Luke Weaver has been wondering for some time whether God is calling him to the priesthood.
So it made perfect sense to Weaver to sign-up for the Diocese’s annual Quo Vadis Days a couple years ago. The discernment camp gives young men the tools and the opportunity to consider where God is calling them.
“I felt like I was being called to the priesthood, but wasn’t sure, so I decided to give Quo Vadis Days a try, and I just fell in love with the week since that first time,” he said.
Now 18, Weaver was one of a number of returning participants at this year’s camp, held at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., June 27 through July 1.
“There are a lot of draws to Quo Vadis Days. The two main ones are deepening my spiritual life and furthering discernment,” Weaver told The Catholic Witness during a mid-week recreation period, with the grandeur of the campus’ Chapel of the Immaculate Conception towering above.
It was during a Holy Hour in the chapel earlier in the day on June 29 that Weaver engaged in Ignatian contemplation, a type of prayer in which one visualizes events as if watching a movie. It’s an active way of praying that engages the mind and emotions. During Quo Vadis Days, a seminarian suggested to Weaver that he give it a try as part of discernment.
So the teen quietly slid into a pew in the chapel, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, and closed his eyes.
“I thought of two paths: being a priest and being married. I imagined having a wife and kids, and then I imagined being a priest at the altar,” said Weaver, a member of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lancaster. “When I imagined married life, I saw stress. I didn’t feel like it was where I was supposed to be. When I imagined priesthood, I felt at peace. I felt calm and affirmed. This gives me hope that priesthood might be something for me in the future.”
Religious life isn’t the only potential path Quo Vadis Days participants focus on, though. Group presentations, break-out sessions, homilies and individual discussion with priests and seminarians throughout the week also center on vocations to the married and single life.
“Quo Vadis Days isn’t a recruitment camp for the seminary,” stressed Luke Micsky, a returning participant from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg. “Yes, you can learn more about seminary life and the priesthood here, but entering seminary doesn’t mean you’re signing on the dotted line to become a priest. Seminary is a time of discernment, too.”
“The talks and discussion here remind us that all men are called in some way to sacrifice their life for Christ. In the life of a priest, that’s very obvious. They’re sacrificing marriage and having children so that they can focus solely on Jesus. For men who are married, they have to sacrifice for their wife and children, and single men also give up things for the greater good, for love of Jesus,” Micsky said.
‘The Most Important Question’
Quo Vadis Days takes its name from the legend that Peter asked Jesus this question (Quo Vadis? – meaning “Where are you going?”) on the outskirts of Rome, as Peter was fleeing persecution. Jesus’ response was, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”
Hosted by the Diocesan Office of Vocations, Quo Vadis Days annually immerses young men ages 15-25 in days filled with the celebration of Mass, the Liturgy of Hours, discernment talks with a host of priests and seminarians, Holy Hours, games, sports and a heaping dose of camaraderie and conversation over meals. Whether spending time in Adoration, praying the Rosary during a nighttime procession or competing in volleyball tournaments and water balloon battles, participants are engaged in living as Catholic men called to carry out their mission as disciples of Christ.
On June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Bishop Ronald Gainer held up the two saints as model disciples in a homily during the Mass he celebrated for camp participants.
The day’s Gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-19) contains “the most important question that you and I will ever have to answer,” Bishop Gainer remarked. “It’s more important than any question on a test, and more important than any question in an interview that you might ever experience…. My brothers, it’s the most fundamental question that will ever come into your ears: Who do you say that Jesus Christ is?”
“Peter answered that question with his life. Paul answered that question with his life. Each of us has to answer it – certainly in words, but the words have to be backed up by the way we live,” he said.
“We have the great example of Peter and Paul, who show us the way,” he added. “They show us how to be integrated with God’s love and life and word, and to manifest it by the way we behave.”
Bishop Gainer encouraged the young men to consider several questions throughout the week and as they continue their discernment in the days to come: “How does he want you to spend your uniqueness as His sons? What does He want you to do with your gifts, even acknowledging the limitations that are yours? Who do you say that He is?”
“It’s all about finding and living that fundamental answer to the question He placed to Peter,” the bishop said. “It’s only by the way we live our lives that we say, ‘You, Lord, are the Christ. You are the Son of the Living God.’”
Bishop Gainer spent time with participants after Mass, answering questions and inviting discussion during a question-and-answer session in the seminary’s lecture hall, and joining them for a lunch of chicken, pork and other picnic favorites donated and hosted by Knights of Columbus Council 12788 of St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg.
Questions for the bishop ranged from the conversational (Do you like peanut butter? Can a bishop have a pet?) to the sublime (What do you look for in a seminarian? What is your toughest responsibility as a bishop? What advice do you give to someone who is struggling with being prideful?)
“Quo Vadis Days is just a great week,” Micsky said. “There are the obvious things, like Mass and Holy Hours, and I really appreciate the talks from the seminarians. I’ve been taking notes according to how I apply their presentations and lessons to my own life, to take home and apply.”
“It helps me get away from the world for a few days, especially from my cell phone, which is a huge distraction for me in my daily life,” he said of the week. “I get to spend some time with fellow Catholic young men who have the same love for Jesus that I do and want to cultivate that.”
“If you’re considering attending Quo Vadis Days, it’s just a time for a lot of fun, good food, good friends, prayer, and time for recreation and just getting to know seminarians and priests,” Micsky encouraged potential future participants.
‘Go to Joseph’
In this Year of St. Joseph, Quo Vadis Days took the theme, “Go to Joseph,” encouraging participants to seek and follow the model of Jesus’ earthly father.
Luke Micsky and Luke Weaver said St. Joseph is an obvious model for discernment of God’s will.
“Joseph was challenged to follow God’s will, and he did it without much question. He took his family and fled to Egypt. He took Mary into his home while she was pregnant. It shows his great trust in God, and how we can live that in our lives with much smaller challenges,” Micsky said.
“He’s just that father-figure for wherever we are in life, or where our paths will go,” Weaver remarked. “Maybe it’s the priesthood, maybe it’s married, maybe it’s single life. But whatever it is, following St. Joseph’s footsteps is the way to go.”
“I have a great devotion to him. Who is a better fit than St. Joseph to take care of Jesus? He was going to divorce Mary quietly before the angel came, but Joseph accepted that call, and that’s why I admire him,” he added. “If he can say yes to that, we can say yes to anything.”
(For more information about religious vocations in the Diocese of Harrisburg, visit www.hbgdiocese.org.)
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness