“The Lord Has Sworn”: The Eternal Aspect of Our God-given Vocations

St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, New York
St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York

It’s back to school! Following a summer spent in the Mountain West, I find myself beginning my new life in New York, the first weeks of which are taking place at the beautiful St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, just north of New York City.

The building itself is an inspiring sight. It was built in 1896 and has the impressive, stately look that was common to all respectable institutions of the time. The interior echoes with the generations of priests who have been trained here at what was once known as “the West Point for priests”: class photographs from as far back as 1897 line the main hall, busts of popes and prominent American churchmen gaze at passersby, and portraits of past rectors adorn the refectory. Marble columns frame the main lobby and ornate wood-iron banisters flank the stairwells.

The stateliness and nobility of the seminary’s architecture and decorimage invite the seminarian  to remember the solemn and transcendent vocation for which he is preparing himself. This is especially true in the chapel, which is a gem of liturgical beauty. Oaken seats are arranged in choir fashion for the community recitation of the liturgy of the hours, and beautiful London-made stained glass windows depict scenes from the life of Christ. An exquisite mosaic over the sanctuary shows Christ the High Priest, the One with whom we seminarians will be sacramentally configured when ordained into his presbyterate.

The first thing in the chapel that caught my attention was the Latin inscription that is at the base of the copula, directly over the sanctuary: Tu es sacerdos in aeternum (“You are a priest forever”). 

imageI have read and heard this quote from Psalm 110 hundreds of times, but there are moments when the Word of God strikes me in a new and powerful way, which is what happened when I saw those words for the first time in the chapel.

I have been traveling towards the priesthood for quite some time, fifteen years to be exact, and I still have four years to go. When I first started, I knew it would be a long process, but I did not expect it to be quite so long. There have been many unexpected twists and turns on my journey towards the priesthood, and these have been disconcerting at times. However, in the midst of the vicissitudes that life has thrown at me, God has reminded me time and time again that from all eternity he has called me to be his priest.

As I gazed at the excerpt from the Psalms from my new place in the choir seats, I felt that the Word of God was speaking to me directly and personally, and a great new peace came over me. I pondered the entire quote:

The LORD has sworn and will not waver: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.” – Psalm 110:4

I have yet to be ordained, but I know that my vocation comes from and is directed towards the eternal Godimage. My journey to the priesthood has taken longer than expected, but, as my father told me recently, four more years really pale in comparison to eternity!

I hope that you do not mind me sharing this personal reflection with you, but I think it points to something that is common to all of our vocations: circumstances change, but God’s call does not. No matter what life throws at us, nothing escapes God’s providential plan for each of us. It is often precisely when life does not go our way that awesome things happen. From all eternity, God has called each of us to do something unique and beautiful, and he will not change his mind because “The LORD has sworn and he will not repent.”

My New Life in New York City

Dear friends,

Greetings! I hope that you have had a restful summer. Mine has been very eventful, but before I begin writing posts about my summer experiences, I would like to dedicate this one to sharing with you about my new situation and the new context from which I will be writing to you weekly.

Most of my posts last year were written from the beautiful city of Rome, but this year, I will be writing from an entirely different metropolis: New York City!

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In front of the iconic Grand Central Station clock shortly after returning to New York.

That’s right! After much thought and prayer, I decided last spring to make a lateral move from the Legionaries of Christ (with whom I was studying in Rome) to the Archdiocese of New York. I have been accepted officially as a seminarian of the Archdiocese and will complete the last four years of my priestly formation with them. I am very much looking forward to serving the Church in this great city where I lived before my time in Rome.

This next year will be a unique one for me. While attending moral theology classes at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, just north of the city, I will be living and working at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in the Bronx borough of New York City doing a “pastoral year.” During this pastoral year, I will be working closely with the pastor to learn first-hand how to be a parish priest and I will be involved in the parish life.

St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, New York
St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York

Following my pastoral year, I will live full-time at the seminary, completing the last three years of studies for a bachelor’s degree in theology. God-willing, I will be ordained to the diaconate in 2018 and to the priesthood in 2019.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of my formators and friends in the Legionaries of Christ. My years with them were unforgettable and enriching, and I would not exchange them for anything in the world. I look forward to collaborating with them as a diocesan priest in serving the Church and extending the Kingdom of Christ.

My new home for the next year: St. Benedict's in the Bronx.
St. Benedict’s in the Bronx

I am very excited to see what the Holy Spirit has in store here in New York City. Stay tuned to see what happens!

Five Steps to Peace: Step 5 – Stop Clinging

Dear friends,

I have been taking a summer break from the blog to prepare for the upcoming school year and to gather new writing ideas. My break has been refreshing and fruitful, and I look forward to posting regularly from next week onward. In the mean time, I would like to share this post from last April, which I hope you will find inspiring.

God bless!

Eric

God-Lights

imageLast summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with confreres who live near San Jose, California. When I told a businessman friend that I would be spending several weeks in Silicon Valley, he got very excited and insisted that I visit Google: “Those tech companies are changing the world! Be proactive and meet people there!”

Having learned the importance  of networking during my New York days, I took his advice and started thinking of ways to get in touch with someone at Google. However, as I worked on solving the problem, a quiet thought from the Holy Spirit snuck into the midst of my calculations and plans: “You know what, why don’t you just let me handle this one?”

My instant reaction was a “clinging” one: “What! If I am going to make this happen, I need to be proactive. I can’t just assume that it will happen…

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Five Steps to Peace: Step 4 – Live Fully in the Present

God-Lights

c34df16eec044c5399f9d7e1aa3e7d95We all know that feeling: Sunday afternoon, the weekend is dwindling away, and only a few hours stand between you and work. The Friday-night relaxation that turned into Saturday-afternoon laziness has already faded into Sunday-evening ennui,  soon to become Monday-morning anxiety as you leave the happiness of weekend leisure to re-enter the unpleasantness of the work-week.

We all get that feeling every time something good is about to come to an end, be it the weekend, vacation, or the holiday season. It may be mollified when more enjoyable things are soon to come, but there will always be those moments when you realize that the good times won’t roll forever.

“Do not Worry about Tomorrow”

Even though we will always have to wake up to unpleasant realities (at least while on earth), the good news is that it doesn’t have to be so miserable when we do. The key is to stop worrying about the future and learn to live the present…

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Five Steps to Peace: Step 3 – Make the Best of Your Circumstances

God-Lights

1207-TR-WR02.01About seven miles off the western coast of Ireland, a lonely island looms out of the sea, the tip of a massive oceanic mountain. Fifty-four acres and 715 feet high, Skellig Michael is now home only to a colony of Northern Gannets, but there was a time when this remote outcropping hosted more than seabirds. For over 600 years, it was home to Irish monks seeking complete solitude and spiritual freedom.

Skellig Michael has always fascinated me. Even though the monastery has been unoccupied since the 13th century, just thinking of  those determined hermits continues to be an inspiration. I marvel at the desire for God that drove them to embrace such a life of radical separation from the world.

Living in a world that idolizes freedom, the idea of constricting oneself to a tiny islet can seem ludicrous, but I think that we can learn a very valuable lesson from those…

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