by Michael Francis Falce
“THEN THE LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire – but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
As I reflect upon my own vocation story during this diocesan year of vocations, I have to say that it’s quite simple. Some vocation stories are these dramatic events involving wind, fire and earthquakes causing individuals to stop dead in their tracks and follow the call of the Lord.
Mine is a simple, and yet, profound call from the Lord Himself during my youth. It was a silent pull that gradually increased. The beauty of vocation is that God calls us as we are, in whatever situation we are in, and gives us the grace necessary for the journey.
As far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a priest. It was an identity for which I eagerly longed. But as I came to learn, it’s not something that just happens from time spent in a classroom; instead, it’s achieved over time, through entering more deeply into our journey of faith with Christ during the many necessary years of seminary formation. I am grateful to the constant love and support of my parents, and for their patience and devotion as I journey during this time of seminary formation. I am also appreciative of the many priests of the diocese who continue to encourage me, and give me examples every day of the joy of priesthood, lived out in their ministries.
Growing up in an Italian-American family in Glendale, the Church and our faith were very important to us and were instilled in my brother and me from an early age. Every Sunday, we went to Mass at our parish church, St. Pancras in Glendale, which became a second home to me. I grew up with a parish family that was not only very supportive of me as I was attending the grade school, but also had a deep respect for my family. When I was older, I became an altar server, where this desire to become a priest bloomed. It was through the times that I spent serving at the altar that I felt so close to God. It made me want to learn more and more about the faith and to explore what these feelings were – ultimately, this longing for God.
After graduating from the parish school, I was encouraged to consider attending Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Elmhurst. This was one of the greatest decisions I made because it was in my time there that I grew profoundly in my relationship with the Lord. The opportunity to receive the Eucharist each day, paired with a deep learning of the faith and the example of the fine priests assigned there, as well the lay faculty, was encouraging and formative for me. I recall thinking that if God were truly calling me, and I were to continue straight through, ordination would be 12 or 13 long years away. How daunting it seemed!
Yet in my own mind, I thought I had it all figured out. I was very wrong. As I came to find out, God put many experiences in my life that would challenge me and help me to grow. In our lives we may feel as if God is abandoning us at times, but in fact, these places of emptiness are overflowing with the presence of God. During my entire journey, it has been a true metanoia; a profound change in my life so that I could continually welcome the Lord into my heart each day.
If I could give advice to someone discerning where they are with God in their lives, and ultimately what they feel called to do, I would say to draw close to the Lord each day in prayer. In everything that we do, may Christ be included in our lives. Don’t exclude Him, but rather welcome Him into the equation. We must always keep in mind that God is merciful and full of compassion. Talk to Him. Let Him know the desires of your heart. By doing this, we grow closer to the Lord who will heal us and free us to live the life that He is calling us to.
Falce, a parishioner of St. Pancras, Glendale, is studying to be a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese.