I received a call from Fr. Bill Hugo, director of the Capuchins Vocation office this afternoon. We spoke briefly, making plans for the upcoming BBQ and possibly taking some time to visit the Capuchin parishes in Chicago.
Similar to my trip to St. Louis, I was asked to help transport another possible candidate to the event. I've never had a problem with this...in fact I find it enjoyable to speak "off the record" with other discerning guys. A part of me feels a sense of camaraderie; through our experiences we share a bond. However there's another part of me that I keep at bay: the part with the metaphorical ruler and scale.
Meeting others working towards the priesthood has been a blessing and proverbial curse. Because of my insecurities as a Catholic, I often size myself against other prospects, trying to compare the competition. Are they competition? Not really, but having roots in the sales business, it's hard to befriend colleagues without wondering "Is this guy better than me?"
When Fr. Hugo told me about my trip-guest, I immediately went on guard. He was a few years younger than me; young enough to still be in college. He'd been talking with the OFM Caps for some time, and was interested in one of the Spanish parishes. To top it all off, Father let it slip that my guest will be ready for the postulancy.
Slow down, slow down. I'm visiting for the first time, and I have to size up to a kid who's ready to dive right in? The trip's two weeks away, and already I can feel the impending pressure to dive in along side him...or try to jump in first, just so I can beat him to it. Can I let this kid become a priest before me? What qualifies him over me? What makes him a better Catholic than me?
Maybe we'll arm-wrestle, and the loser has to apply to Opus Dei.
My approach might sound pretentious or even self-righteous, but I assure you this pendulum of emotion swings both ways. While I might portray competition, I'm really covering my jealousy. I've met Catholics who've never strayed, men who've dreamed of joining the priesthood their entire lives. I've spoken with guys who've never made a wrong step, college kids who know more theology than I'll ever know, and guys who are fluent in Spanish, where I can't even speak it as a Mexican.
I've been a bouncer, a DJ, a computer tech, a salesman, and many other things in my life. While I dabbled in each field, I met people who specialized in each of these vocations. These people excelled at what they did, and never thought about doing anything else. I looked up to such individuals for having the drive, perseverance, and aptitude to excel at their chosen profession. Now that I'm seriously pursuing my vocation, I see the same situation. How does someone like me compete with "more qualified" candidates?
Sometimes I think the need for priests is the only reason vocation directors are willing to let me visit.
There's two weeks until the trip to Chicago...two weeks to reconcile my insecurities about my faith, about myself, and about my calling. It's just so damn hard to see things as equal, and not "better or worse."