January/2024 Keeping God’s appointments By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Father Acrea was…
Growing up, I never thought too much about my name, my brother was named after my dad, Douglas David. The rest of us – Erin, Holly and me – never thought too much about why our parents chose our names.
During my junior year of college, I discovered the origin of my name, “Stephen John.” My dad wrote me, “Stephen, you are named after my two favorite saints. Stephen, for his courage, and John, for his love. I pray you have both.” He was encouraging to me in my first year of seminary formation. His desire was for me to be a courageous and loving priest. From that moment on, a special bond developed between St. Stephen and St. John and me.
I, too, appreciate and admire St. Stephen’s courage. The apostles needed help in ministry, and St. Stephen was one of the first chosen to assist in the tasks of the early Church. “Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom … The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit …” (Acts 6:3-5)
This characteristic, being filled with the Holy Spirit, is something we continue to look for in candidates to the priesthood. We want passionate men. Men who love the Lord. Men who love the Church. Men who love God and the Church enough to boldly proclaim the Gospel in our world today. We want men who will be passionate enough to sacrifice everything for the Lord, to love as Christ loves – “to the end.” (Jn 13:1) This is what it means to be on fire with the Holy Spirit.
This is an expectation the people of God have, and should have, for their priests. Think about the best homilies. The best homilies are those where we are convinced that the one preaching not only knows Christ but believes what he is saying. The best homilies are from the priests we can tell are excited and passionate about Jesus Christ, where there is no doubt that this man is filled with the Spirit. We want priests who are passionate about the Lord and on fire with the Holy Spirit, priests who inspire us to love God and love our neighbor.
Brothers and sisters, we want this for our priests, but we also desire it for ourselves! We want to be inspired and on fire with the Holy Spirit. Imagine what the world would be like if our hearts were all inﬂamed with the love of Christ and filled with his Spirit? I invite you to pray for our seminarians and to ask the heavenly Father to fill these men, our seminarians, with the Holy Spirit. “As [the community of believers] prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).