Called by Name

As the rector of the Cathedral and the vocation director, I have gotten a lot of experience working with young people as they prepare to make a lifelong commitment to a vocation. Here at St. Peter’s we are in the middle of a run of weddings.

It turns out that most people want to get married when the weather is nice, and here in Mississippi, that means they’ve got about a five week stretch between the cold of winter and the heat of summer! Since April 13, I’ve presided at six weddings and I’ve provided marriage prep for a seventh couple who got married at a different parish. I also spent a weekend at the Engaged Encounter retreat which is part of the marriage preparation process at many parishes in the diocese.

Father Nick Adam

It is interesting that most couples spend 2-4 years dating before taking vows to be together for life – to have and to hold, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Most seminarians, on the other hand, spend 6-9 years in the seminary prior to making their priestly promises and being ordained a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.

No matter how long you date, you can’t be totally prepared for the lifelong sacrifices and challenges that marriage demands, and no matter how long you spend in seminary, or how good your grades are, or how well you understand the demands of priestly life, living this life is not something you can totally prepare for in the seminary.

What is basically necessary for successful marriages and faithfulness to priesthood, I believe, is that couples and seminarians understand that when they take their vows (or in the seminarian’s case, make their promises), their life is no longer about themselves. Our vocations are mysterious, and we don’t naturally possess all the attributes necessary to live them well. No one naturally wants to give their life up. We may give of ourselves when we are feeling particularly generous, but selflessness is really a supernatural activity. This is why we need the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony and the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders to live out our vocations well.

Many people have come up with, and will continue to come up with, good reasons why marriages fail, and priests leave. The truth is, there is never just one reason. Often, relationships fail because of a series of choices, not all of which were bad, but which eventually lead someone to stop giving themselves to the other. The spouse or the priest stopped being willing to give themselves and didn’t want to put themselves second anymore. I wish there was a magic bullet that could guarantee the success of marriages and the fruitfulness of priestly ministry, but there isn’t. Each of us who have made solemn promises to another, whether that is a spouse or the church, must hold ourselves accountable. Am I living for the other, or am I making small choices that lead me to think more about myself and my own comfort?

Our vocations should transform us. They should make us look and sound and act more like Jesus, who laid down his life for his friends.

Father Nick Adam, vocation director