My Vocation Story

I have always found, at least for myself, that stories about how guys followed their vocation are pretty awesome.  There is just something inspiring about seeing people follow a call that is truly counter-cultural. What can I say, becoming a priest isn't going to get you accolades from most of the world; you are giving your life to something that doesn't pay well, has terrible hours, and requires an amount of dedication and sacrifice unheard of in our world that centers on individual success.  However, I think that a lot of young people are looking for something more, something meaningful, something inspiring.  Inherently people know that someday they're going to die and that no matter how much money they made, or how many friends they had, or how much prestige they gained, there going to lose it all.  Folks, there is something greater than all this worldly stuff.  Thus, vocation stories,  stories of people that go against the tide, that give their lives for something higher, that are willing to give up pretty much everything in this world to help others get everything in the next, are awesome!  Now, I'm not going to claim that my vocation story is all that inspiring; I don't know, from my point of view it is kind of boring, but here it is anyway:

I guess since I was about 4 or 5 I had this feeling that I should become a priest.  I suppose that I thought about other possible occupations (you know - astronaut, fireman...), but pretty much ever since that time I have never seriously doubted the call.  I can remember praying that I would one day be a priest.  Obviously, at that time, I didn't have a clue as to how that would come about, but there you have it; the call was there.

I have had the wonderful gift of growing up in a solid Catholic family, with both parents being strong and knowledgeable in their faith.  I was home-schooled,  mostly by mom, from 1st through 12th grade, and received a top-notch education in pretty much everything, especially my faith. I started serving Mass shortly after my first Holy Communion, and really took the job seriously.  Serving at Mass, Benediction, Stations, etc. was a tremendous factor in imbuing me with greater knowledge and reverence for both the Mass, the Eucharist, and the priest.  After St. Boniface (our original parish) closed, my family became "Roaming" Catholics for a while before starting to attend the extraordinary form Mass at St. Rose in 2008

Before this time, I think I had been to 1, maybe 2, extraordinary form Masses, and that was when I was quite a bit younger (and certainly didn't really know what was going on).  I began to serve at St. Rose shortly after we started going there, with the requisite memorization of the Latin phrases and new ways of doing things.  However, this experience didn't create some feeling against the ordinary form, it gave me a deeper love for the Mass in all its forms.  For me it was much more interesting to see how the Mass remained the same; yes the language was different, the positions of things were moved, the priest faced the same direction as the people, etc., However, I found it was so much more meaningful to see that both the ordinary and extraordinary are essentially the same.  It's the same sacrifice that has been happening at Mass for 2000 years, the same Eucharistic presence of Christ, I receive the same graces.  Now, the reason that I like attending the extraordinary form is that the extra solemnity and ceremony than your typical ordinary form is helpful.  It keeps me concentrating on the importance of what is happening.  Being weak and easily distracted humans, I often need some "smells and bells" to keep me focused, and the Extraordinary form Mass does that for me.

During this same time period (2007-2010) I also had the opportunity to go on vocation camps/retreats for a few days each summer.  This was my first time meeting seminarians and hanging out with them, and it really impressed me.  I had never met people who were as genuinely happy and as on fire for their faith as these guys were.  I heard their stories, prayed the liturgy of the hours, listened to inspiring talks about being a man of God, spent time in Exposition, played sports, ate great food, played games... Basically, I had a great time and I learned a ton about what it meant to be a man in preparation for priesthood.  Their example was hugely influential to where I am now, and really showed me the joy that comes with doing God's will.  I only hope that I can have a similar effect on young men that I meet.  

OK, so after graduating high-school in 2010, because I didn't have a clear picture of what I wanted to do, I went to a community college.  Basically, seminary was my end goal, but I wasn't ready to move out and I didn't know whether to go directly to seminary or go to a 4-year Catholic college first.  Fall 2011 was the tipping point.  I knew I needed to make a decision; college?  seminary? which college? which seminary?  and at the same time my twin sister entered a cloistered Dominican convent.  She had made her decision, and that gave me the strength to make mine (I'm sure her prayers didn't hurt either).  I finally contacted the diocese for information.  I ended up meeting the assistant vocation director for Springfield and we had a short talk on the process of applying and where I would be sent.  After that day I had a much better feeling about what I should do, but over Christmas break I got cold feet and ended up applying to a bunch of colleges (Ave Maria, Christendom, Belmont Abbey, etc.).  A few months later I started to get back the results for scholarships and stuff, with less than stellar results.  I thought that my good grades would get me a break on tuition, but it just didn't happen.  That result, and the thought that I was really just postponing the decision I needed to make, made me re-contact the diocese and formally apply in late April 2012.  

The process wasn't particularly easy: lots of paperwork, a few essays, a psychological examination, interviews, etc., but I finally felt I had made the right decision.  Well, I did until mid-July when I visited Brute, the seminary building where we live, (which was pretty cool) and Marian, where we take our classes, (which was not quite as cool).  I was expecting this vibrant, spectacular, Catholic college, like Ave or Belmont, and Marian just isn't that kind of university.  I hadn't taken any classes, but I was just let down by the experience and started to doubt if this was what I was called to do.  On top of that I got the bill for the tuition for Marian, which was pretty expensive, and I really didn't know if paying a big chunk of money for what didn't look like a great Catholic school was all that great of an idea.  Sure, I would be in seminary, but couldn't I take those same classes elsewhere?  You get the picture, I wasn't doubting my call to the priesthood, just the method of doing that.  I just didn't know, and everything that had looked great a month before now suddenly looked bleak.  Adding to this feeling was the fact that I was scared  leaving home for the first time.  I had been home-schooled through high school and then lived at home for two years of college.  I didn't "know" what God wanted me to do, and an awful lot of me said to just procrastinate.  In a sentence, I was afraid.

Nevertheless, Thank God, I didn't pull out at the last moment or something.  I went to the seminarian gathering (for Springfield) in mid-August and was thrilled by being with all these guys making the same decisions and taking the same path.  The same feelings that I had felt years before when meeting seminarians for the first time hit me again.  I knew that I needed to enter seminary - come what may.  I arrived at 
Bruté about a week later, moved my stuff into the tiny room, and said good-by to the family (which was pretty hard).  What can I say, the first semester was a blast!  My classes have been, for the most part, great; philosophy is challenging, but pretty fun sometimes.  The guys here are absolutely awesome: inspiring, cool, smart, holy, fun...  My spiritual life has grown immensely.  I am much more confident.  That "be not afraid" thing is starting to kick in.  I really feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, and that feels wonderful.

I find myself now having to add onto the end of this vocation story because another year has gone by, and life has continued.  My 2nd year at Bruté was again fantastic, but I had certainly gotten past the "honeymoon period" and so, while the guys remained awesome, the classes interesting and challenging, the prayer life intense, and most everything else just great, I started really wrestling with discernment and trusting in God and just growing in holiness.  God calls all of us to give ourselves totally to Him, and that isn't easy!  Seminary especially forced me to do this, and it was sometimes a struggle.  It wasn't the big dilemmas - am I going to enter seminary? - anymore, but now it was the choices every day of whether I would follow Christ or not.  Would I choose laziness or getting that assignment done, impatience or charity, vice or virtue, the easy way or the cross?  Following Christ no longer was simply overcoming fears and putting myself out there (in seminary, in formation, in society), now it required me to look inward and struggle with the harder task of growing in virtue.  It isn't quite as glamorous, exciting, or fast, but it's certainly the more important, and more eternally significant challenge!

Now, I am entering Theology I, a big milestone on the path to priesthood (God willing!), and a reminder to me of how fast everything is going by.  I am still having a blast, and I am still growing so much, and I still feel incredibly blessed (with great family and friends, with the chance to study at the North American College in Rome, with all your prayers - yeah, it's great)!  Pray for me that I might continue to trust God in everything! Thanks for reading!

Dominic Rankin
updated 7-11-14