Kevin Staley-Joyce Pilot photo/courtesy Office for Vocations
Home town and state -- Boston, Mass.
High School -- The Roxbury Latin School
Seminary Attending -- Pontifical North American College, Fourth Theology
What are some of the factors that led to your decision to enter the seminary and discern the question of a vocation to the priesthood?
Any experience of the rationality and goodness of faith in Christ can lead someone to their vocation. St. Augustine's maxim, "Love God and do as you please" is sound advice if approached with a well-formed conscience and pure intentions. Once your desires are fixed on Christ, the message of Psalm 37 encapsulates the "end game" of discernment: "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." While some men experience a singular moment of clarity while discerning, others, like myself, experienced a more gradual movement of thought and intention toward pursuing the priestly vocation in earnest. As grace built up over time, I saw how good the priesthood was, and wanted more and more to investigate whether it was for me. Two additional motives urged me on as I discerned: the awe-inspiring role of the priest as an image of Christ and conduit of grace, and his position to explain and spread the gospel.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
The most compelling inspirations have come from the witness of faithful Catholics and Catholic communities living out ordinary lives with an eye toward holiness and progress in the spiritual life. This came to me in the persons of my pastors, spiritual directors, family, my college chaplaincy and friends, and my closest peers' discovery of their own callings, both to marriage and consecrated life. In addition, admiration for Pope John Paul II's life helped crystallize some of my thoughts on life lived in service of the Church.
What would you say is the role of prayer in the life of a seminarian and what effect does it have on one's ability to see God's call?
Life as a seminarian follows the same spiritual trends as that of any Christian seeking to follow the path God has set for him. If one allows prayer to lapse in any vocation it becomes more difficult to maintain a firm sense of direction and confidence in pursuing it. But if prayer is integrated fully into one's daily life, a seminarian will know with great clarity, before long, whether or not he's on the right path. If a seminarian is on the right path and is faithful to prayer, he can expect great consolations and strength sufficient to carry out what God has asked him to do.
What advice would you give to a man who thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest?
On the one hand, don't be afraid to take action: Very few life-decisions can be made purely in the abstract. Imagine trying to discern marriage just by thinking about it, and you'll see what I mean. Just as the only way to truly discern marriage is to get to know a potential spouse, the only way to discern priesthood or another consecrated state is to get to know the Church, the spouse of every priest.
On the practical level, get to know a vocation director, visit a seminary, set aside time for a discernment retreat, look to the example of extraordinary priests, and pray constantly. Above all, be open to whatever God wants for you, knowing that you can't possibly lose out by doing so. And lastly, find a trustworthy priest who's willing to meet with you regularly for spiritual direction, lending a second mind to listen in on your thoughts and progress in the spiritual life.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
Some of the best day-to-day parts of seminary life are the sense of collegiality and common purpose. Everyone in the house -- and it has the feel of a house, not a dormitory -- has the same goal in mind: discerning more clearly God's call, and following through with it, growing in love of Christ and the Church along the way. That common goal along with an authentic sense of Christian community -- smoothes over any differences between us.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
The primary challenge is undoubtedly fear. Fear of discovering a vocation to the priesthood but not mustering the courage to pursue it, and in other cases, fear of discovering that one might not have a priestly calling. Like the irrational desire not to go to the doctor for fear of receiving bad news, some men shy away from the seminary because they're worried about what God may or may not ask them to do with their lives and talents. Our culture tells us to "find ourselves," but the daily life of the seminary helps men to find God first. That inward-directed mode of "discernment" is a hallmark of today's culture, which savors indecision more than commitment. That's why, in a way, the greatest challenge facing discerning men is that they make a "final" decision about their calling before getting sufficiently far along in their discernment. The more men see the seminary as an optimal place for discernment, the better their discernment will be.
Seminarian Spotlight is a collaborative effort between The Pilot and the Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Vocations to introduce readers to the men preparing for priesthood in the archdiocese. More seminarian profiles and information on discerning a vocation are available at www.VocationsBoston.org.