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Six men are in the middle of their first year of studies as seminarians for the Diocese of Arlington. Along with 32 others, these seminarians are immersed in their discernment process, while also studying philosophy and theology and serving at many of our parishes.

Three of the seminarians were asked to share with us what their memorable experiences have been thus far in their formation. Don’t forget to keep them in your prayers as they listen to God’s calling for their lives. Find out more about Vocations in the Diocese of Arlington at www.arlingtonvocations.com.

koehr_seanSean Koehr: “My most rewarding experience in the seminary so far was going on an evangelization mission to Ball State University with my brother seminarians.  Trying to actively participate in the new evangelization enabled me to see the fruits of prayer and study in just a short period of time and it made me hungry for more.  Putting what I am learning into practice by striving to live it and communicate it to others has been a great source of growth and clarity for me.

“Arlington is special because of its youth-filled and zealous priests, as well as its many well-formed and well-educated lay people, who come from strong and generous families.  There is also a great devotion amongst them all for Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of confession, and a great love for Mary.”

majewski_jamesJames Majewski: “I will never forget the day I was told that Bishop Loverde had accepted my application to seminary. To be asked by Christ through His Church to embark upon the journey of priestly formation was an affirmation unlike any other – the consolation of which has truly stayed with me through my studies.

“Seminary life itself is a challenge! But it is such a tremendous blessing to have been accepted to seminary in the Year of Faith, and to be given the opportunity to deepen my faith through nearly every facet of life here. Seminary is so much more than just an education – Christ walks out of the classroom with you.

“Our Diocese has been tireless in fostering my vocation and helping me to discern. The Diocese of Arlington invests so much into her seminarians and future priests, and it is a privilege to be in a position to someday give back to the Diocese I have received so much from.”

schierer_nicholasNicholas Schierer: “40 Hours Devotion leading up to the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo was one of the most rewarding times as a seminarian so far.  For those three days, we had no classes and were able to simply pray during 40 continuous hours of adoration.

“To those who support vocations: Thank you for supporting us. I am praying for all of my benefactors. As seminarians, we are constantly in need to prayers to continue to recognize God’s Will in our continuing discernment of the priesthood.”

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For more information about vocational discernment and the diocesan priesthood here in Arlington, visit the Vocations web page.

Today it is not uncommon to hear some, even from within the Church, question the necessity of priestly celibacy. As part of their argument, often cited is the fact that for the first millennium of the Church the discipline of chaste celibacy for priests was not a universal requirement. However, rarely cited is another fact that the Church (both in the east and the west) has continually upheld and encouraged the discipline of priestly celibacy, even from her earliest days.

Despite this, clerical celibacy has been a difficult issue throughout history and we can even see noted in Sacred Scripture. Our Lord plainly taught that virginity for the sake of the Kingdom is a more perfect life granted to some (cf Mt 19:10-12), but He also said that it would be too difficult for others to accept. This is one of the reasons why the Church has reaffirmed and codified her discipline concerning clerical celibacy, particularly in the Roman or (Western), Latin Rite.

While it is important to accept the Church’s law and tradition, it’s equally important to understand them. Why is it that the issue of celibacy is so important that the Church continuously reaffirms her position, even against strong opposition? While we cannot exhaust the reasons in this article, we’ll look at the most important.

Jesus Christ was celibate.

A priest, in a very real way, represents Jesus Christ the High Priest. Not only in liturgical and sacramental matters is this important; it is also necessary that a priest conform himself to Christ in every way possible if he is going to be a good priest who carries out the mission that Christ gave to the Church.

Celibacy emphasizes the unique role of the priest

Because a priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), his role in the salvation of mankind is unique, and it is tied uniquely to Christ’s role as priest, prophet and king. When a priest lives more like Jesus, he is fulfilling his role more perfectly and he will help to bring about the Kingdom of God more readily.

Jesus taught that virginity for the sake of the kingdom is superior to marriage. (cf Mt 19:11-12, 29)  This does not mean that celibates are better people. What it does mean is that there are different ways to live the Christian life, and some are more perfect ways than others. Jesus calls celibacy the most perfect way – but not all are called to live that way!

Think of this: If you are traveling a great distance, you have several options. You could walk, ride a bike, drive a car, or fly in an airplane. Obviously, flying is much faster, and the view is fantastic! But this is not the best option for each traveler. Some travelers have a purpose which necessitates driving, riding a bike or walking. In the end, they will all get to their destinations in the ways that best fit their purposes. However, for those who can take a plane, this method of traveling is the most direct way to get to the destination; in a similar way, Jesus points out, celibacy is the most direct route to heaven for those who are called.

Celibacy reminds us that there will be no marriage in heaven

While that might seem like a negative point, it’s actually very positive. We won’t need marriage in heaven! We will have perfect, close friendships with everyone there, and most especially with God Himself!

We are called to live the heavenly life, beginning even here on earth, at baptism. A priest has the opportunity to do this in a radical way by living celibacy joyfully. In doing this, he frees himself to have more perfect relationships with people even before we are all reunited in Heaven.

Celibacy reaffirms marriage

Because our society (similar to many societies before, around and probably after us) places a high priority on the self-gratification gained by the misuse of sexuality, we need to be reminded that “sex does not make us happy.”

Rather, it is living a life filled with grace which makes us happy. When married people are selfish, they have an unhappy marriage, and it often ends badly. But when they are selfless, they can be joyful because they are living grace-filled lives. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, quips: “The media trumpets the message that sex brings happiness. If this were true, we would indeed live in an earthly paradise and the world would be ‘happy valley’.” (The Courage to be Chaste)

A joyful celibate priest can be a very powerful reminder that holy joy comes from surrendering oneself to work for the good of others to help them get to heaven, which is the essence of marriage and the priesthood. Although marriage and celibacy may seem opposed, they are actually perfectly complimentary of each other.
Celibacy marks the priest as a man consecrated to the service of Christ and the Church.

It is often said that, rather than “giving up” the privileges and joys of having a family, a celibate priest (or religious) has an even bigger family because he is given the care of many souls. Celibacy allows him to care for these more freely than if he had his own wife and children.

St. Paul encouraged celibacy so that one could be more devoted to the service of God. In a spiritual and a practical way, celibacy allows the priest’s first priority to be the Church. This makes a lot of sense – families require huge amounts of time and effort, and so does priestly ministry!

St. Paul was a practical man, and very wise. He didn’t encourage celibacy because he thought marriage was bad, but because he knew, as our Lord taught, that virginity is a higher road. “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” (1 Cor 7:27-35) Hence, a celibate life is more apt to allow a priest to serve the flock or spiritual family entrusted to his care with an “undivided heart”.

Living celibacy may seem daunting, even contrary to our nature. But it is important to remember that it is part of the vocation of the priest. If God is calling a man to the priesthood (in the Roman Church), he is also calling him to celibacy (except for very special cases). That’s great news, because it also means that he’ll give him special graces to live celibacy.

Celibacy is a gift from God, but like all gifts from God, it carries with it necessary responsibilities.

To live the gift of celibacy in a healthy way requires sacrifice, practical habits for growing in virtue, and an ability to relate to others in a fully human and chaste way. Celibacy is a way some live out the call of God to love our neighbor in an inclusive, free, and generous way. It is a life of charity.

If you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, be sure to prayerfully discern celibacy – don’t just assume that “it will be okay.” It’s important to make an informed decision about such a weighty matter. But remember that God is in control, and if He wants you to live celibacy, He will make it possible to live it joyfully.

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By Rev. Brian Bashista, Office of Vocations

Perhaps priesthood has crossed your mind, but fear pushes the idea away:

  •  My friends would laugh if they heard I was thinking about the priesthood!
  • My parents would be shocked.
  • My mom wants grandkids.
  • I’m scared to death of speaking in public.
  • I’m nowhere near holy enough.
  • I don’t want to give up sex.
  • I’ll be lonely.
  • Seminary may be too hard for me.
  • Being a priest looks boring.

These fears are very common, even for some men who are already in seminary. But literally thousands of men have had the same concerns and then went on to become holy and effective priests.

Fear is a tactic of the enemy to keep you from pursuing God's will.

The first principle to remember is that God does not speak through fear. Fear is a tactic of the enemy to keep you from pursuing God’s will; it is like the bite of an animal that paralyzes its prey to keep it from moving. A man in fear will find it difficult to move toward God’s will.

If you are paralyzed by fear, even if you are pointed in the right direction, you will never get to where God is leading you.

So how do you overcome fear? Here are five ideas:

Turn your fears into concerns. You may have legitimate concerns about celibacy or preaching. Many areas of formation for priesthood require ability, discipline and serious self-knowledge and assessment. You will probably discover areas that need to change and improve. All of that, however, is different than being afraid. You can discern with a cool head and realistic view, but not with a heart full of fear.

Look to scripture for consolation. “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall that when Jesus called Peter (Lk 5:1-11), our first pope said, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus then replied, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Likewise, Jesus knows your difficulties and weaknesses, yet he calls. Later, Peter would write, “Cast all your worries upon him, because he cares for you” (I Pt 5:7).

Reflect on God’s love. Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save a Thousand Souls, recommends this meditation when a man feels fearful: “God is infinite in power and he loves me infinitely. There is no snatching out of his hand. God will never send me where his grace cannot sustain me. If he asks me to do something difficult, like become a priest, he will give me the grace to do it. I will not fail because he is with me. And I will be happy because I am doing his will. Even if I lack some of the needed qualities, God will help me develop them. In His will lies my peace.”

Entrust your fears to the Blessed Mother. Recall that after the angel told Mary to “fear not”, she readily she accepted God’s will for her, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Walking in God’s will was not an easy road for Mary, as Simeon prophesied, “You yourself a sword shall pierce.” Yet Mary had the strength to follow her Son because she had “kept all these things in her heart.” Entrust your fears to her intercession, and she will help calm your heart and find the will of Jesus.

Remember what seminary is for. From a purely practical perspective, it’s comforting to know that if God calls you to be a priest, ordination is still years away. Seminary offers a period of serious discernment and intensive formation to help a man address his concerns, grow in holiness, and prepare for an effective priestly ministry. No man enters seminary ready to be a priest! And no man becomes a priest on his own!

So, as Blessed Pope John Paul II reminded us so often throughout his pontificate: Be not afraid! Don’t let fear paralyze you. Instead, address your concerns to God, trust in His word, reflect upon His love, ask for Mary’s help, and remember that you have time. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Fear will never lead you to your vocation, whatever it may be, but only the peace of Christ.

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If you were about to make one decision that would dramatically impact the rest of your life, how would you go about it?

If you were contemplating a cross-country move, you’d probably learn everything you could about the new city. If you were choosing a career, you’d visit the career counseling office at your college.  Heck, even if you were buying a new flat-screen TV, you’d do some serious research.

But there’s one decision that’s far more important than any of these.  In fact, it’s so important that it can’t properly be called a decision.

We’re talking about your vocation – your God-given mission in life.  God etches our vocations into our souls, and thus a vocation is not just a matter of choice, like choosing a career, but rather more of a discovery.  Finding your vocation means realizing something about yourself that has been there all along.

But God plants your vocation so deep in your soul, sometimes it’s hard to see.  In fact, many people – even Catholics – never even consider looking for it at all.  Sometimes marriage is assumed to be the “default” vocation.  But God calls some people to a different life – a life committed solely to serving God’s people as a priest or religious brother.

Discovering your true vocation takes careful deliberation – a process the Church calls “discernment,” which is derived from the Latin word meaning to “sift through.”  All vocations – marriage, priesthood, or the religious life – require a diligent discernment.

Here are ten tried-and-true ways to discern God’s calling for you:

  1. Pray and listen asking the Lord daily to show you His will.
  2. Pray the Rosary asking for the intercession of Mary, Mother vocations
  3. Pray a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament regularly
  4. Attend Mass frequently (daily if possible) and receive Communion
  5. Go to Confession on a consistent basis
  6. Read Scripture and meditate on God’s Word
  7. Talk to a priest you find approachable and ask for spiritual advice
  8. Contact the Vocation Director and participate in discernment events
  9. Talk to seminarians when they come home for the holidays
  10. Become involved in your parish

These are practical ideas that really work.  You’ll notice that by doing these things, not only will you heard God’s voice more clearly, you’ll begin to grow in holiness- which is everyone’s primary vocation.

But the best thing you can do to discover your vocation is to simply be open to the will of God.  Stop asking what you want out of life, and start asking what God wants.  Remember that Jesus wants you to be happy even more than you do.  And if He calls you to the priesthood or the religious life, trust that He will bring you fulfillment.

Discerning your vocation- the state of life that God is calling you to for the rest of your life – is truly the most important discovery you’ll ever make.

For more information about vocation discernment in the Diocese of Arlington, visit here.

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By: Fr. Brian Bashista
The photo to the left is of Nicholas Barnes (dark blue shirt) and two other Pontifical North American College (NAC) seminarians along with some workers/volunteers at a leprosarium (leper colony) in Ngai Sai, which is in South China–close to Macao and Hong Kong. The seminarians visited for a day and met some of the patients who live there and experienced the work done to care for them.
Commenting on his participation in a program offered by Maryknoll Missionaries from June 27th until July 31st, Nicholas wrote:
We spent our time in different regions, about two and half weeks in different locations in Mainland China, two weeks in Hong Kong and three days in Taiwan. The objectives were to learn about the work of Maryknoll Missionaries, the work of evangelization and spreading the Gospel, the culture of a non-western country and the specifics of the Church in China. I truly learned a lot and will carry the lessons from this experience with me hopefully into my days as a priest in Arlington. We visited many parishes, seminaries, priests, mission sites, social services centers, historical sites and a variety of individuals. Obviously, language was an issue but we always were with someone who could translate for us if needed. I was able to meet with various Church leaders, including Cardinal Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, the diocesan administrator of the Jilin Diocese, two rectors of seminaries and the Chargé d’affairs of the Apostolic Nuniciature in Taiwan, an American priest from Boston. I learned a lot from each of them about the Catholic Church within China. I am very thankful to the Maryknoll Missionaries who hosted us, to Bishop Loverde, the diocese and the North American College for their support and for allowing me to have this opportunity.
Brendan Bartlett, another seminarian studying at the NAC spent time in Great Britain.
I spent my summer doing pastoral work at St. Edmund of Canterbury parish in Loughton, Essex, England, which is a suburb of London. It was a great experience of the universal church, and I found the day-to-day operations of the parish to be very similar to my experiences in the Diocese of Arlington. The real joy of my service in the parish was my interaction with the people of God, who never cease to amaze me with their faithfulness and generosity.

Blog Note: To see this year’s seminarians, visit here.

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In the following video, Fr. Brian Bashista talks to FIAT women about the importance of recognizing and discerning God’s unique call in their lives.

Blog Note: The weekend of July 31st, over thirty high school-aged women attended the first FIAT Days, led by Vocations Director Fr. Brian Bashista.  During this retreat, the young women heard talks by a married woman, religious sisters, and Fr. Bashista, learned the prayers of the Church, and asked important questions about discernment. They also got to know one another through sports, games, and other recreational activities. For more information, visit www.arlingtondiocese.org.

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By: Rev. Brian Bashista 

This past Saturday, Bishop Loverde ordained one of our seminarians to the transitional diaconate (two more seminarians will be ordained to the diaconate this fall in Rome). This upcoming Saturday, Bishop Loverde will ordain three men to serve as our newest diocesan priests. In light of these grace-filled events, I welcome this opportunity to share some thoughts about vocations as being “wedded” to another.  

2009 Ordinations to the Priesthood

 

Wedded unions involve the offering of mutual love and support which then is open to bringing forth new life. For most men, this wedded life will be freely entered into with a wife through the beautiful sacrament of marriage and the openness to father children. For other men, those who are called to be priests, this wedded life will be freely entered into with a “Supernatural Wife,” the Church – the Spiritual Bride with whom they will form a new sacramental life and become spiritual fathers through the order of grace.  

It is vital that we discover our vocations. Our fulfillment, our blessedness, our salvation, and, most importantly, the salvation of others, depend upon our acceptance of the mission, the vocation that Christ invites us to embrace. 

So, how do we discover our vocation?  

The first step is to talk to the One who created us. The first step is to pray, to talk and to listen to God.  

The second step, similar the first, is to talk to others. Those called to the married life will talk to others about their journey– so too do those called to the priesthood. This is one of the major reasons why my office, the Office of Vocations, exists — to talk and to listen. Many men who meet with me never take the step to enter the seminary. 

 Praying, talking and listening to God and others are essential to discover a vocation; however, if someone simply does these alone he will never ultimately come to realize his true calling. He must act! Once someone has sensed that God might be calling him to this vocation or the other, he must act upon these inspirations rather than resist these promptings. 

Deacon Ed Bresnahan will write our next blog post!

 

Someone who feels called to marriage can pray and talk about the vocation all he or she wants, but never come close to getting married. The person must act upon the promptings received in prayer and as a result of conversations. People must date and get to know each other. This is also true for someone who feels prompted to explore the possibility of a call to the priesthood. He can pray and have numerous conversations with others but never come close to taking the first step to act upon these promptings by applying to enter the seminary. In fact, a man who enters the seminary has no firm idea that he is called the priesthood, just that he senses that he might be. On the flip side, he is not being accepted by the bishop to enter the seminary to definitely become a priest, just that the bishop senses that he might be. It is as unrealistic for someone to be certain they will marry someone before they date them as it is for someone to be certain they are called to the priesthood before they enter the seminary. Dating is to marriage what seminary is to priesthood.  

While the need is still so great, we are blessed in this diocese to have many affable, sacrificial and charitable young men who are seriously considering a call to the priesthood. These men were like so many others well on their way to becoming highly successful in the “eyes of the world,” but they are willing to give their lives to a supernatural reality which points “beyond this world.”  We currently have 35 men in formation for the diocesan priesthood, and nearly 20 men and 30 women from the Diocese of Arlington in formation for religious orders. 

Anyone wishing to more actively discern a vocation and to better understand sharing in Christ’s mission of salvation, may visit here or contact us at the Office of Vocations at (703) 841-2514.

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A Manuscript Illuminated with the Crucifixion

 

By Fr. Brian Bashista  

As we approach the Triduum (Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday), I wanted to share some thoughts with you about the connection between this year’s Lenten theme and the path of holiness to which God calls each of us.  

Pope Benedict has chosen the “great theme of justice” for the focus of his 2010 Message for Lent. His reflections can be prayerfully applied to each person’s gift of self to God and others through their vocation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church  states that  justice as the moral virtue consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.  So by giving as a gift of oneself to God and others in the vocation Jesus calls them to, Christians are manifesting, at a deeply personal and generous level, this essential virtue of holiness.  

  

Pope Benedict XVI

 

“God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.” This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love….”  

“Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice.”  

Pope Benedict XVI, 2010 Message for Lent   

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