Column: Call to the priesthood is a supernatural call

by Father Mitchel Zimmerman

Are our seminarians sad on Valentine’s Day?

Well, I can’t speak for all of them, not even as their vocation director, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to be OK.

You might say an extra prayer for them this Valentine’s Day, to be sure, but I would venture to say that most all of our 28 men in the seminary have found great joy, peace and meaning in being invited by Jesus Christ to stand where he stood in the world, and to try to imitate as precisely as they can the powerful celibate love that Jesus Christ had for all people.

There is a certain loneliness, of course, in accepting the gift of celibacy that Jesus wants to give to these men, but give these men credit. They are no dummies. They have spent many years on their knees praying about the love that they wish to be the hallmark of their lives and, pray God, their priesthood. Valentine’s Day will not catch them by surprise.

I overhear occasionally the comment that a seminarian is too handsome or charming to be a priest. I don’t want to get defensive, but I wonder if people think before they speak. Do they want their priests to be ugly and boring? Do they want priests who are unfit for marriage or incapable of desiring it?

Of course, many of the same qualities that would make men excellent husbands and fathers will also make them great priests and spiritual fathers. That is why we recognize the call to the priesthood as a supernatural call and gift. It is “super” not in a way that diminishes marriage, but insofar as the call is received “in addition” to the natural call to marriage that most mature men experience.

What I am saying is that our seminarians are regular guys. As they mature into men capable of meaningful sacrifice, they desire a wife and children just as deeply and as surely as a groom who will be married next week.

Yet with these men there is also something else, a mysterious call that goes beyond. These courageous men have recognized this supernatural call and, without desiring marriage any less, have taken Our Lord at his word that whoever is willing to sacrifice for him will not be found wanting.

On Valentine’s Day, let’s not feel sorry for our seminarians who have sacrificed what they naturally desire in order to make the uniquely fruitful love of Jesus Christ more real in the world. Let us honor them instead, by realizing how deeply they have trusted the love that Christ has for them, and how their relationship with Our Lord is flourishing through this marvelous exchange of courage and generosity.

Thank you, seminarians, for showing us how to trust in the love of Jesus above all things!

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