Letters from Seminary: Burmester

Love for God, courage, energy required on path to priesthood

Published: November 17, 2012

By William Burmester
Diocesan Seminarian

"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:2-3)

Just the other morning I was walking down the hall to my second class of the day. Teachers seem to have been conspiring against my free time all semester. Every time I get to a place where I am ahead for once, another teacher is providing us with instructions for our next assignment.

I was making my way to class like any other day and a reoccurring question was nagging me: "What are you doing with your life?" This question stopped me dead in my tracks. I have been struggling to keep up with my studies, responsibilities and relationships. So I began to question my choice to be a seminarian. Upon later reflection, I knew this was the point when I got into trouble. I began to think of my state of life as a decision of my own and not a calling from God. However, on this stroll to class I was not so self-reflective.

I began to imagine where my life would have been if I had not chosen to go to seminary. I saw myself with a job in campus ministry working in the trenches of faith with college students. I could be dating my future wife: a woman whom I would deeply love and begin the adventure of a family. I have quite the imagination so this "could be" life of mine went on throughout the morning. I was filled with a sense of joy that seemed like bliss compared to the dissatisfaction I have been feeling in formation for the priesthood.

The rest of the day I was left feeling empty and distracted. Mass and evening prayer came and went without my full participation. Late that night I gathered with a group of seminarians to reflect on Scripture. During this time of fellowship and prayer, I recalled the love that I was filled with when I decided to say "yes" to God's invitation to go to the seminary. Now, a year and a half later, recalling that day I am still filled with that same love. This love gives me courage and energy to follow God. He led me here to the seminary, and his love and desire sustains me.

Priestly formation is hard. This is a fact that is understood by every seminarian. We are tested intellectually, personally, spiritually and pastorally. I now notice that I started to see my personal struggles not as an opportunity for strengthening my faith but as an attack on my joy. My efforts have been directed toward completing all my duties so that I can finally concentrate on my own happiness. This temptation hinders my ability to find God's presence in my daily life because I am on a personal pursuit for my own happiness.

When I am searching for happiness of my own volition the priesthood feels like a cruel vocation: a life filled with little time for me, all time for others and worst of all no wife or children to go home to. Who can live like that? When turned in on self, it is not impossible. My relationship with God must be the source of my vocation.

Finding happiness in God transforms the priesthood. Looking at the people of the Diocese of Little Rock through the eyes of a relationship with God invigorates me. I am excited to sacrifice all I have for those who need God in their life. The support I have from all of you in Arkansas and my fellow diocesan seminarians gives me the strength I need to follow God's call with great courage.

William Burmester, a member of St. Joseph Church in Conway, is a diocesan seminarian, attending St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.