My "Come and See" Experience at the Seminary

advisory council
1st Row: Michael Bramer (Anchorage, AK); Fr. Robert Pipta; Jason Sandoval
(Upland, CA); 2nd Row: Cesar Canales (Houston, TX); Joe Kuisick and
Rodney Wisen (both from Portage, PA).

Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer, probably because we do not put a lot of thought into answering them. A question that was on my mind before visiting the seminary was, “Why is the priesthood so important to the life of the Church?” Some people might say, “Well, it just is,” but I wanted an answer that made me appreciate the role of a priest in church.  And as I discovered, the priest is more than just a figure that shows up on Sunday and goes back into his den afterwards. No, the priest is called to be the spiritual father of souls on earth. He is a preacher, a teacher, and a sanctifier. And thanks to God, I spent this retreat in the presence of priests, teachers and seminarians who shared their insight on what it means to answer God’s call.

As I arrived at the seminary, I asked myself, “Why am I here?” The answer was simple: Because through God’s providence I was able to arrive here from Houston, and because He was the One who called me in the first place. I only said “yes” and He helped me get here. I do not know the exact purpose, but “Here I am, Lord.” The only way to know if the seminary is in God’s plan for you is by visiting and seeing what goes on in here; you cannot taste an apple until you bite it. And that I did. The retreat, led by Fr. Robert Pipta, gave my companions and me a chance to reflect on this calling. We took advantage of the chapel to attend liturgical services and to meditate on Scripture. Two particular Gospel readings stood out for me. The first is from Luke 5, after Peter tells Jesus to “…depart O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I asked myself, “Am I also telling God to depart?” and “is God calling me to be a fisher of men?” The second reflection comes from Matthew 14, as Peter sank because of his doubt. I asked myself, “Are my fears and passions stopping me from answering his call?”

But how should I know if God is calling me to the priesthood, or to the diaconate, or to monasticism, or to Christian-life in the secular world?  In the words of Fr. John Petro, “[a man] knows he is called to be a priest the moment he is ordained a priest.” A man does not enter seminary to be a priest. One enters seminary to find out more about it. Not everything is “set in stone” when you enter the seminary. True, you might become a deacon or a priest, but that is up to God to decide, not you. This retreat made that clear for me, and as some seminarians shared personal testimonies of their own journey, I thought to myself, “they are not perfect, nor identical, but God sees something in them that has potential.” Many questions were also answered, each with a sincere response. I even had the opportunity to attend some classes and learn how seminarians and students are instructed not only intellectually, but also in human formation, spiritual formation, and pastoral formation.

This experience has enriched my faith and has given me a push in the right direction. In the few days that I spent at the Seminary, I feel like I have been changed; I have certainly grown spiritually and have a clearer vision on Who and what I should be pursuing. Yet my conversion and discernment is just beginning, or rather, continues. But the fact remains: Discernment is like a coin with two sides, because one can never say that “priesthood is not for me,” and yet one must also be willing to accept that maybe “God has something else in mind for me.” Regardless of whether I enter seminary or not, this experience has given me a lot to think about. I am more open to God’s call, whether it is to serve Him in religious life or as a lay person. Although I do not know yet where God is calling me, I know this: God wants fruitful workers; workers who give themselves to Him with love, workers dedicated to Him and to his service. Whether that worker is called to be a priest, a deacon, or something else is beyond me. In the meantime, I will keep discerning and asking myself, “How can I make the greatest gift of myself to God and to others?”

Cesar Canales
“Come and See” Visitor
October 2010