(Posted by guest blogger Dr. Matthew Bunson)
Last month, I promised to talk about a recent journey I made to Pennsylvania. I have the privilege of serving on the Historical Commission investigating the life of Servant of God, the Reverend Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770 – 1840) as part of the Cause of Canonization that was started some years ago by Bishop Joseph Adamec, the Bishop Altoona-Johnstown. I was in town for meetings, and the bishop asked me to give a talk to one of the local Catholic High Schools. The topic was Gallitzin.
For those unfamiliar with his remarkable story…
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin devoted forty years of his life to establishing the Church in Western Pennsylvania. Born in The Hague, Holland, he was the son of the Russian Prince and was baptized in the Orthodox Church; Empress Catherine the Great of Russia was his godmother. Under the influence of his mother, Demetrius entered the Catholic Church in 1787. While his father expected him to be a diplomat or a soldier, Demetrius had other ideas. He set sail for the United States, reached Baltimore, Maryland, on October 28, 1792 and presented himself to an understandably astonished Bishop John Carroll with the request that he be permitted to enter the seminary.
After studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Prince Gallitzin was ordained a priest on March 18, 1795. He was the first priest to receive all his preparation for the priesthood and orders in the United States. In 1796, he was asked to make an emergency visit to the Allegheny Mountains to deliver the last rites to a Catholic in Capt. Michael McGuire’s settlement in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. The visit proved a significant one, for Father Gallitzin recognized the immense pastoral opportunities and needs in the region and went so far as to buy land there with the long-range objective of forging a true Catholic community in the mountains. After several years of petitioning Bishop Carroll, Father Gallitzin was at last granted permission to serve as pastor in western Pennsylvania. Using thousands of dollars of his own money, Father Gallitzin built a church at what came to be known as Loretto, Pennsylvania and celebrated his first Mass there on Christmas Day, 1799.
For the next forty years, he served with great distinction as pastor over virtually the whole of Western Pennsylvania. Along the way, he lost his princely inheritance, braved blizzards and disease, stared down Protestant critics, and even struggled with his sometime unruly flock in the mountains. Above all, he sacrificed the companionship of those trained and raised in European culture. He spoke multiple languages and knew art, literature, philosophy, and music and thus had little opportunity to enjoy culture and the arts. In the end, he died as he lived, celebrating Mass and spreading the truths of the Catholic faith in a wild land far from his birthplace and family.
The life of Demetrius Gallitzin is intriguing in itself, but it is especially interesting in light of National Vocations Week.
As many have written over the years (myself included), the path to ordination – or the religious life – is not always a straight or even an easy one. Demetrius Gallitzin was hardly a likely candidate to become a missionary in the wilderness of America. He could have stayed in Europe and likely would have become a bishop. Instead, when he heard Christ’s call, he did not try to answer it on his terms.
Which brings me back to the high school in Altoona. I told the students about Gallitzin, but I also reminded them about the adventure that could await them if they, like Gallitzin, give a yes to Christ. We all are called to a vocation, be it the priesthood, religious life, marriage, or single life. The key is accepting that God should be the one doing the driving. When we let that happen, we truly are setting out on an adventure beyond anything we might have imagined.
My blog this month ends with the marvelous words of the new bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Kevin Rhoades who was installed a few days ago at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on a crisp afternoon in Fort Wayne. Reflecting on being called by Christ, he chose for the Gospel reading at his installation Mark’s account of Christ calling the Apostles (1:14-20):
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zeb'edee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zeb'edee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.
The Bishop declared in his homily:
During these past few weeks of preparation for this day, my thoughts during prayer have centered on the scene of today's Gospel: fishermen casting and mending their nets along the Sea of Galilee. They were ordinary men, busy with their daily work, but suddenly their lives changed. They met Jesus of Nazareth who said to them: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, allowed themselves “to be won over by (Jesus’) gaze, his voice, his warm and strong invitation” (Pope Benedict XVI). They left their work, their livelihood, and their families to begin a new life in communion with Christ. Their adventure as fishers of men, as apostles, thus began. They would become intimately involved in our Lord's mission of proclaiming the Gospel of God. The Church would be built on the foundation of these four men and the other apostles whom Jesus called to be fishers of men.
Next month, I will talk about a memorable speech given by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Yours in Christ,
This week is National Vocation Awareness Week, the period set aside each year by the Church to increase the visibility and appreciation of Church vocations. At Vocation Boom!, we’re blessed to be able to offer our contribution to this special week by airing the first series of radio shows that are part of the Vocation Boom! Road Show.
All this week on Catholic radio stations across the United States, I’ll be hosting either live or pre-recorded shows that will feature bishops, priests, vocation directors, seminarians and their family members, and laypeople who are all as passionate as we are at Vocation Boom! about promoting vocations to the priesthood.
While National Vocation Awareness Week is designed to focus on all the different vocations within the Church, Vocation Boom!’s specific mission is to work for an increase in vocations to the priesthood. And if our week of radio shows is any indication, the future of priestly vocations is very bright.
My guests will include:
The Vocation Boom! Road Show will air at various times around the country. If you’re not sure whether there’s a Catholic radio station in your area, you can check here. The shows will air Monday through Friday from 5-6 p.m. Central Time on Relevant Radio, including live broadcasts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Each new year brings new opportunities and new resolutions. Please make one of your resolutions be to encourage the young men you know to consider a vocation to the priesthood. And if you would be so kind, please also consider supporting the work of Vocation Boom! by making a financial contribution which will be used to help us continue our mission.
p.s. Don't forget to become our fan on Facebook!
(Posted by guest blogger Fr. Michael Najim)
I’ve been in vocation ministry long enough to know that it’s not always easy for a man to decide to enter the seminary. For example, sometimes he experiences resistance from his family or friends, and this lack of support adds to his own hesitancy to make a decision.
There are a myriad of other excuses that a man can use to avoid entering the seminary. By no means do I consider the following list to be exhaustive; but as you read, you may be able to identify with one or more of these excuses.
But, my brother, you keep thinking about the priesthood. And the more you try to push it out of your mind, the stronger it becomes. You find yourself more and more attracted to the priestly life. When you pray, the priesthood is on your heart. It’s a mystery, and you really can’t put your finger on it, but for some reason you feel that there’s more to life than you’re experiencing at this moment. You say you’re still not sure, but everything that you’re experiencing in your heart is drawing you to the priesthood. Isn’t that “proof” enough that God is calling you? You must enter the seminary to definitively know.
Well, let’s take a look at the original twelve. I wouldn’t exactly say that they had halos around their heads when Jesus called them. Matthew was a tax collector, and they were pretty much considered scum by taxpayers during Jesus’ time. Simon Peter had a tendency to be irascible. He was notorious for sticking his foot in his mouth. The Twelve were mostly simple fishermen. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that they were perfect before or after they were called. Jesus didn’t call them because they were perfect; He called them so that he could shine through their weaknesses. We’re never going to be perfect, but with God’s grace we can grow in holiness. Besides, as priests, it’s important for us to show people compassion. When we know our own weaknesses, it’s easier for us to show God’s mercy to others.
Great! If you think you’d make a good father and husband, then you would make a phenomenal priest. Being a priest doesn’t mean that you lose the desire for fatherhood or spousal intimacy; nor does it mean that you sacrifice being a father. In fact, the priest’s deepest identity is being a spiritual father. He is also called to be a chaste spouse to the Church. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a priest is less of a man because he is not married. The priest needs to be a great father and he needs to love the Church, the Bride of Christ.
If you want to keep your options open for now, what’s to say that you won’t be in the same place ten years from now? Isn’t this just an excuse to be uncommitted? Christian men need to rise above the tendency of many men to remain uncommitted. Jesus needs men who are willing to give themselves without reservation to lead people to Him. So stop messing around with keeping your options open. Man up! Get off your duff and make a move! You’re not becoming more of a man by remaining uncommitted. All you’re doing is being wishy-washy and letting the world dictate your decision. Sorry to be so strong, but if this is your excuse, then you, my brother, simply need a kick in the butt.
It’s good that you can admit it. But don’t you think there’s a reason why the words “Do not be afraid” appear so frequently in the Scriptures? Gabriel said it to Mary. Joseph heard the same words from the angel. Jesus told Simon Peter not to be afraid. The Lord knew that fear would be a big obstacle in our spiritual lives. That’s why He spoke these words so often. We should only fear offending God. Other than that, fear is not of God and we should reject it in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you feel in your heart that the Lord is calling you but fear is keeping you from responding, you must fight against that fear. Don’t allow fear to dictate your decision. It will be a great victory for you.
So, there you have it. Five really bad excuses you’re using to avoid the seminary. Now stop discerning and make a decision!
Fr. Michael Najim was ordained on June 23, 2001. He is the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Providence and a formator at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians and he blogs at www.liveholiness.com
Vocation Boom! is taking its next step! During National Vocation Awareness Week (January 11 through the 15), the Vocation Boom Road Show will broadcast nationwide on Catholic radio. As the go-to resource for vocations, we hit the road to talk to seminarians, their parents, and mentors to find out their personal vocation stories.
On location in Detroit, we visited two seminaries, Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the heart of the city, and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in the suburbs. Fr. Tim Birney, the Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Msgr. John Kasza, Dean of Academics at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, opened their doors to us as we taped the first five episodes of the Vocation Boom Road Show. What an experience it was – and you get to share it with us during the second full week of 2010.
The programs feature in depth, heartfelt interviews with priests, seminarians, and their parents, who share the profound details of how the call to serve God has changed their lives. We also got the inside scoop on vocations today from Fr. Birney and Msgr. Kasza, men dedicated to inspiring young men to consider the priesthood.
We’re already working on our next stops and The Vocation Boom! Road Show would love to come to your area next! For more information on how to bring us to your local seminary or diocese, please contact us at email@example.com.
The Vocation Boom Road Show delivers the real story of what it is like to be called by God and have the courage to say, “Yes, Lord!” You can’t afford to miss this incredible programming event January 10-16 as our series debuts! For a list of stations and airtimes, click here.