After two blazing years of priestly discernment, two years of prayer and healing, Jesus made it clear to me what He made me for. Let me update you on my discernment:
And here are past posts why I had entered seminary:
Two months ago, I crossed the finish line of my first year as a seminarian (aka: full time discerner of my vocation). Since then, it’s been hectic gearing up for and going on summer travels. In the year since I entered seminary, so much has happened in so little a time span that I’m tempted to think nothing happened at all. But now that I’m in a bit of a slowdown in between summer travels and events, here are some positives that I have to share:
1) I lived childhood shyly. I lived adolescence even shier. But then my twenties saw an outspoken Evan, and today I am more confident than ever before. I don’t know exactly what happened in this first seminarian year, but I can stomach the butterflies in my stomach a lot easier, and that jittery heart is much calmer now. (Yes! I don’t have a heart problem, after all!)
2) The Church loves her seminarians. I never knew how much until now. I have been so spoiled with support, prayers and pick-me-ups, sincere friendships with other seminarians and with priests, chances to waste time regularly with Jesus, and plenty opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. I have to be careful not to take these for granted.
3) I got to travel to Mexico for six weeks for pilgrimage (Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!), language and culture learning, and witnessing to others. I literally did not know I was being sent there until last December! And now, I know that Spanish is more challenging to me than Latin (or Chinese or Vietnamese)! I also know that I have friends there who I was very blessed to meet. Oh, and I even know that little bugs called jumiles taste just like mint leaves. Yum!
4) I have met more people this past year than probably in the last five! Thus one of my weaknesses has been revealed: I have a hard time remembering names and faces. I really need to have a lengthy and personal conversation with someone before it clicks in place. (Please don’t take it personally!)
5) I move from place to place pretty painlessly. When I first moved into the seminary, I was pretty sad, not just because I missed home and my family, but more so because I hated the thought of my family being lonesome after I left. But, they were okay I think. And so, when I went to Mexico, I didn’t really get homesick for the States. And when I returned to the States, it felt like I never even left. I just shrugged and got back into the swing of things. It really does not feel like I was there, and when I left the seminary for summer break, I found it hard to believe I lived there for eight months. It all still feels more like a weekend retreat… hmm…
6) I love exercising, especially to the roar of Hanz Zimmer’s Dark Knight scores when I bike or run… and to the bass of dubstep/EDM when I do weights. Yes… I didn’t know this about myself until I found myself staying in the seminary gym for almost four hours one night (the music was on repeat, and apparently I was too).
7) Got a lot left to learn about prayer and how to keep it up regularly.
8) And finally, I realized that I need to go onto year two and keep discerning the priesthood and growing in the Christian life.
If that’s a question you can’t really answer, then you’re just like me — until a few months back. A lot of people these days aren’t really sure what a seminary is, much less how a good seminary works. Well, let me do my best to explain:
What seminary is not:
-a place to hide from the world
-a last resort because you can’t do anything else
-a place to learn to be a priest so you can be in a position of power
Instead, what my few months here has helped me realize is that a solid Roman Catholic seminary is a prolonged retreat. I’ve been here since late August and I still feel like this place is a retreat house. So the question is, what’s a retreat and how’s it different from hiding from the world?
A retreat is exercise, and it’s exercise that focuses on the soul and spirit. People go to boot camps to train their bodies and minds, but in a retreat we train the person to become a better version of him or herself, through and through. Seminary formation focuses on our habits, opinions, personality, ethic, self-mastery and self-discipline, and most of all our adoption of the virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.
So in seminary, we learn about ourselves and rise to the challenge of becoming stronger Christian men by relying more on God’s grace and less on our own abilities. Jesus becomes more our center, our guide, our inspiration, our energy to live up to what the world needs us to be: solid and selfless men who love the Lord.
And contrary to what many think, a man who leaves the seminary without becoming a priest is NOT a failure. He is a success! A win-win-situation! If the man finds his calling to be a devout Catholic priest who is solid, selfless, and loyal to the Lord, then he has found his treasure in serving the Church and all her members. This man leaves the seminary with a mission. If the mans finds his calling to be a devout Catholic husband who is solid, selfless, and loyal to the Lord, then he has found his treasure in serving the woman of his life, his bride and all the little ones they may be blessed with. This man leaves the seminary with a mission. If a man finds his calling to be a devout Catholic single soldier who is solid, selfless, and loyal to the Lord, then he has found his treasure in serving others in ways that priests or husbands cannot serve. This man leaves the seminary with a mission.
That is the generosity and beauty of the seminarian experience. Of course, some seminaries are better than others (hence the reason for some seminarians being sent far away from their home dioceses even though there are other seminaries nearer by), but they all aim for the same goal: solid, selfless men loyal to Jesus Christ who are ready to love until death does them part from life.
That’s also why seminary is so challenging. A man can’t just go to his pastor and say he wants to apply for seminary. There are background checks, criminal history record scrutiny, blood tests and physical evaluations, letters and letters of recommendation, essays and essays to write, interviews and psychological exams to clear, and more. And if a man is accepted, then there’s the inhumanly possible horarium — a daily schedule that is made to break anyone who tries to be selfish or lazy with their time. Since this is a Catholic seminary, there is also tons of prayer time that can either be wasted, or can result in one growing by the leaps of master pole-vaulters. Then there are the classes. Not only does the seminarian try to increase his physical strength and endurance, increase his spiritual virtues and prayer life, his self-mastery and service to others, but he also increases his intellectual and logical prowess with philosophy, theology and even Latin (a very demanding language that behaves more like mathematics!).
The seminary is where boys go so that the God-Man Himself transforms them into men just like Him. And who doesn’t want to be like the God-Man (Who not even death itself could keep Him dead!)?
Pray for me!
*Disclaimer: there is no guarantee in the seminarian formation process that all the men who leave will be solid, selfless and loyal to the Lord. If the boy is selfish, prideful, dishonest, lustful and unwilling to mature, then there is no seminary (but suffering, perhaps) that can inspire him to grow up.
It’s been just over a month for me now at seminary. If anyone’s curious, here’s my typical schedule for a typical day:
6:30am) Good morning! Best wake or else be late!
7:10am) Morning Prayer (I’m usually the one scratching his eyes and stretching my jaw [aka: yawning]).
7:30am) Daily Mass – aka: what I SHOULD wake up for in the morning.
8:20am) BREAKFAST – aka: the real reason I wake up in the morning.
9:00am-ish) First Class of the Day: varies between Philosophy of Nature, Ancient Philosophy, or Power Reading (yes… they want me to read faster than my measley 277 words/minute. Don’t ask me how I have an English Degree.)
11:00am) Free Time – aka: study, study, try to study.
12:15pm) LUNCH – aka: the real reason I’m still awake.
1:20ish) Second Class of the Day: varies between Introduction to Logic and Ecclesiastical Latin I (go ahead – guess which is my favorite)
3:00ish) Free Time – aka: get ready for Holy Hour (Today, I’m writing my blog as we speak, but usually I get ready for Holy Hour – aka: anything but study)
4:00pm) Holy Hour in Adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament – aka: staring contest with the Lord Himself, but He wins most of the time.
5:15pm) Evening Prayer – this is when I realize the day is almost over…
5:30pm) DINNAH TIME. YES.
7:00pm-ish) Varies between Introduction to Theology, Free Time (study), or a nice long walking Rosary.
9:00pm) Sometimes I’ll start exercising now for an hour – must stay fit otherwise instead of me caring for others… others would be caring for me in my illness!
10:00pm) Winding down, sometimes a healthy snack, showering, washing up.
11:00pm) Last minute homework, turn off the internet, light reading, Night Prayer.
I’d include more insights, but off to Holy Hour I go!
P.s. feel free to message me prayer requests anytime.
I came to the major realization a few months back. It was during Lent 2013, some Sunday in February or March. I was finishing up teaching catechism classes at church. At dismissal, I came into the hall and saw the students pour out of their classrooms. So many of them, and so many of them lost, confused, and living lives of quiet desperation. Sure, they have food, clothes, houses… but how many have a home? A loving and faithful family? Supportive friends and positive influences? So many… who will care for them?
And I said, “I want to. I want to care for them.” And then I realized, “If I have my own family one day… wife and children, I would be too in love with my own family to care for these and others. How can I take care of so many if my attention is divided? My family would come first, of course…”
So I had to rethink my hopes and dreams.
Later in Lent, I started teaching English essay classes to middle schoolers in the Chinese American community (Shout out to Lily, Charlie, Jennifer, Claire, Jessica, Austin, Andrew, Kelley, and Richard!). Though I loved teaching and guiding the students, I didn’t like focusing on teaching English. Instead, I wanted to give these kids the wisdom to make good moral choices, to understand their Christian faith, and to be smart — not superstitious! I loved teaching Christian morality, theology, philosophy.
So I had to rethink what I’d do with my English degree.
Then I saw my book, the proof copy of Little Miss Lucifer, sitting on my desk. After eleven years of work, research, plotting, planning, writing, scrapping, waiting, rewriting, revising, praying, editing, etc, she was almost ready for the world. But I just looked at it and repeated Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words: “All Straw!” St. Thomas Aquinas wrote shelves of beautiful work on philosophy and theology, and he called it straw. Compared to Heaven, compared to Christ, all was straw.
So I had to rethink whether publishing would make me happy.
Even if the book were to become wildly successful, even if I wrote ten more best sellers… would I be content?
And one night I struggled to fall asleep. I began daydreaming in the night. I imagined myself in bed ten years from now, beside my beautiful wife and our beautiful children. I imagined asking myself at that moment, “What if I did go to seminary? What if I did give my discernment more effort? Would I have heard a call to priesthood? What if…?”
I realized right then, that to be fair to my possible future wife and children, that I must find out. I must answer this question in my heart. I must address the question mark in my mind. I must answer “What if?” It was best for them, for me, and for others.
Besides, not every man who enters seminary is ordained. Seventy to ninety percent of the men who enter do not become ordained, but they leave seminary more resolved to be stronger and more courageous dads and husbands. They learn to be prayerful, humble, and caring. They learn how to serve others, how to respect, and how to keep their faith. They have nothing to lose — and so much to gain.
So I decided to apply. And now here I go!