“Are you serious?”
How would you respond if someone told you he was entering the seminary?
“But you don’t actually want to be a priest, do you?”
“You’re wasting your life! You could literally do whatever you want to with your life!”
“But why that?”
My name is Dylan Conover. I’m from Tinley Park, Illinois, and I am hoping to go on my first SEEK conference. I am a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and I am studying at Loyola University Chicago.
Do you ever feel insecure? Do you ever want to pull your hair out because you just don’t know? Do you ever want to just yell out at God and scream “TELL ME!” because what lies before is so stressful you don’t want the responsibility of making the choice?
I feel this way every day.
When I first thought about being a priest, I didn’t think much of it. I pushed away the voice of God all the way until senior year of high school. I ran into that senior anxiety that we all feel. Where do we go? What do we do? Who are we going to be? I was no different.
I didn’t want to be a priest, I wanted to work on the radio. Talking about sports- that was my dream. I wanted to preach the “x’s and o’s” of a game instead of the “x’s and o’s” of life. I was good at it, talking about sports, and it was something I could make a career out of. Priesthood? No. It was just a thought that every Catholic guy has right? I was happy doing what I wanted to do, talking about sports.
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness…” (JP 2, Vigil of Prayer – 15th World Youth Day, August 19, 2000).
The funny thing about God, though, is that He seems to always pop into our minds the moment we wish He would stay farthest away.
I was reading in church one day, and I read something to the effect of: if you are going to try doing something for God, make sure you do it 100%, because holding something back for yourself defeats the purpose of doing something for God.
Bam! I was caught, a fish out of the water with no escape. I would not really be happy with my dream career, because I was doing it for me, and not God. A light turned on in my head, a neon sign actually blazing: PRIESTHOOD. For the first time in a while, I felt at peace. I knew that whatever I was feeling was true happiness, and I wanted more. Despite a lack of knowledge of what I was getting into, I knew I had to give priesthood a shot.
I guess you could call me a nerd, I graduated a year early from high school. Rather than enter the college seminary immediately, I took a year off of school to work and save up some money. This was the first time that I was going “into the world” with this conviction of a calling. I figured if I was going to enter a seminary next year, I should try to act like a seminarian now.
That’s when I ran into the reactions I started with.
It was hard, it is hard. I am only in my second year, and it’s not like I’m a priest yet. I have 6 ½ years to go. Who wants to be on the receiving end of a bad look? Now that I am a seminarian, I am labeled as weird, not really the same as everyone else. I guess maybe that last part is true.
I want to pull my hair out, because sometimes I want to not be called. It gets hard to do God’s will, and society doesn’t make it any easier. Every weird look I get, every bad day of class, every girl I get a crush on, or the other way around- these things all scream STOP DOING THIS!
But you know, throughout all of this, I still have that initial peace I first felt when I heard the call. It’s been refined though. I know that despite the hard days, I have Jesus, and Jesus has me. I keep my eye on the prize: true happiness, and I know Jesus will give me the strength to keep going. I can never really know I’m called to be a priest until I’m physically being ordained. Sometimes I really wish he would just punch me in the face with the clear- cut truth.
Don’t we all?
But yet I am here, and you are here. To one degree or another, we have heard the voice of God in our own lives, and the way we have responded is by gathering here in Nashville. I’m not the only one who experiences the difficulties with following Christ, we all do. Christ said we would have to pick up our own crosses. But our happiness comes from Christ alone, and that’s what drives us forward.