Seeking the priesthood through prayer
From an article I wrote for the RI Catholic years ago:
This time last year I entered Our Lady of Providence Seminary (OLP) on Mount Pleasant Avenue with a heart that was heavy and a backpack that was light. In an effort to determine whether or not the strings of my heart were pulling me toward the priesthood, I agreed to attend the annual Bishop’s discernment overnight retreat. I returned to the same retreat one year later with a peaceful heart and no bag at all, for now I am a seminarian and OLP is my home. My journey to OLP, like that of my brother seminarians, is a unique one.
My high school years were spent on the straight and narrow path, attending Mount Saint Charles Academy and dedicating my extracurricular time working with Fr. Marot at the Catholic Youth Organization Center. This path began to diverge, however, with the advent of my involvement in politics while an undergrad student at The University of Rhode Island. With one foot in the classroom and the other working for campaigns, consulting firms and interest groups, the path on which I traveled brought me throughout Rhode Island and around the country, all the while away from God.
Thankfully God’s fervent grace threw a fork in the road. It was at fancy cocktail parties at Bellevue Avenue mansions or conventions in Washington, D.C. hotels that I heard in the silence of my heart Christ asking me the same question He once asked two disciples: “What are you looking for?” Through prayer and with the help of the priests at OLP, I was able to answer that question in the form of an application to enter the seminary. What a great gift it has been to enter OLP during the Year for Priests. As I witness priests in a special way “strive for spiritual perfection,” I am reminded that this year-long period of strengthening and renewal is ultimately a time not for priests but for all those whom they serve. In this realization am I profoundly reminded of and comforted by the life that lay ahead of me after ordination.
In the mean time, seminary life allows for great growth and fellowship. Our program, built on the four pillars of spiritual, human, pastoral and intellectual formation, immerses us in our faith. Depending on the day, my average schedule includes Mass in the morning, classes at PC, visiting patients at Kent County Hospital, evening prayer and dinner. Nights are spent attending a short conference and night prayer, doing homework or taking time to watch an occasional movie or play cards. There is a great sense of community, and a lot of fun to be had on a daily basis. We have constant support in the form of spiritual directors, formation advisers, a staff psychologist and a rector, amongst others and are engaged constantly by the Church’s many facets. The pearl that is seminary life, however, does not come without great price. The days can be long and the program intense.
To prepare a man to the priesthood, though, is to spend years chiseling away at and fitting him for the armor of God. Our modern times and its many challenges require nothing less; The Church needs real men of God. If St. John Vianney was right in famously saying that “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus,” then the office of the priesthood requires that one traces its every beat. During my time spent working in politics, “I [saw] all things that are done under the sun” and realized that “…all is vanity and a chase after wind.” I thank God for bringing me from that world into that of OLP, ask you to pray for all seminarians and priests and finally implore any man thinking of the priesthood to contact the vocations office.
Happy Year for Priests.
By Ryan Bilodeau