Ever since my childhood, I thought that the Lord might be calling me to the priesthood. My family was very close to my childhood pastor, and I remember him coming to Friday night football games with us. I think too often people believe priests are distant, but they, like any of us, come from families and have hobbies and interests. Luckily, I was shown at a young age that the priesthood was something that I could actually do. I remember being surprised in learning that my childhood pastor was the “boss” of the parish. A boss to me was someone who was demanding and powerful, but this priest was gentle and humble. He had a selfless attitude that I wished to imitate. I would play pretend Mass and count down the days when I would get to receive the Holy Eucharist. And as I grew up and my prayer life increased, so too did the call.
However, when I got to high school, the priesthood was something that I did not at all want to think about. I was no longer a child, and I wanted to have a career that would bring prestige. Although I still felt the Lord calling me to be his priest, I had made up my mind that I would be a lawyer, and on top of that, I couldn’t imagine a life without a family. By my Confirmation year, it was all settled. I chose St. Thomas More to be my Confirmation saint because he had many prestigious accomplishments as a politician and lawyer and was a devoted father. After my Confirmation, though, St. Thomas taught me something even more valuable. God’s will is better than my own.
A martyr during the Protestant Reformation, St. Thomas was beheaded by King Henry VIII, who was pressuring him to renounce the Catholic Church and recognize the Church of England and Henry VIII as its head. It would have been easy for St. Thomas to compromise his values, agree with the King, and move on with the dreams and the plans he had for his own life, but he chose not to. The Fortitude which St. Thomas displayed in his martyrdom is the same Fortitude that I would receive as one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. The Holy Spirit taught me just as St. Thomas had the courage to give up his life for the sake of God, so too could I give up the plans of my life for His sake. To make a long story short, after Confirmation the Holy Spirit gave me the courage to follow God’s will for my life. The next year I would apply to seminary.
The Gift of Fortitude gave me the confidence to do what I thought could not be possible. I knew that it would be a great blessing having a wife and children and that I could do a lot of good in the world as a lawyer, but that was not my desire. My childhood pastor’s attitude of selflessness, the courageous example of St. Thomas More, and the power of the Holy Spirit gave me the confidence to let go of the fears that were holding me back and to trust in God’s will.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the vehicles for us to navigate the mature Christian life. Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord, and Fortitude are sealed in us at Confirmation, but we receive them first when we are baptized. Therefore, these Gifts are within every baptized Christian’s ability to access. I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to give you what you need. You can even find a spiritual companion among the saints, who exhibit these Gifts in their life as examples for you. Being a Christian is not easy, but when we see the heroes that have come before us and what the Holy Spirit is capable of within us, we can start to do things we thought were never possible.
Written by: Alec January, seminarian of the Diocese of Lake Charles