St. Mary’s College Station, TX
March 22-23, 2014
Howdy! My name is Sean DeWitt and I am a seminarian of the Diocese of Austin here to speak to y’all about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Currently, I am on my pastoral year at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in North Austin.
Now, this is not my first trip to Aggie Land and if I recall there is by this new coliseum y’all are building a statue of some importance. And if my memory serves me right this statue is of a young man, a student no doubt, who made a name for himself as the 12th man. This young man had a spirit about him in which he always stood at the ready while he watched those Fittin’ Texas Aggies saw varsity’s horns off. One day, as the story goes—I am sure y’all could tell it—this young man was actually called on to suit up. With duty and pleasure, he sported the maroon and white and became the 12th man on the roster. And although this man never played, his spirit of courage and service lives on now in the student body, who attend these games under the title of the 12th man, always standing at the ready to fill in whenever they are needed. What’s more, this Spirit of Aggie Land is embodied in one player, a walk on, who represents the rest of the student body wearing the number 12. He is the 12th man. I find this story quite inspiring. A young man who saw a need and without hesitation filled it, potentially sacrificing himself for the team to gain victory.
But I want to say that there is some confusion. When I heard the story of this young man, I didn’t hear the story of a young man becoming a backup football player, but rather a man being called by God to be a priest of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, that deep pounding in his chest which compelled him to make such a sacrifice, is the very same which moves a man to say ‘yes’ to God. I mean the coach’s last name was Bible!
You see. I have been at a parish for almost 8 months now. And I have to say, we need the 12th man! Yet the problem is that we need the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th as well. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the faithful stand for hours just to make a confession. Y’all have never experienced that, have you?! I have seen retreats go without a priest because they are all busy. I have seen multiple parishes go months without a priest, without daily mass and confession! I have seen people go without communion during their last days on earth. I have seen young and old go without the spiritual direction and counsel they need. I have seen Jesus churn with compassion over His people, who are sheep without a shepherd.
Fortunately, I have also seen many young men such as are sitting here before me, who choose to stand like the 12th man, ready and willing—open to the call. And I thank you for that. Y’all have a wonderful culture of vocations here! But we need more of y’all to actually play, more of y’all to be like that walk on and take the field. Heck, we could even take a whole kickoff team of y’all. In many ways, we are just forfeiting here.
Here’s how I see it. My sophomore year in college I was open and thinking about the priesthood. I had a girlfriend and school was going great, but I was also standing at the ready. I felt I could go either way. When my roommate said, “you know some of us men who feel like they could be either a priest or a husband, maybe we should really look around and see the need and just suck it up.” Now, I don’t think Jesus just wants y’all to suck it up. No, He calls each of us personally out of love, but my roommate was on to something. During war time, there is a kind of man who looks at his family, sees how beautiful they are, how happy they are together, and, then, looks at his homeland, his country, sees the need, and decides to give himself in sacrifice for the greater good of them all. Men, we need the 12th man. Be a priest.
I would be remiss if I did not say something to the women. I have had the pleasure of living and working very closely with 5 Dominican sisters this year. They have taught me a great deal about the beauty of their vocation. As it was necessary that Mary stand at the foot of the Cross and offer in union with her son Jesus Christ that sacrifice, so too it is necessary that the Church have women consecrated to God as religious sisters. Every priest offers on the altar that self same sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross. And every priest needs a Mary to help him offer that sacrifice, a religious sister to stand by him in ministry. She through her prayer of intersession and her apostolate prepares, as does Mary, the faithful to receive the grace being offered to them through the sacraments. Without the religious sister, much of that grace, the salvation offered by the Cross, is received in vain.
Pastorally, this means that some things just need a mother’s touch. Dad can deal with a lot and provide a great deal of care for the family, but sometimes Momma has to take care of it. Religious sisters provide this motherly touch to the ministry of the Church, and it is necessary. Please do not be afraid to be a Mary.