I had a meeting with the vicar general of the diocese (second in command after the bishop). He’s known me since I was 12 years old, and I felt like he would be a good person to turn to for some advice.
In my conversation with him, I expressed my concerns about not having a defined direction in my life. I told him how I’m struggling with the desire to help people and the career direction I chose. He asked me if I would consider the possibility that I might be called to the priesthood considering my religious studies degree and my previous consideration of divinity school.
I told him I couldn’t preach things I don’t fully believe. I couldn’t force faith upon people when my faith isn’t in doctrine. We talked at length of my issues with the church, and how I think a lot of the leadership is hypocritical and not accountable. I told him I couldn’t teach things I either struggle with or don’t believe.
He tells me his own story in further detail about losing friends and loved ones. He tells me about his own sins and how he has been in love. He talks about his travels and what he has learned. He tells me that my experiences and the perspective that has come from them might have been necessary to mold me into exactly who I am.
Without hesitation, I’m a man of faith. I’m not so much a man of religion. I strive to live my life as if I’m accountable to a higher power. I have spent a lot of my life going to different places of worship, talking to people of cloth, and reading their religious text. While I see a great deal of value in religion for communities and society at large, I can’t point to a specific set of doctrine as the universal truth.
I turn back to the Catholic church at times because I’m comforted by the rhythm and familiarity. Whether I go to a service in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Latin, or attend service in French in Paris or Turkish in Istanbul, it’s comfortable. It allows me to clear my head.
Right as I was walking out, he told me to read Psalm 88 and really think about it in relation to my life. It’s a depressing passage that is a man of faith’s lamentation about the lack of God’s presence in his life. It’s a man who has lost everything, has been through hardship, and is searching for God. I probably haven’t read the passage in 7 years, but it’s a reminder I’m not alone. My struggles are not unique.
The monsignor tells me I’m a man of faith otherwise I wouldn’t have made my way to his office and felt the need to talk with him. He then urges me to remember that I’m a good man and not to lose sight of it.
The truth is I try to be a good man, but I don’t know if I will feel comfortable thinking that I am one. I try to live by faith, but I don’t know if I have enough faith to overcome life’s obstacles that prevent me from helping others in ways I want to help. I’ve seen a lot of bad in my life. If the greater power does indeed somehow participate in human life, what in the world makes me think I would be helped? There’s plenty of others who suffer far worse than me with more faith than me.
At this point, I don’t want help. I don’t deserve help. I will eventually help myself. I just want a sign that I’m not wasting my time.