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On Priesthood Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, dozens of seminarians of the Archdiocese of Boston went out two-by-two to share the vocation stories at parishes and campus ministries throughout the archdiocese. In collaboration with the Office for Vocations, The Pilot is reprinting the text of a number of their talks.
The following talk was delivered by seminarian Patrick Fiorillo to students at Cambridge's St. Paul Church in Harvard Square.
One thing that's been a recurrent spiritual theme for me in these four years of formation is the idea of giving myself totally to God. When I began discerning the call to the priesthood six years ago, I read a famous biography of St. John Vianney, the simple parish priest who transformed his entire diocese and much of France through his ministry at a small, rural parish. He basically spent each day of his priesthood saying mass, preaching and hearing confessions, thus making Christ present to a people whose faith was deeply wounded by the French Revolution. I was immediately moved by his total devotion to his people and resolved that if I were to become a priest, I would strive to be like St. John Vianney. And so I entered seminary thinking I had it all figured out. Suffice to say, that idea was shattered pretty quickly!
My first few years were marked by a deep struggle of coming to terms with the fact that I believed I was called to the priesthood yet I had not received any clear affirmations of that call. Over the past year, I gradually overcame that struggle by reaching a more mature understanding of what it means to respond to a call from God. What I've learned is that every vocation -- marriage, priesthood, or religious life -- if it's lived out to its fullest, all equally involve a total giving of oneself to another. In the case of a priest, by standing in the person of Christ, he gives himself totally to the Church, the bride of Christ. It works the same way with marriage: a husband and wife give themselves over completely to one another, thus imitating the sacrificial love between Christ and his Church.
Looking at vocations from this perspective, and seeing that marriage is not simply a default state of life, I think makes the call to priesthood seem a little bit less daunting. Each of us is called by God in a unique way, but always in a way that requires a total gift of self. As Pope John Paul II said, it is only in this total giving of ourselves to another that we will discover genuine love and find lasting fulfillment in life.
I would like to read you a prayer that relates to this. It's called the Prayer of Abandonment, by Blessed Charles de Foucald. It was given to me on a prayer card several years ago. It goes like this: "Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father".
It took me the better part of a year of reading through this prayer to finally be able to say the words with any conviction. Indeed, trying to tell God "Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all," can be quite intimidating. I still don't fully mean it when I pray it today, but I think it takes a lifetime of spiritual growth to get to that point of saying it with full sincerity and conviction.
But one thing I've found over the past few years is that the less I worry about my weaknesses, and the more I trust in God by embracing the challenges that have been placed before me, the more at peace I am. And I believe that that's the key for all of us, regardless of our state of life: embracing the trials that God allows us to undergo, without weighing the costs, and seeing God's providential care in all things.