One of the most significant moments in my formal education came during my last class as a student. In 2007, Fr. Warren Murmann, O.S.B., one of my seminary professors, was giving final thoughts before dismissal. He spoke inspiring words about our impending priestly ministry in a matter of fact tone. He stated a humbling truth: You will not know what is in store for you in the Priesthood (if you knew, you might not go forward with it!), but go forward in trust, knowing that God didn’t call your ideal self to the Priesthood, or someone else whom you would think is more qualified. He called YOU, imperfections and all, to be His Priest. You are the one whom God chose, for God’s own reasons, to be one of His Priests.
This thought that Fr. Warren shared with us has stuck with me. If we reflect upon that truth, it can inspire all of us. All of us place a high value on priestly ministry and consecrated life. We place a high value on marriage and parenthood. This is especially true when we are preparing for ordination or vows. In walking up to these “life vocations”, we tend to idealize. We tend to think that only entirely noble people can be candidates for these vocations of life. The truth is that God calls regular people like you and I. In fact, we are all “regular people”. Certainly, a candidate for priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage needs a serious commitment to virtue, holiness, and excellence. But each person is a work in progress. God is the one who is doing the work through everyday folks like you and I. The sooner the discerning heart accepts that, the sooner that God can begin His work in us.
Might we struggle with this truth? We can reflect on the portrait of the Apostles that is painted in the Gospels. We see how blind and cowardly they could be. We read about how slow they were to understand what was going on around them. One of them even betrayed the Master to death for money. Yet Jesus, knowing these people to be capable of such poor behavior, still called them anyhow. Maybe this can give you and I hope. We might be a work in progress, but such people are the ones that God calls.
Yes, we must strive towards the ideal of perfection that is found in the High Priest and Perfect Spouse of the Church, Jesus Christ. We are not destined for mediocrity or compromise, but for eternal perfection. But, hey, we are all a work in progress. Yes, Fr. Warren, five years in, I still find it amazing that God would call me, call us all, to such high standing, despite our sins and weaknesses. It is pretty amazing stuff.
Consider that the Priest holds Christ in His hands, and dispenses the forgiveness of Sins in Christ’s name. Yet, he remains the same goofy kid that was running around on his parents’ rug some 20 years before. The same can be said of marriage. I have seen friends whom I knew as teenage kids transform into moms and dads (and it happens so quickly! In 10 years time or less). It is pretty amazing how God transforms ordinary people into extraordinary stewards of grace.
But that’s what God does! As St. Paul assured us all again on Sunday, “I am content with weakness, for when I am weak, I am strong.” Amen! May God’s work continue in us.