Hello! Today I finally graduated from seminary, after six years here in Columbus, Ohio! Here is a little reflection I wrote up about the similarities between preparing for ordination and preparing for a marriage…
Two weeks ago I had the great honor of presiding over the wedding of one of my good friends from college (my first wedding!), and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about how much these last months before priestly ordination resemble the frantic months that an engaged couple experiences in the time leading up to their wedding.
The goal is very similar: an engaged man and woman are preparing to give themselves to Jesus through each other; a deacon is preparing to give himself to Jesus through service to the Church. The details also mirror one another: the couple searches for beautiful wedding garments, the priest-to-be searches for beautiful vestments for celebrating Mass. The couple prepares all the details of the wedding Mass; the priest-to-be prepares all the details for his first Mass of thanksgiving. The couple has to make invitations and plan a reception for family and friends; so does the priest-to-be. The couple does this preparation in the midst of their full-time jobs; my brothers and I have been doing this in the midst of our work here (serving in nearby parishes, taking the usual full class load, finishing thesis papers for our degrees, and preparing for comprehensive exams that cover the last four years of theology!)
In the midst of all the details, the engaged can easily begin to lose the big picture. Couples are often told when they come for marriage preparation, “These months are for you to prepare for your marriage, not just for your wedding!” In other words, the building of a lifelong marriage needs to be the focus, and not the one weekend of wedding celebrations. We candidates for priesthood have to keep reminding ourselves of the same thing. With all of the activity, it has been hard to stop and pray about what’s going on and really take it all in. We have to make sure that we continue to build our relationship with Christ and focus on preparing ourselves spiritually for the priesthood.
But the greatest parallel of all between preparation for marriage and preparation for the priesthood, I think, is the sense of not being truly prepared, the sense of inadequacy. Both are leaps of faith, like Indiana Jones jumping onto that invisible bridge thing at the end of The Last Crusade… we don’t know what will happen on the other side. Like an engaged person, we wonder, “Am I really ready for this commitment? Am I prepared for everything that might come our way?” The answer is definitely “No!”, because no one can ever be completely ready for such a mission. But just as my friends Marcie and Tim trust that God will help them to learn all that they need to know about marriage as they live it out, and that he will give them strength to get through all the unforeseen difficulties, so too do my brothers and I find consolation in knowing that God will help us to live out this vocation he has given us, so long as we stay close to him.
Thank you for your prayers for me and for my brother seminarians!Marriage, Priesthood, Vocations