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‘Lone Ranger’ discernment

First slide

As much as individualism can be a prized virtue among Americans, I’ve found that a “Lone Ranger” mentality to discerning the priesthood is counterproductive. My own discernment and time in seminary have led me to conclude that the best antidote to “Lone Rangerism” is vulnerability: By revealing our true selves to others, including our desires, we are able grow closer to Christ and become better, more real, versions of ourselves. Here are a few suggestions the church offers that can be helpful for personal growth whether we feel called to the priesthood or not.

First, schedule some one-on-one conversations with a priest about your spiritual life. This is a very different experience than talking with a priest after Mass or doing volunteer work alongside a priest. If this is done regularly and he becomes your go-to guy for spiritual matters, it is called “spiritual direction.” It took me many years to ask a priest to be my spiritual director and even longer for me to see one regularly. My spiritual directors over the years have had a wonderful way of getting me out of my own head in order to understand what God is saying. They taught me how to pray and how to better live a Christian life. I was glad I no longer had to figure out everything on my own. If you are reading this, you probably know a priest whose spiritual guidance you would trust. Try it! What do you have to lose?

Second, speak to the diocesan vocations director. Father Michael C. Isenberg is a great priest and he is here to touch base with you to figure out what God is calling you to do with your life. Looking back, I suppose I had some fear that if I actually told the vocations director that I might be called to be a priest, maybe he would guilt me into entering seminary before I felt ready. This did not happen at all; rather, I found that opening communication with the vocations director led me to take my discernment more seriously.

Finally, reveal your vocational desires to close friends and family. As I was more open about what was important to me, I found these relationships deepened, and I was surprised at how insightful some were. All this greatly enriched my life overall.

If you have ever thought about becoming a priest or religious (or experienced some other spiritual prompting), be not afraid to be vulnerable and tell someone (and then someone else, and then someone else). It will help you solidify the call, and avoid “Lone Ranger” discernment.

Flaherty, who is from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, is in his first year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019