November 2023 By Father Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Through this holy anointing, may…
Making a gift of myself: From the introspection of formation to offering the Eucharist
By Deacon Jacob Zemaitis
When I was studying at Grand Valley State University, my dad told me something that I haven’t forgotten. While I don’t remember his exact words, it went something like, “Jake, there are two types of people in the world. There are people who look for how they can take and people who look for how they can give. We need to be givers. The world needs those people.”
At the time, I was assisting a local youth group, so it was encouraging to hear these words of affirmation. I believe that I have always striven to be a positive influence. However, this wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I first entered seminary almost seven years ago. Of course, I desired to be a positive force in the world. But at the time I mostly wanted to discover my vocation as soon as possible so that I could prepare for the next stage of my life.
Seminarians undertake a great deal of introspection in order to know our vocation and our vices, and to develop lives of virtue. Formation is focused on helping young men become the best versions of themselves. Being held up to intense scrutiny by a superior is never an enjoy-able experience, but that is how I was able to engage in a process of growth and receive clarity in my vocational call to the priesthood. Through this process, a seminarian is better able to serve others as he becomes more aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. As my calling became clearer, I became ever more eager to serve others on their journey toward salvation.
After all, God chose to give me this wonderful life, so the only appropriate response is to pay it forward to the extent that I am able. Priesthood equips me with the ability to give something far better than anything I could ever buy, build or even own – God himself! In the ministry of priesthood, Christ’s love is offered to the world through the preaching of the Gospel, his forgiveness in the sacrament of confession and his very body and blood in the Eucharist. I will be doing this for the rest of my life. What a privilege!
In this sense, there is a process of coming full circle from the introspection of formation to offering the Eucharist, which is the greatest expression of love and complete self-emptying for the sake of the other. Just as Jesus gave himself for you, me and the whole world, I am excited to heed my father’s words by laying down my life in service to the people of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.