It seems that not a week passes that someone doesn't come up to me and say, "I really admire what you're doing. It must take a lot of courage and strength - I could never do that." I appreciative of the support and compliments. Yes - it does take strength and courage. But, I don't know that I can take credit for it. And - what strikes me even more strongly - is that its not any more courageous or strong than what people all around me are doing every day in a million different ways. Those of us who are called to the seminary or religious life... I don't think we're superheroes. We get up in the morning and have to wipe the sleep from our eyes the same way the rest of the world does. We put our pants on the same way. We have the same challenges, we have to confront our doubts, our fears, our sadnesses - all the same way. And...we're not immune from temptation, sin, vice.
Well - let me take a step back. I'm in no position to speak for seminarians, priests or religious everywhere. It's quite conceited for me to pretend to do so. So - let me put it this way. I'm not a superhero. I'm not perfect. I struggle with the same kinds of challenges in living this life in God's service as you do. The only difference, I think, is that my path may look different than yours. The commitments that I'm being asked to make - the things I'm being asked to let go of - they're just different than the committments, challenges, and sacrafices that are before you in your life.
There's nothing more or less heroic in what I'm embarking on than, say, the challenges my grandmother faced in finding her way through life without the earthly love of her mother or father after age 14, or the challenges and commitments my mother and father face in having spent the last twenty years repairing a marriage that was broken before I was born, and given a second chance when I was around 10 years old. Nothing in front of me requires any more wisdom, reliance on God, patience, or sacrafice than the lives any parents, spouses, business men & women face if they're trying to live their life in service of God.
What's heroic, it seems to me, is not necessarily WHAT one's calling is...but rather, in trying to live life in service of that calling. I watch my dad get up every day, working a job that is physically taxing on his body. I watch my mom care for the household, work in her professional life to be a good steward of worldly goods and build & maintain Christian relationships among her co-workers and clients. I watch my grandmother caring for me, preparing meals, working with her flowers, loving others. And I see superhoroes all around me.
Yes - I believe my fellow seminarians and I are given a chance to let super-human courage flow through us as we follow our path through discernment - perhaps to priesthood - willing to open our lives to God's guidance, leading - surrendering to God's will for our lives. But... I don't see something in this experience so far that sets me apart from others, raises me above others. Rather, I've begun to see what's amazing about the lives that so many around me are leading. I'm seeing big red "S" painted on the chests of so many around me. No - they may not wear habits or collars. They're often masquerading as "regular people" leading "regular lives". And yet - there's heroic courage, commitment, fidelity, and surrender to God's plan in those "regular lives".
Hey...you...look down at your chest. Do you see the Big Red "S"? I do.