What a gift
by Ethan Kaste
Everyone’s discernment is different, and without being pessimistic, I can relate mine to the sorrowful mysteries. Now, I’m sure people can relate their own discernment to any mystery, but this just came to mind for me one day when driving to the Seminary. For me, the sorrowful mysteries capture the difficulties in my discernment, but also the hidden joys/gifts that are found within discernment and the priesthood. That is why I call this quasi-poem, “What a gift.”
“The first sorrowful mystery… the agony in the garden.”
When a young person goes through school, they may experience the Lord in different ways through many different emotions; happiness, sorrow, etc. So, a calling to the priesthood for a young man can be subtle or obvious. Many young men suffer in their discernment after the initial call, through periods of confusion and misunderstandings. Similar to the Lord’s agony, there is fear and even a certain mourning that we undertake when we hear our call. Of course, being called to the priesthood doesn’t mean we are going to literally suffer the events of the sorrowful mysteries, but some young men can’t help but say… “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass” (Matt. 26:39). The devil can attack us in many ways, but the Lord is clever and uses these attacks at times and turns them into gifts.
“The second sorrowful mystery… the scourging…”
When a man discerns that he is called to enter the seminary for a more intensive discernment, he understands that there could be times of drought in prayer, also times for joy, like the scourging at the pillar, one is stung by the crack of the whip. Each little sweet sting is one step closer to holiness, because it tears away our old self and makes us a new man. This sweet suffering will lead us to be what we are called to be. As soon as the sharpening has torn away the old self, we can ready ourselves for the crown of the priesthood. What a gift.
“The third sorrowful mystery… the crowning of thorns.”
As Christ was crowned with the burden of kingship, so we are crowned when we become priests. We are given the weight and thorns that Christ was crowned with. We receive the honor and the burden to be a shepherd of peoples. What a perfect crown, a crown of humility, but isn’t that a weird way to adorn a crown? This crown is not visibly a glorious one that is adorned with jewels, but it is a crown with the adornment of thorns that glorifies this man in the humility of it. What a perfect, beautiful crown. What a gift.
“The fourth sorrowful mystery… the carrying of the cross.”
The road of the priesthood is one that is laid with many difficulties, but also many, powerful lights along the way. They face taunts, lies, and deceit that try to bring them down. They may fall, but Our Lady, the saints, and encouraging parishioners are those lights that lift them up again. As Christ carried his beautiful burden he witnessed the sins of the Church as he embraced taunts and rocks thrown at him. Every time he faltered, I imagine he looked into the crowd for those little lights of encouragement. Those lights… what a gift.
“The fifth sorrowful mystery… the crucifixion.”
The final part and climax of this drama happened when he was nailed to the very burden he carried. On his shoulders were the weight of the sins of the church, which he kissed, even though it was the instrument of his own death. He was nailed to the very thing he loved. He forced himself upon this cross made up of sinners, perhaps to be nailed to us. At our hands, we were the instrument of his death.
Just like the crown, the priest gets yet another ironic reward. A priest is willing to do anything and everything for his bride, even if that means he will be martyred by his own. Like a father, a priest is willing to die for the those whom he defends, his own children. In reality, this cross becomes a gift: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
You see, the priest actually becomes the greatest example of love a person can witness, and this can only be shared from the view of the cross. And when the time comes for his passing, he is greeted by one who has brought so much hope to others, the penultimate intercessor, and there the handmaiden grabs his hands, kisses them knowing whose hands they are and escorts him to paradise. What a gift!
Kaste is in the Spirituality Year program at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, Colo.
Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a monthly column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. It gives New Earth readers a glimpse of what these discerning young men are experiencing. Please continue to pray for them.