Sacrificing our time for good
In 1456, St. John of Capistrano, a Catholic priest, led an army of Hungarian Christians in Belgrade against Mohammed II and his Turkish fleet, who were on the verge of invading Vienna and Rome.
John won the battle — but at the cost of his life. As he took care of the spiritual needs of the soldiers, he contracted the plague during this battle and died three months later in the Franciscan monastery of Ilok, in Croatia. He once said, “By the brightness of their holiness, clerics must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed there to care for others.” St. John of Capistrano was no hypocrite.
Like John who gave his life for his men in the battle of Belgrade, a young man discerning the priesthood must reflect on his own holiness of life and how he is using his time and gifts for others. Holiness of life is one sign of a religious vocation (e.g., chastity, humility, modesty, charity, fortitude). When a man practices these virtues, he edifies the faithful by his very life. “Let your light shine before others,” says Christ, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Although most men do not practice these virtues perfectly on Day 1 (that’s why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist), in time these virtues begin to grow in them, helping them follow our Lord’s call to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). A life of holiness, then, is important for any man discerning the priesthood, for it brings the peace and light of Christ to others.
As St. John of Capistrano lost his life taking care of his brothers, a man considering the priesthood must also be willing to offer his own time and gifts for others. Waking up early to pray and go to Mass, going to confession regularly, helping out at his parish — all these things should cost the young man, to sacrifice his time and gifts to God for others. Clerics are here to care for others, so a man discerning the priesthood should consider how he is caring for others right now in his daily life. It won’t always feel good (as it didn’t for John when he contracted the plague), but no momentary feeling will ever surpass the profound joy and peace of a life given to Jesus Christ.
None of us are called to be St. John of Capistrano, but those discerning the priesthood should consider their holiness of life and how they are using their time and gifts for others. During this Christmas season — where we reflect on the Word made flesh as God’s gift to the world, the Redeemer who comes to us in Holy Communion — a Mass intention we can have is for those young men in our diocese who are being called by Jesus Christ, that the grace of Jesus Christ will continue to strengthen them in virtue and in the desire to offer their time and gifts to God for others.