Discernment Update: Things Change

Here’s a general life update before I deactivate my facebook tonight. If you want to keep up with me going forward, I’ll still be periodically updating the blog. I (obviously) won’t be linking on facebook so you won’t get updates on there. Maybe friends will pick up the slack. Otherwise, if you enter your email address at the bottom of the page and you’ll automatically get updates when I post.

As of February 1, 2016, I’m in my third year of Seminary. I finished 2 years of philosophy studies at Holy Trinity Seminary/University of Dallas, then moved to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston for theology studies (Pursuing an MDiv and MA in Theology). Barring an unforeseen circumstance, I’ll be ordained a deacon in May 2020 and a priest in June 2021. I say that with joy.

A lot has changed since I first entered and that’s a very good thing. My discernment has matured and my peace/conviction has continued to grow. When I first applied and was accepted by the diocese during my senior year of college, I was still very hesitant. If you asked me how I was doing at the time (and got an honest answer), it would have been something like this, “I’m convinced that God wants me to be in seminary, but I’m still really uncomfortable with that idea. So I’m entering, but I’ll probably be done at the end of the year.”

In The Beginning – Restless

My first semester was a continuation of that theme. I was there because God wanted me to be, but I was looking for reason to leave. “Hey God, I’m here… but I’m raising my hand and waiting for you to call on me to say that this was all a big joke. I’ll be out of here tomorrow if you let me.” Of course God was working in the process, but all my effort was spent “fighting” the very call I was attempting to follow. I was doing everything I needed to externally, but prayer was tumultuous and hardly receptive.

Sometime in the second semester of first year I realized that I was doing it all wrong. If I was called to priesthood, the best thing I could do would be dive fully into seminary life. Likewise, if I was not called to priesthood, the best thing I could do would be to dive fully into seminary life. The only way God can confirm or deny a call is by giving it your full will. In either case, God would speak in peace or discontentment (the signs of discernment). This principle can be called the “presumption of permanence”. I’m supposed to be here unless God calls me out, and the only way to find out I’m not supposed to be here is to live the life and discover I’m miserable (as some of my friends have along the way).

But as these things go, that’s not how it went down. Second semester and second year were major periods of growth. To the measure I allowed him in, God slowly began addressing the faults and lies in my belief and revealed my deeper desires. Over time, time in prayer began to heal my deep mistrust of God’s fatherly benevolence and I became more able to say “Maybe God is calling me to this not because he’s a tyrant who needs me to fill a role, but because it’s actually the best thing for me.”

Coming to major seminary has been a continuation of that growth. Priesthood became a lot more real when I started eating meals 3 times a day with deacons who will be ordained to full Holy Orders in less than year. It continues to grow more real as I petition for minor orders (steps along the way) and more deeply embrace the priest’s life of prayer. As I get further into formation, I become more aware of the endless ways I need to grow in holiness, dependence on God, and practical habits. Somehow, despite that (or perhaps precisely because of that), God keeps calling.

Sem brother at DCYC 2017

I came into Seminary praying, “Jesus, I want to do whatever you ask of me.” I meant that as truly as I could at the time, but the reality is that I didn’t trust Jesus; I was going to do what He asked, but I resented Him for it. After 2+ years of formation, spiritual guidance, and prayer, God has worked powerfully to purify my ability to receive his love and consolation. Today I’m praying the same prayer, “Jesus, I want to do whatever you ask of me,” but I poses a deeper trust that God is good and will only ask what is good for me. Never easy, but good.

Things Change – Peace, Joy, Desire

Two years ago I was afraid of the title “seminarian”. I remember telling friends the summer before I entered, “I’m not a seminarian till I talk in the door” (My vocation director would disagree). I avoided buying a cassock until a month after I moved into seminary; I figured I’d be gone before I needed it and I didn’t want the commitment of putting money down on something so officially Catholic. Today I’m awed and humbled by the love I receive from others and want as many men as God wills to join me in the beautiful, challenging, grace-filled, rewarding life. I love when I get to speak to groups about seminary and my own discernment (More).

Two years ago I was looking for a reason to leave. Today I would fight hard if were told I’m not called to Priesthood and need to leave seminary, “you don’t understand. This is what God is calling me to and I really desire it.” Of course I would also take that leap into unknown and obey is asked/told.

God keeps calling me. To sanctity, but a sanctity specifically lived out as seminarian and eventual as a priest. That’s affirmed in my superiors who speak as representative of the Church, my spiritual directors who guide my interior life of prayer, and the countless people I meet when I visit parishes to speak or serve. Simultaneously, my desire for ordination continues to grow.

My earlier discernment focused on the things I’d be giving up. “I won’t be with that girl. I won’t have a family. I won’t work in the tech industry. I won’t be able to take on the challenge of living sanctity in the lay life. Etc.” Today I’m much more aware of the things I would miss out on if I weren’t a priest. “I won’t be able to forgive those sins. I won’t reconcile that person to Jesus. I won’t physically make Christ present on that altar. I won’t be with that family as they suffer. I won’t be free to give myself entirely to the people of this parish. I won’t live the same dependent intimacy with the Lord. Etc.” There is so much goodness in the priesthood that I couldn’t even imagine earlier on (more).

So here I am. God keeps calling. My desire is continually affirmed in contended joy. We keep pressing on together.

Austin DCY 2017 Mural

You get enough pictures of me. Check out this beautiful mural commissioned for our diocese youth conference.

5 thoughts on Discernment Update: Things Change

  1. Colby, I’m so thankful to have you as a friend! May God continue to bless you on this journey! I want an invitation to your ordination in 2021!!!!!

    In Christ,

  2. Wow Colby. What a journey! Thanks for letting us come along for the ride.

  3. I would like to get the blog reminders. I hope your time away from Social Media is frutiful and allows you the focus you are longing for. I am proud of you. I often wonder if I could give up facebook. But I have never acted on those musings.

  4. Thank you Colby for sharing your experiences and story with us. You are an inspiration! May God continue to bless you, I know he will!


Leave a Reply to Debra Gray Cancel reply