“We should ever be grateful for and love the vocation to which God has called us. This applies to every vocation because, after all, what a privilege it is to serve God, even in the least capacity!” – Blessed Solanus Casey
This coming week of November 6-12 is National Vocations Week. This annual week-long celebration is dedicated to promoting priestly vocations through the Church. It allows us time to reflect, renew, and pray for this essential vocation in the Church. In addition to the priestly vocation, this celebration additionally encourages vocation to the diaconate and the consecrated religious life. It is also the hope that it will encourage vocations among the laity.
To give us a personal chance to reflect on the gift of priesthood, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with our very own Fr. Jacob Ramirez. As a new priest, I wanted to allow us a chance to be inspired by how he answered the call of Christ. Below I share the questions asked and Fr. Jacob’s responses.
Tell us how you heard the call to be a priest.
My call to be a priest really started in the summer of 2009. It was the “Year of the Priest” as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. The Lord came to speak to me everywhere I went especially at Mass. It was also the summer before my last year of college. I was visiting my parents just before I was heading back to college. My dad, a project manager in construction, asked me “What’s your plans after graduation?” I did not have a plan and had not discerned well. Not having an answer for my dad really hurt and struck me for I did not know what I was going to do with my life. It was a moment of crisis. I went to Adoration where I did an act of surrender before Jesus. I knew I needed to listen and to give myself to God.
Shortly after that experience, I arrived back at college and went to Confession. As I shared with the priest, he simply stated “Consider the priesthood.” At that moment, I realized that seeds were planted, and I started considering it. I kept looking into it. I went on retreats and read about the priesthood more. I chose a spiritual director to help guide me. Before I had not been ready to hear the call, but I was finally open to listen and hear God’s call.
Who helped you the greatest in answering your call to priesthood?
The priests in my life especially the priests in Lubbock while attending my final year at Texas Tech. It was one of the priests there who became my spiritual director and really helped me to walk forward to the call. My parish priest back here in Houston at Prince of Peace supported me as well. My parents brought me up in the faith and showed me the importance of it. I am so grateful for their faithfulness. My brother, who is now the pastor at St. Frances Cabrini here in Houston, had just entered the seminary that same summer of 2009. Our journeys were intertwined as we supported each other.
What do you love about being a priest?
Wow, so many things I love! In general, getting to live the life God created for me being His priest and instrument. Also, the profound way it is to experience God so closely in the Sacraments and being with His people. Confession especially is dear to my heart since it is where I truly heard God’s call for my life. Celebrating Mass, visiting the sick, and anointing people near to death are other incredible times I love being a priest. Being a sacramental priest doing what God created me to be is such a beautiful life.
What has surprised you the most in your vocation?
I am still human! I have made mistakes in keeping my own calendar as well as a few liturgical bloopers. But honestly though it sounds simple – expect the unexpected. Let me explain – I had an opportunity to share with a non-Catholic man who stopped at the parish office. He wanted to speak with a priest because he was dying from COPD and was afraid of dying. He knew that he could come talk to a priest to learn more about God, Heaven, and death. I happened to be up at the front office, and it was such a blessing to share God, the love of Jesus and the joy of Heaven with him. I must always be ready for the unexpected way I can share God and anoint others.
Who are your favorite saints?
My favorite saints are St John Vianney and St. Catherine of Siena. St. John Vianney was the one I learned most about as I was looking into the priesthood. I was inspired by his life and how he heard confession for hours on end. It was such a big ministry for him and now me personally too. St John Vianney was bold in his preaching and an awesome patron saint for the priesthood.
St. Catherine of Siena was instrumental in getting the Papacy back to Rome. I was inspired by her boldness in the 14th century. Her writing, especially The Dialogue which is a conversation with God the Father, was given to me during my discernment. I could not put down St. Catherine’s book for its profoundness and beauty as a spiritual guide. She then became one of my favorite saints.
What three things would you recommend for families to encourage priestly vocations in their home?
- Family Prayer – I am a big proponent of prayer and the necessity to pray together. Our Lord speaks to us in prayer. At Baptism parents promise the priority of faith in their child’s life. Parents must teach and show their children to pray.
- Encouraging One’s Child – Instead of asking “What do you want to do when you are older,” ask “What is God calling you to be in your life?”. This sets the ideas of prayer and discernment to open their mind and heart to God’s will.
- Supportive of Children – Parents show their children love and the image of Christ and God by how they support their child.
May Fr. Jacob’s testimony touch you and your family in a special way. May we seek opportunities to support and cultivate vocations in our families. Let us offer up prayers for all priests and for those discerning the priesthood.
Blessed Solanus Casey quote retrieved from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/holy-quotes-from-catholic-saints
Author: Laura Stephens