Being Stupid and Big-Headed

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 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."


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3 Response to Being Stupid and Big-Headed

July 11, 2007 at 11:07 AM

This is a hard thing; to not be psyched out by the competition. I've done it repeatedly and I think most of us feel twinges of it at different points in our lives.
What is important to remember is that God's call is real, as is his love for you, and for creation. Each soul is unique and each brings forth a different aspect of God. Your varied experiences and familiarity with troughs as well as the peaks of "sucess" in this world will give you insights, experience and compassion that others won't have. Don't denigrate yourself for what you don't bring to the table; appreciate that your being and life make you unique and that your gifts are as important in God's eyes as those of anyone else.

July 12, 2007 at 4:45 PM

Thanks for the well wishes, and I agree, it's a tough aspect to deal with.

Since writing this, I've had a chance to speak with the young man via phone. He seemed out of his element, and was extremely greatful about me offering him a ride to Chicago.

He asked other questions: "What do I wear?" "What will it be like?" I assured him it was not a retreat, just a BBQ to meet and greet with the Capuchins and other men on similar journies.

It felt good to be knowledgable. It felt good to be helpful.

I might be OK.

I wonder if I can get the kid to say: "May the force be with you" to the Prior...

July 14, 2007 at 10:08 AM

You know, that feeling of "jealousy" isn't limited to the priesthood. I constantly find myself comparing my abilities and "success" someone else my age or younger, or my faith and journey to someone else, etc.

I was a fallen away Catholic, while many of my friends have NEVER left the Church, and in comparison to me, they seem so holy! I have to fight off this struggle, because it's not about competetion.

You're not alone in that experience. You could look at it like this; I don't know your history, but I gather you've had questions about your faith. Well, you've had to seek those answers, you've had to work harder to respond to God's call. Perhaps that means that God has given you strength where he lets others bear weakness, and what you percieve as weakness will actually be of great benefit to you as a priest when you minister to others.

God bless!