Almost two years ago we interviewed a seminarian. This recently gave me the idea to interview a transitional deacon (which is a deacon on his way to priesthood, as opposed to men who are deacons for life). A young deacon that I know was graciously willing to do the interview, and a few of us here at FOS came up with the following questions. Here are Deacon Justin’s answers. Enjoy!
Describe the moment that you realized God’s calling for your life.
I had been thinking about a vocation to the Priesthood since I was roughly eight years old. However, the moment when things “clicked” for me was when I was Seventeen and taking part in a vocational discernment retreat. At the end of this retreat I was sitting in the chapel before mass and I was looking at the poster that had been made (which depicted children playing dress-up in the various clothes and habits worn by different vocations). I looked at the little boy who was wearing an alb and red stole that were too large for him, and this image struck me. What struck me was first the fact that the boy in the painted poster looked a-lot like me. What also struck me at that moment was the fact that Jesus – through prayer – had accomplished so much healing and growth in my life over the past year, that my fears that held me back from crossing diocesan priesthood had been addressed, responded to by the mercy of Jesus. Thus, after a few moments of looking at this image, and realizing that the Lord had given me the gift of freedom to chose a vocation, I chose priesthood, and I have not looked back since.
Who has influenced you the most in your vocation journey?
Well, I would first have to say my Great Aunt, Sister Ann-Marie Bertrand, who was a sister of St. Joseph for over 70 years before she passed away about a decade ago. She was the person who first suggested that I think about becoming a priest (I was eight years old when she suggested this to me).
I would also have to mention the great influence of the many priests, friends, family, and Seminary Faculty who have all contributed greatly to not only my formation, but also by their encouraging and inspirational witness and support over these many years of formation.
Lastly, I would be lying if I were not heavily influenced in my vocation by St. Joseph Husband of Mary, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Bernard of Clarivaux, St. Pope John-Paul II, and obviously God the Holy and Blessed Trinity – without whom I simply would not be where I am today.
Was the decision to become a priest difficult?
For me it was not, by the grace of God the decision was a simple one to make, even though I knew that it would not be an easy life to live always.
What was one thing that scared you from discerning your vocation?
I would say the major one – from since I was first discerning at eight years old – would be fear of public speaking and preaching. I used to get really nervous when in front of large groups of people, in fact I still do get nervous even now.
If you were not becoming a priest, what do you think your career would be?
I would probably have taken one of the following three options: Horse Farming, Paramedic, or a chef.
Describe how the day of your ordination to the diaconate felt.
It was simply amazing, I really have few words that can capture the blessed event.
What faculties do you have as a transitional deacon?
As a transitional deacon I am able to preach during Mass, celebrate Baptisms, funerals, and Weddings (if they are not accompanied by a Mass). I also have the responsibility to pray the Liturgy of the Office daily, as well as other ministries that can be given to me – such as teaching, catechetical, hospital ministry, pastoral counselling, and in some cases spiritual direction.
Are you excited for your priestly ordination in a few months?
What is a word of advice for those discerning?
I would simply highlight the reality that vocation is a commitment and a choice. God desires that we become saints, and thus a vocation is a way of life where a person chooses a particular path that will help them get to become saints. Many people when discerning a vocation can feel that if they get it wrong (if they don’t choose the right one) God will be angry at them, or disappointed. What is important is becoming saints, that the is key goal of any and all vocations. Also, go and talk to someone about it if you are discerning, you don’t have to think through everything on your own.
What would you tell young people who don’t know how to respond to God?
I would recommend that they read one or several of the following passage from Sacred Scripture: Exodus Chapter 3…1 Samuel Chapter 3 verses 1-18… Matthew Chapter 4 verses 18-22…Luke Chapter 1 verses 26-38.
What advice do you have for this next generation of youth in the New Evangelization?
Remain faithful to the Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (what’s in the Catechism for example). Devote time to daily prayer (especially with the Sacred Scriptures). Read the lives of the saints, and their writings, because they will help inspire you.
Harry Potter or Twilight?
I recognize the possible controversy of this question, but nonetheless I answer honestly, but do take the following statement with a grain of salt… I am familiar and enjoy elements from both.
Which Lord of the Rings character do you most relate to and why?
Galadriel, simply because according to www.16personalities.com we have the same Personality type.
Who is your favorite Disney character?
I don’t think I have a favorite, but I have always enjoyed Goofy and Donald Duck.
What is your favourite pastime?
I have many favorite pastimes: Reading, writing, painting, horseback riding, and skating to name a few.
If you could have tea with two saints, who would they be?
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Pope John-Paul II
If you could sit down and have a conversation with two people in the whole course of history, fictional or real, who would they be?
Sir Tristram of the Knights of the Round Tables (see Bulfinch’s Mythology), and most likely Robin Hood.
One thing on your bucket list before you die:
Go on a trip to New Zealand and visit all the cool Lord of the Rings Related stuff!
Final thoughts or words:
Nothing that I can think of. God Bless and rest assured of my prayers!