Some years ago I was in college, majoring in computer science, and dating a beautiful young woman. An older priest, Msgr. Curlin told me that he thought I was called to be a priest. I was puzzled as to how to react. No one had ever said this to me before. So I asked him if he’d like to meet my girlfriend. He was unfazed and told me stories of other men, now priests, who had said the same. In some ways he spoke like a military recruiter: “The Church needs good men, Chuck. God needs good, strong men.”
I was surprised to hear a priest speak this way. I was born in 1961 but came of age in the Church of the 1970s. It was a time of crossless Christianity. Crosses had literally been removed from my parish church and replaced by a “resurrection Jesus.” Notions of sacrifice and fighting against sin had largely been replaced by a kind of “God is Love, self-acceptance” emphasis. It was a time of “beige Catholicism” which demanded little and saw its main task to be as non-offensive as possible.
As a young man, none of this appealed much to me. I think most young men are “up for a battle.” They want to change the world or at least make a key difference. Now suddenly a priest was summoning me to manhood and to something sacrificial, something that would take a “strong” man. And my services were needed, God and the Church depended on men like me saying yes. Imagine that!
I didn’t say yes that day. I continued to date and worked toward finishing my Computer Science Degree. But I had heard a summons to a great battle, the ancient battle between Christ and our adversary the Devil. And the call grew. For various reasons my steady girl and I broke up. Saddened though I was, I saw an opened door before me and the call quickened. I walked through and began a process of discernment with the Archdiocese that led to my Ordination to the Priesthood in 1989.
I suppose there are many ways of seeing my priesthood. But most powerfully I see myself as a soldier in the army of the Lord. The battle today is fierce. We live in a world increasingly hostile to our holy faith and the teachings of the Church. And the call must go out as never before: The Church needs good men to be priests, strong and courageous. Men who will speak the truth in love, clearly and without compromise and celebrate the sacraments with devotion and faith. Men who know that the eternal salvation of many is dependent on them being zealous priests after God’s own heart. Men who by the grace of God are willing to fight for souls in the battle that matters most.
So there it is men. The Lord is looking for good men to engage the great battle for souls. And there’s an old saying, “If you find a good fight…get in it!”
This article was originally written for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese and appears in today’s print edition. The Website for the Catholic Standard is very good, lots of current articles and good links too. In case you haven’t visited check it out: Catholic Standard Online
Vocations for Men: Msgr. Rob Panke 301-853-4580
Here’s a video I stitched together with scenes from Fishers of Men and set to Lyle Lovett’s “I’m A Soldier in the Army of the Lord”