By Matt Millay
The purpose of this article is to unpack some pieces of my vocation story. What I hope to offer here is three-fold. First, I will reflect briefly on what a vocation to the priesthood means. Second, I will identify some key moments, actors and virtues in my life that supported my vocation. Last, I will express to you what my life is like now as a seminarian.
The word vocation resembles the Latin word vocare; it means to call, summon. The call to priesthood involves a man conforming his life to Jesus Christ, the high priest. The church needs priests in as much as a body needs its head. Recognizing the call to priesthood is as simple as recognizing Christ in the interior life and in the church.
When one encounters Jesus and invites him into one’s life, he can change things for the better, which means your salvation and mine. My vocation is rooted in following Jesus closely as a disciple. That discipleship has drawn me back, again and again, to a paradoxical listening to God in the silence of prayer and experiencing God manifest his loving action in the sacraments, in my family, and in my friendships. Those aspects of my life confirm that the priesthood is a call to love like Jesus, with his heart, rich in mercy.
Recently, I was cleaning out a piece of furniture in my parent’s basement. Little did I know, it contained my baptismal candle and certificate. I also came across a picture that captured that moment. My parents, grandparents and older brother were all present. The photo captures what I consider the fundamentals of my life, religion, and family. While growing up, my parents provided me the stability to grow in holiness. As a family, we consistently practiced our faith by attending Mass and participating in other sacraments such as reconciliation and confirmation.
Faithfulness was a virtue as much as faith itself was. What paralleled my parent’s quiet, consistent witness was that of my grandparents. My grandfather, having retired from the restaurant business, served as my babysitter when I was young. He and my grandmother established a household that likened to a little Benedictine monastery. Always, they demonstrated the virtue of hospitality when others would visit. My grandparents taught me to welcome all as Christ and to love the things of God: the church, the Eucharist, the life of prayer and the people.
My family gave me access to God. As time moved on, I was able to receive the love of God and follow his lead. After high school, I ventured off to college. At Western Kentucky University, I explored and wrestled with my vocation, my calling. The path I had chosen was pre-dentistry. While I enjoyed aspects of my study and research, I found that my heart was not in it.
Instead, my heart and peace of mind centered in a profound way on Christ and the church. My manner of life involved having close friends in my fraternity and at the Catholic campus center. Those friendships helped me see myself more clearly. They helped me see that I relate to others as a guide, a mentor, a leader. As much as I began to see those attributes more clearly in myself, I realized my own need for a guide. I found one in the then-pastor of St. Joseph Church in Bowling Green, Ky. Throughout a series of conversations, he helped me reflect more deeply and accept that seminary was my next step in following Christ.
Now, the title seminarian marks my current status. I have learned much in my short two and half years of formation at St. Meinrad. I have realized that this phase of life requires prayerful attentiveness, most of all, to God and what he is doing in my life. A seminarian’s life is full of activity. Graduate coursework, meetings, study and communal prayer are just a few aspects of life here that I value. Also, going to a seminary run by Benedictine monks keeps the virtue of hospitality relevant. I realize that my future role as a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville is to usher together Jesus and the people. I see the priesthood as my response to the loving request of Jesus, which is “Follow Me” (Matt 9:9).
Matt Millay is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Louisville.