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​Welcome to the website for the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI. This year twenty-five men from our diocese will be in seminary formation programs in preparation for ordination, seven of whom are new to formation. Thirteen of these men are at St. John Vianney College Seminary and twelve are at USML/Mundelein Seminary.

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Purifying Fire Makes Our Hearts New Again

You should put away the old self of your former way of life … and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Eph 4:22-24)

One of my favorite scenes in the film “The Passion of the Christ” happens when Jesus falls carrying his cross and Mary runs to her son. Jesus looks at his mother and says, “See Mother, I make all things new.” This verse from Revelation was beautifully placed in this scene because it captures what Jesus was doing in that very moment: making us new. The crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection give us all new life and the power to live as a new creation. As St. Paul writes, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17)

Living as a new creation is required of every young man who desires to be a priest. This point cannot be stressed enough. During my time in seminary, I remember being told time and again that the people of God expect their priests to know Jesus. I think it’s more than that. The people of God hope and believe that their priests not only know Christ but also have an intimate and loving friendship with the Lord. In order to grow closer to Jesus, we must undergo purification. We must go through a purifying fire.

The process of conversion is a graced experience, but it is like running a marathon. At the end, there is great pride and joy, but there is also a great amount of trial, suffering and discipline needed to accomplish the goal. The same is true when we undergo the purifying fire in our spiritual lives. The end result is greater conversion and deeper intimacy with Christ. But the journey is difficult. It requires sacrifice and letting go of sins, impurities and vices that keep the heart from a closer relationship with Jesus.

For young men who are discerning priesthood, do not be afraid of this conversion. God is inviting you to undergo a purifying fire. This fire will cleanse you from impurities and sins in order to make your heart new again. This purifying fire will bring you closer to the Lord. If God is calling you to be a priest, God is pruning you, purifying you, so that one day you can give your whole heart to him and his Church, the people of God.

Jesus wants this not just for young men thinking about the priesthood; he desires this conversion for all of us. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (Jn 15: 1-3)

Brian Doerksen, a Christian musician and songwriter, sums up perfectly the message for this month’s column in his song “Refiner’s Fire.” He prays:

“Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
Refiner’s Fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master Ready to do Your will.”

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