­fer­ent world, a world I once lived in, too. I trust they are hap­py. I am excit­ed at the thought of the priests they will be; they are good young men, and they will serve God and the Church well for many years to come. I am look­ing for­ward to being there in the cathe­dral when the bish­op lays his hands on their heads and the pow­er of the Holy Spir­it comes upon them, mak­ing them priests for­ev­er.

But it will be a sad day for me, too; anoth­er bit­ter­sweet reminder of how I used to be on the inside, and am now for­ev­er on the out­side look­ing in. This is dif­fi­cult to write about, because I find myself danc­ing a razor-thin line: on the one hand, I do not wish to give the erro­neous impres­sion that I regret my deci­sion to leave priest­ly for­ma­tion (I do not), and on the oth­er hand I do not want to come across as a bit­ter young man whin­ing about his fail­ure. I am a hap­pi­ly-mar­ried young Catholic man with a deep attach­ment to the (extreme­ly for­ma­tive) time I spent in prepa­ra­tion for a life­time in ser­vice to my God and to my Church. The real­i­ty is that I dis­cerned — through much prayer and heart­break — that my heart was not being called to the ordained min­is­te­r­i­al priest­hood. But the real­i­ty is also that, ulti­mate­ly, I remain no less called to serve the Peo­ple of God; I am just still find­ing the pre­cise how.

So I am look­ing for­ward to being there in some back pew as two young men take the final step and devote them­selves, body and soul, to the ser­vice of God’s Peo­ple. I will prob­a­bly cry, clutch­ing my young son as my wife puts her con­sol­ing arm around me. I will hold them close, my fam­i­ly, my voca­tion, and I will pray for my two friends as they fol­low their divine call­ing. And I will pray that all of us, togeth­er, can build the City of God with peace and love.

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