Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, but an especially happy day to my own daddio, Mike Adorjan who, by way of raising me and dealing with my shenanigans, is the man.
A lot of people ask me if I’m ever sorry that I’ll never be a dad, have a wife and kids of my own, and all that business. And when I first started thinking about seminary, when I wasn’t really sure what the heck I was doing with my life, when I hadn’t come to see the reality of the priesthood….I was kind of sorry about this new fact of my life, should I get ordained. Admittedly, I still was not convinced of the necessity and practicality of a celibate priesthood and often questioned why priests couldn’t be happy doing their ministry and raising a family.
Of course, today I am obviously much more akin to the challenges of the priestly life and the family life. Not that I’ve ever really lived either one to its fullest degree, but I’ve seen enough of each of them (mostly the former) to understand that, while they are not combined in the Roman Church, they are incredibly complimentary.
One of the most helpful discernment exercises I like to do in prayer is spend two holy hours (not in a row! I can hardly write this post in one sitting) letting the Lord guide my imagination as I ponder my future. First, the exercise asks us to consider ourselves as married men with a wife and somewhere between 2-5ish kids doing all the things that dads do: go to work, cut the lawn, have family parties, watch the kids grow up, go to a football game (or, in my case, a school play :] ), discipline the kids, sit down with my wife and balance the books, fix a leaky roof, and that kind of stuff. If these things and the possibility of living this life brings you peace and joy, it can be a small indicator that you are being called to the vocation of marriage.
The second part asks us to consider what life would be like as a priest, doing all the things that priests do. Things like wearing a collar at the grocery store, wearing vestments, celebrating 615am daily Mass, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, going to parish council meetings, decorating the church, getting a call at 3am from the hospital or a family in need, changing light bulbs, preparing couples for marriage, being present for wakes and funerals, that kind of stuff. And, just like before, if these things bring you peace, joy, and a feeling of excitement, then it can be a small indicator that you are being called to the vocation of priesthood.
For me, the latter was true. The doubts that I have about priesthood continue to diminish as God opens my heart more and more and shows me that I can still be myself and be a good priest. When I spend time in prayer considering myself as the nucleus of a family with a wife and kids, it makes me happy to think that I might be able to do that but, in all honesty, I feel a sense of constriction. I do not think that I was made to love one person and be with one person my entire life. I am not in ANY WAY putting down those who are called marriage. I think marriage in its truest form is one of the most beautiful things in the world but, let’s be candid, it is obvious that not all people were made for it.
When I consider the priesthood, I do not feel a sense of constriction or of being limited. Instead, I feel a great sense of freedom. Because a priest is not called to love one person or one family the most, but he is called to love as God loves, which is to love all people the most! Marriage and the priesthood are each vocations of love because in them we are called, in different ways of course, to spread the message of Christ’s love to all.
To be the spiritual rock of a parish, witness of Christ to a family in need, representative of the Church and of God to a dying person, message of hope to a struggling teen, source of joy to the downtrodden, and all of these things of priestly life bring such joy to my heart BUT the thing that stifled my concerns about not being married and living a life of chaste celibacy for the Church and for God was this: I may not have 3 people call me ‘Dad,’ but I’ll have thousands more call me ‘Father.’ Through the priesthood, I will be the Father that God has created me to be.
When we’re doing the Lord’s work, there is nothing more exciting or rewarding than being exactly where he wants you to be doing exactly what he needs you to do.
Thanks to Blessed John Paul II, Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, Cardinal Dolan, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Father Burke Masters, Father Bill Dewan, Father Jim Lennon, Father Steven Borello, Father Michael Becker, Father John Acrea, Father Dan Stempora, Father David Medow, Father Tom Milota, Father David Mowry, all my priest heroes, and all the unsung priests of the world who have lived their priestly identity with integrity, respect, and love.
Through these fine men and my brother seminarians I’ve seen what joy, what love, what peace there is in this life and the great privilege it is to be a Father.
God bless you.