We live in a time when faith, although felt by many, is seldom acknowledged, even by the very person who feels it deep down in their heart. Faith is not a popular topic of conversation, nor is it a worthy goal for a successful life. Indeed, as a seminarian, I find it very difficult to be a man of faith amongst most of my friends and family who simply do not share in the same spiritual goals.
Now don't get me wrong. It's not that I am judging any of my friends and family for having little or great faith. That is besides the point. What I find difficult to deal with is my relation to them. There are so many things that I want to say; so many things I want to do; so many things I want to witness to, and yet, in this day and age, it rarely seems appropriate to do so. I know that we must always witness to Christ wherever we are and among whoever. Yet, it is hard when I sometimes feel that no one will understand.
We (seminarians) are constantly surrounded by people who, although are general good, mostly don't care about the faith that they profess to have in God's one true church. It is this indifference that I find daunting and discouraging. I wonder how I will be able to reach these people in my future ministry? How will I be able to deal with the many self-professed theologians and know-it all of the faith; those who believe and those who do not, and those who simply despise me for what I stand for. And more importantly, the danger of myself becoming one of these people; allowing the uphill battle to get the best of me and thus fall into temptation and sin.
Sometimes, the only solace and support we find is in fellow students of theology who have grown up in the same environment and have the same vision of the church. These are the few that understand each other and can speak on the same level. Unfortunately, we grow up in a fictional and idealistic environment that is called the seminary. There, things are as they should be but not as they are in the real world of parish life. And to add to this divide and frustration, there are so few of us who have chosen this path, that we usually rarely see each other after we leave seminary. The Lord scatters His prophets to the ends of the earth (as He should) and they lose their support system.
As my best friend, who is a priest, once told me, "Priesthood is very lonely because no one gets you, no one is truly your friend because there is a great divide." This is very true. The bible reminds us of the alienation of the prophets from the world. Indeed, they were killed by those who they tried to help. And perhaps that is the only way to deal with this sadness I sometimes feel when contemplating my life's vocation and calling. We must accept that those who we will try to help will probably betray us anyways. We will receive little appreciation (if we do our job well that is) and we will have success in small increments. However, we must rejoice over that one sheep which went astray more than the 99 that went not astray.
If we truly preach the Word correctly, we must be ready to be very unpopular. We like to read the lives of the saints and see those who were very popular amongst the people as our examples. However, in the Gospel of John, Jesus outlines that those who do evil (most of us) do not like the light because it will expose their evil deeds. They do not want to come near to it, but rather prefer the darkness. If we, as the priests, are to show them the way, which is illumined by the true light which is Christ, how many will actually receive what we say with joy? This is something that we should think about before we enter the all holy priesthood. Truly, in this day and age, it is a very unpopular club that we seek admittance to. And so we must ask ourselves why we are seeking this above all other things in life.