This is part of The Evangelist’s ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their formation for the priesthood. Read previous installments under “specials” at www.evangelist.org.
This is part of The Evangelist’s ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their formation for the priesthood. Read previous installments under “specials” at www.evangelist.org.

One of the most interesting figures in the Easter story is Simon of Cyrene. We know so little about him, yet he teaches us so much.

All we know about Simon of Cyrene is that he came from North Africa and was made to help Jesus carry His Cross. He had traveled a great distance — probably at great expense, monetarily and physically.

Although we do not know why he was in Jerusalem, it is clear that his plans were thwarted: In an instant, he was taken from his chosen path and put on another one. He was forced to carry the cross of one convicted and being executed in what was the most shameful manner of execution.

There certainly would not have seemed to be any glory in what Simon was doing. Someone once pointed out that, if he was there to celebrate Passover, that would no longer be possible. Coming into contact with a beaten and bloody Jesus would make him unclean. Simon would be cut off from his plans, from his community, from worship; it might even seem like he was cut off from God.

He seemed to lose everything — but it is precisely in losing everything that Simon gained everything. He walked in the footsteps of Jesus, which required him to carry a cross, but he was also the one who followed Christ most closely in that moment.

Though the cross was heavy and the journey difficult, God was with him. Although the order came from a soldier, the action was ordered to God. Simon could not celebrate Passover, but he became a part of its fulfillment. The blood of Christ that rendered him “unclean” cleansed not only his sins, but those of the whole world. Though Simon carried the cross to Golgotha, the journey extended to heaven.

This Lent, one of my fellow seminarians organized a group of us to make or renew our consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the method laid out by St. Louis de Montfort. The consecration is all about giving everything you are and everything you have to Jesus through Mary. Jesus could have come to us any way He wanted to, but He chose to come to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary; therefore, we go to Jesus by giving ourselves to Mary.

It is a beautiful devotion. Each week, we met in the chapel as a group and prayed with the Scriptures and the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. At the end of the 33-day preparation, on the feast of the Annunciation, we consecrated ourselves to Jesus through Mary.

It was such a great grace to be united in prayer with my brother seminarians. There were nine of us, of diverse backgrounds, ranging from 22 to 36 years old, each with an incredible and inspiring life story. Like Simon, each of us was called in a unique and powerful way, and each was confronted with a choice: my way or God’s way?

We each have to rely on prayer to discern, as best we can, what God wants. We then have to trust that God will lead us to whatever He truly wants of us. Although we are not always certain what God wants at all times, we know that He wants an eternal relationship with us. He wants us to seek Him, pray to Him, love Him and let Him love us forever.

When we feel like we can’t live out God’s will and find ourselves lost or in darkness, we must remember that the darkness — the wandering, being lost or blind — is God calling us to leave all comforts and security behind and follow Him totally. We have to give that to Him in prayer and trust in Him. He gets us there; we can’t do it on our own. His grace is everything.

Like Simon, each seminarian was taken from one path and put on another. Simon was pulled from the crowd and united to God. In this consecration, we give ourselves to our Blessed Mother so that she can give us to God. It is a lifelong journey of trust.

(Mr. Houle, a native of St. Mary’s parish in Albany, is studying for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.)