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home : features : people of faith

2/25/2016 9:00:00 AM
SEMINARIAN'S DIARY
The devil's in the details
'Along the path of discerning one's vocation, being overly concerned about details can halt us, taking away the meaning, the intent and the drive that has us discerning in the first place. Our focus should always be on the Lord and where we feel He is leading us.'
BY DEACON BRIAN KELLY


There is a sense of excitement going around here at the seminary, as ordination season will soon be here.

The planning, for many, can be overwhelming, a glimpse into the planning that couples go through as they plan their wedding day: Which detail am I going to forget? Who am I forgetting to add to the invitation list?

So many details can easily overwhelm and take away from the excitement, purpose and meaning that should be the focus of what is about to change in that single moment. Ordinations are jam-packed with meaning, purpose and instantaneous, lifelong change, such that the little details around the event that are distracting can be relieving for some. This is the moment -- "the beginning of the rest of our lives," as we commonly hear during graduation speeches.

This is what we have been working toward, what the people who have supported us all along have been praying for. It's the time when we turn ourselves over completely to the Lord, for His will: to be His presence to the world, always in service to His people, helping to continue to spread the Gospel as priests partaking in the mission of the Church.

Most importantly, this is the moment our lives change from one of discerning a vocation to beginning to live out our vocation. It's the day our lives change from one of reception, from others helping us to discern God's calling in our lives, to one where we faithfully commit to do all we can to help others encounter Christ through our living out this vocation.

St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Hebrews, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." That line, heard throughout and referenced within the ordination rite, summarizes, for me, the past five years of discernment and seminary formation.

Looking back on those moments of feeling overwhelmed with classes, exams, papers, pastoral experiences and so on has brought me to this point of being able to approach ordination as one who is finally ready to faithfully commit to the priesthood forever.

Each experience, even if I still fail to see the value in it, has played a part in helping to mold me into who I have become: starting out discerning quietly on my own several years ago, filled with uncertainty and questions, to now looking forward to putting aside the overwhelming details around ordination and focusing instead on the joy within that moment and what is to come in the future.

The common saying, "The devil's in the details," couldn't apply more during this time, and during the entire time one is discerning.

Details are important; they can make a project fail from within if one doesn't pay attention to them. However, in the context of discernment, details will almost certainly get in the way of the moment of encounter with the Lord and the journey along the path on which He's leading one - that is, on the big picture, rather than the little one.

Even someone who centers his or her life around the foundation of Ignatian spirituality, of finding God in the little things, would agree that the big picture is something we always need to be mindful of and focused upon. Along the path of discerning one's vocation, being overly concerned about details can halt us, taking away the meaning, the intent and the drive that has us discerning in the first place. Our focus should always be on the Lord and where we feel He is leading us.

In the end, the most important detail about ordination day or each day leading up to it is simply, "This is where I feel the Lord is calling me -- and, wherever He is leading me, I will simply say 'yes,' and follow Him."

(Deacon Kelly is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. A native of Newtonville, he was formerly business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes. He is scheduled to be ordained in June, along with Deacons Francis Vivacqua, Steve Matthews and Patrick Rice.)





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