Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The calling of this Love

~Here's an article about a young man in my diocese who is a seminarian. From the Raleigh News and Observer (hat tip to Mike Liccione)

A powerful sense of devotion overtook Michael Burbeck in a medieval church in the small Czech town of Cesky Krumlov.

The way he describes it, he was praying in the lofty, 125-foot-high sanctuary of St. Vitus Roman Catholic Church, when he looked up at a life-size crucifix and was overwhelmed by a sense of peace and belonging. He realized he would commit the rest of his life to Jesus.

"It was like the classic movie scene: Guy sees girl across the room, knows she's the one," said Burbeck, who grew up on the Cary-Apex border. "I had this moment when I realized that [Jesus] would be my all-inclusive love."

Next month, Burbeck will don a black cassock, or robe, as he begins six years of training to become a Catholic priest. When he graduates from Philadelphia's St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 2013, he will serve in the Diocese of Raleigh, which like other dioceses nationwide, is experiencing a severe shortage of priests. In a modern culture that glorifies material wealth, sex and self-promotion, few young people consider the selfless life of the priesthood.

To Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, recruiting men such as Burbeck has become the No. 1 challenge. The number of U.S. priests has shrunk from 58,632 in 1965 to 41,794, while the Catholic population has grown by nearly 20 million. In cities such as Boston, where the shortage is much more acute, 62 parishes have been closed since 2004, and a recent report suggested more closings might be coming...

...Faith was the last thing anyone expected him to find in Europe. But the beauty and majesty of the continent's great cathedrals drew him. He found himself stealing a few moments to sit in silence -- first quietly, then reverently and prayerfully. He visited Il Duomo, a cathedral in Florence, the churches of Assisi, and, of course, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

He said the experiences left him breathless. "At St. Peter's, I spent three hours walking around in a daze," he said. "My experience of the presence of God that met me there was remarkable. I lost sight of everything else."

Later, he would be able to explain what drew him to Catholicism: its rich body of teachings developed over thousands of years and its sacramental understanding that God works through physical signs, such as oil, water, bread and wine.

But when he met his parents in London at the conclusion of his trip, he explained his call to Catholicism and to the priesthood in simpler terms. He wanted to be a priest.

His parents suspected it was coming. They had noticed a change in him since his trip began. In brief telephone conversations and e-mail messages, he sounded less cocky and imperious, more open and attentive.

"There was a quietness and peacefulness of spirit about him," said Christina Burbeck....

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