It was almost exactly a year ago that I arranged my first visit to Moreau Seminary with Father Jim Gallagher, who was then the vocations director for the Congregation of Holy Cross. I made my first visit to Moreau Seminary on March 18 and applied shortly thereafter. I received my acceptance phone call some time early in May. The whole process moved quickly for me and, at the time, I wondered and discussed with friends whether or not I was moving too quickly.
To that point, I saw the decision to enter the postulant program as simply a decision to enter into formation for a year—making it one amongst many smaller vocational decisions. Furthermore, the application process itself is a helpful discernment tool, and there are numerous points throughout that process at which the decision is either reaffirmed or put on hold. In my case, the substantial process helped to reaffirm my desire to apply to the CSC. Anyhow, this is all to say that one year is not a lot of time, and there is not much to lose (and a lot to gain!), so do not be afraid to give religious life a try. Jump in and see if it fits!
As I indicated above, my journey to religious life was unexpected. The first time I thought about religious life was junior year of college. I was working through some spiritual exercises and imagining myself in married life and religious life. In both situations, I saw myself as content and fulfilled. This was surprising because I had been dead set on marriage for much of my life. It was the default position in my mind, and I almost treated it as if it were something to be “accomplished,” so to speak, which absolutely is an unhealthy way to approach marriage.
I am also an idealist and drawn to the ideal of self-gift that marriage entails. With these high ideals in mind, I set out to serve God in my own way. Instead of opening myself up to religious life, my attitude was something like this: “Alright, God. Here’s how I’m going to serve you: I’m going to get married, have a huge family (if you will it, of course), and do good work.” Fittingly, God spoke through my attachment to marital self-gift and, in this way, my eyes were opened to another means of living out that selflessness.
Last January, over a period of three weeks, it was made clear that I was being invited to discern religious life and, in doing so, to live out my desire for marriage as a witness to the kingdom to come. As a result, I started reading George Weigel’s Witness to Hope about John Paul II and, in him, I saw a model of the priestly vocation that greatly appealed to me. In John Paul II, I saw an undaunted and relentless witness to God’s kingdom and love: “Although I have lived through much darkness, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young … Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it!” In his life, too, I saw the intellectual life lived to its fullest in that his academic work was so closely integrated with his sacramental ministry, his pastoral work, and his teaching.
I learned that my desire for self-gift could be fulfilled in priestly ministry—in offering the sacrifice of the Mass, in the confessional, and in teaching—in a way that I had never seen before. This call particularly struck me when I realized the natural relationship between teaching and priestly ministry. There are few things that I enjoy more than teaching, facilitating discussion and learning; teaching and the academic life are very much integral to who I am.
Teaching, then, was one of the primary attractions to the Congregation of Holy Cross, but not the only one. During my visit to Moreau Seminary, I read through a significant portion of Basil Moreau’s Essential Writings, where many of his sermons and even his own expanded version of the Ignatian Exercises are contained, and learned much about him and the charism that he wished for the congregation.
We are educators in the faith and our strength and zeal for teaching is renewed by our communal prayer and life together. This rich sense of community is found in our common prayer and common table. Ultimately, I was drawn in by the community and the mission—Moreau’s call to remain hidden with Christ: “Hide yourself in God with me … Bury yourself willingly in the dust of a classroom or in the obscurity of a rural parish church.”
Gabriel Griggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.