By: Mr. Nicholas Colón
Archdiocese of Boston
I would often hear someone say the phrase, “That kid is going to be a priest someday.” That’s a lot of pressure for a twelve-year-old kid. At the time, it was hard to imagine what discerning the priesthood was because I grew up being told I could be whatever I wanted to be. With infinite opportunities ahead of me, I just stayed the course with thoughts of the priesthood buried at the back of my mind.
It wasn’t until college that I learned what it looked like to live out of a personal relationship with Christ and what this would mean for my future. I had mentors who taught me that I was created for a relationship with God, and once that reality took root in my heart the question of “what I wanted to be” resurfaced with a new face. I wanted to be as close to Christ as possible. From there, my life became centered on knowing who Jesus is, how He sees me, and what He desires for my life. By building up habits of consistent prayer and attending the sacraments, I came to know the person of Jesus Christ more personally and was able to allow him to be the center of my life.
Discernment flows from a personal relationship with Christ. When we spend consistent time in prayer, read Scripture, attend Mass as frequently as possible, and receive the Father’s mercy in confession, we come to know the person of Jesus Christ more intimately. Jesus Christ is the foundation of every vocation, and discernment does not exist apart from Him.
What followed was a growing desire to imitate Him. Saint Paul models a life of imitation and conforming of one’s life to Christ. He writes to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are all called to imitate Christ and to conform our hearts to His. This can take many forms; but at heart of each particular vocation is a life called to sacrifice. Discernment, then, is taking stock of our gifts, talents, and desires and surrendering them all back to God who gave them to us in the first place. We are then able to act from this place of surrender, knowing that the Lord trusts us to take steps closer to Him, provided they are rooted in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Throughout my process of discernment, a number of fears came up naturally: a temptation to think myself unworthy, an attachment to my own plans, or just how much sacrifice the priesthood would require of me. These fears were real, but they lost their hold over me when I came to realize that it is Christ Himself who offered the ultimate sacrifice for my sake and who dwells within me. When we invite the Lord to live within us, we are asking Him to give us strength to persevere. What a privilege it is to know that the Lord is calling us to a sacrifice like His, and that He will be with us through every hardship and joy that comes from it.
Moving into Saint John’s this year has been an incredible blessing and it has been made abundantly clear that this is where the Lord wants me. These facets of discernment are ongoing processes – I will continue to deepen my relationship with the Lord each day, I will continue to allow the Lord to conform my heart and will to His, and new and old fears will continue to arise. With many years of formation ahead of me, I trust He will make His desires for me known. I’m taking each day as it comes, knowing that the Lord desires to be close to me and will continue to work in my heart to conform me to the man He created me to be.