It seems like eons past, but merely 6 months ago, I would have cringed at the thought of openly discussing my vocational discernment. Thoughts of inadequacy mixed with feelings of doubt kept me quiet about this strange pull I was feeling. I didn't want this to be a "phase" or "the next thing Vito's into." Surely I was scared of what others might think, but I was scared about what it really meant to me.
These days, I talk about my calling the way I talk about other things in my life. Some have been more receptive than others, while some have really no words to say.
"You're seriously gonna be a priest? Oh my God, that's like so crazy!"
"And they're seriously gonna let you be a priest?"
"When you're done praying to baby Jesus, did you wanna stop by and play cards this weekend?"
Months ago, I feared hearing such things, and even now it would surprise most of you to know that these are comments from friends and co-workers. Should they be saying such things to me? Don't I find their comments hurtful?
It's taken a while to understand the motives and thoughts of people close to me, but after spending time in reflection, I honestly believe that I hear such comments from friends and family not out of malice, but out of confusion and ignorance; and the only way to conquer ignorance is to educate.
Let me explain further...obviously with another story from my life.
When I developed epilepsy at the age of 16, my first few seizures occurred when I was spending time with family. Growing up an only child meant my closest siblings were my cousins. Most of my cousins are guys, so there tends to be a lot of teasing and trash-talking.
However when I first had a seizure in front of them, the happy days were interrupted. This was something new for them - for all of us. It was scary, it was unsettling, but it was family. I am the eldest of the Martinez 3rd generation, so for boys 14 down to 10 to watch someone go into convulsions is not something to be taken lightly. Frankly, it scared the snot out of them.
Later, as I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and the family understood that I would have seizures for the rest of my life, it just became another part of who I am. And like most guys, when we don't completely understand something, or if it's a touchy subject to bring up, we joke about such things.
I see my vocation in a similar light. I've accepted that not everyone will be able to understand why I feel called to religious life. In most instances, explaining what a friar does is even more complicated than explaining my draw towards a vocation. For these friends and acquaintances, it's easier to joke about it. Sure it is a sensitive topic, but if I can get them to talk about it, even in a joking manner, and they realize that I'm neither offended nor shy about my calling, they may come to realize part of what this is all about. If I'm lucky, they'll start asking more important questions.
Until then, I will keep getting ribbed, but that's OK. Even when I hear: "So you haven't gotten laid in HOW long?" I still don't miss a beat:
"Well over a year...so about half as long as you."
I figure if my priest says he's going to give up celibacy for Lent, I'm still allowed to have a slightly skewed sense of humor.