How people can aid in life’s discernments

I once read a quote attributed to St. Ignatius that said something to the effect of, “if you want to know what God is saying to you, pay special attention to the people you’ve encountered.” My vocation to the priesthood and religious life in the Congregation of Holy Cross, which comes from God, has been nourished by a community of men and women who have, over the years, been the instruments through which the Almighty has helped me mature and understand what a vocation entails.

My vocational journey began in my childhood at the Catholic elementary school that I attended in Connecticut. It was there that I encountered, on a daily basis, humble, faith filled, zealous, and dedicated diocesan priests and the Daughters of Wisdom. In them I saw disciples who were following Jesus, sharing their faith, and ministering to God’s people with a love that I found captivating. In some way I found myself, as is possible for someone so young, wanting to be like them. I began asking questions, which led me to hearing God’s voice for the first time through them.

In high school my vocational questions deepened. It was then that I met the Congregation of Holy Cross as the school was staffed by religious brothers. I met Br. Maurus O’Malley, CSC, during the first week of classes when he was assigned to be my guidance counselor. We attended to the academic issues, but soon our regular check-ins became more about my desire to be a priest and quite possibly living out that vocation as part of a religious community. Br. Maurus became a friend, a spiritual mentor, and a companion on the journey who remained a constant presence in my life until he died some twenty-five years after I first walked into his office.

During my senior year of high school, I took a theology class that focused on discernment as an integral aspect of the Christian life. Mrs. King spent a semester helping her students understand and reflect on how God calls us in various ways throughout our Christian lives, and at the heart of that call is learning to listen, trust, and then abandon ourselves to God who yearns to transform us as we make Him the center of our lives.

After college, and hearing God’s voice continuing to call me to dedicate my life to serving Him and the Church, I answered His call. My years at Moreau Seminary invited me to a more intense and deliberate discernment of how God was leading me to live out my faith. I met countless Holy Cross priests and brothers over the years whose voices, witness and vocations have impacted me and my vocation. The most influential, however, was a priest who was talking about the religious vows and said of poverty, “it’s a vow to humility and reminding yourself each day that your vocation is never about you, but always about glorifying God and allowing others to encounter Him through you.”

As I reflect on my vocation, eighteen years after being ordained, I remain mindful of every person that God allowed, and continues to allow, me to encounter on the way. My vocation has been about encountering and walking side-by-side with so many incredible people. I pray that however many years are left in this life of service, it will find me listening to God, trusting in the Lord, and following Jesus whose purpose is to continually transform my life and help me to become a stronger servant and an instrument of grace.

Fr. John M. Santone, CSC, is a Holy Cross priest and the priest-in-residence at Flaherty Hall. Contact him at