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Diamonds in the rough

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“You went to seminary for six years?”


People are often stunned to hear how long seminary formation takes. Their next question is usually, “What do you do in all that time?” This is a challenging question to answer because while the seminary schedule is very full, time in seminary is not so much about doing but about configuring. It is a time when a man slowly is transformed and configured to Jesus himself.


Pope Francis tells us, “(Vocations) are ‘diamonds in the rough’ ready to be carefully polished … so that they may shine among the people of God.”


Contemplating this image, notice that the rough diamond has the potential to become splendid, but its beauty is hidden within the rough and stony exterior. It takes a fine craftsman to spot this potential and grind away for weeks to reveal the clarity and brilliance of the stone.


Who, then, is a good candidate for the priesthood? Contrary to what you might think, the church does not need the perfect polished candidate, but the one who recognizes his imperfection and accepts his weakness. She needs men who are willing to get on their knees day after day in front of the craftsman as he reveals, then grinds away all their roughness. The church needs men who are humble and vulnerable, men who are willing to sacrifice and love her as Jesus loves her without counting the cost.


Speaking for myself and the many priests I know, God can do wonders with even the crudest of foundations. I was an engineer, very focused on my own life and success, yet somehow I now find myself on my knees every day thanking him for calling me and working through me to serve his people.


There is not a single man who is worthy of this call; yet, in the silence of prayer, Jesus whispers the possibility of the priesthood. He calls men who are afraid of public speaking, men who are average students, and men who do not think they have what it takes to be a priest. He calls those who have hidden within them a beautiful diamond that just needs to be discovered and purified.


If Jesus has been whispering in your prayer, remember the words of St. John Paul II, “Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”


Respond with hope that one day you may shine with the brilliance of Jesus.


Fr. Isenberg is the vocations director for the Diocese of Arlington. He can be reached at vocations@arlingtondiocese.org or 703/ 841-2514.








© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018