One of the things that I think important, but rarely get to carry out, is encouraging seminarians in their vocations, even if they don’t end up becoming priests. We all should, of course; the problem is that I actually don’t know any seminarians. The fiance of the younger of my two sisters was in the seminary for four years, but that doesn’t count. (Note: he met my sister after he left the seminary.)
But at the CMAA colloquium, there were quite a few priests and seminarians present, which gave me plenty of time to interact with them and chat. I sat at a table with several priests and seminarians during the opening dinner, I bought one lunch during the week and had a pretty good chat, and I had a long theological chat with a slightly-later-in-life seminarian (the ripe ol’ age of 40) as fireworks went off for the 4th of July.
And they were great guys. They spoke happily of their plans for the priesthood and discussed how they knew. No story was the same — one guy had known since he was 7 and started seminary at 22, and another knew early but wasn’t sure it was really the case, so he went and worked a series of jobs that included sea captain. Then he realized he really was called, and so now, at 40, he was preparing to become a priest. They discussed their love for the Mass and the Church. I got new insights on not only seminarians, but other aspects of church life (there was a good discussion of ad orientem Masses that offered a theological perspective I’ve never thought about).
Toward the end of one of the chats, the 40-year-old seminarian leaned over.
“You should consider the priesthood,” he said.
Well, I’m sure I’m not called to the priesthood. But even though I’m not called, I want to encourage those who are. And I’m very grateful for the chance to do so. And I hope I have the chance to do so again, and soon.