Opening hearts and minds to ask the big questions

Everybody has a calling, the trick is tuning into God’s frequency and figuring out what He wants you to do.

A group of young men learned some ways to do this at a recent discernment retreat for high school students at Camp Kinard in Batesburg-Leesville.

Those who spoke to The Miscellany said the weekend wasn’t about recruiting youth to the priesthood, it was about learning to open their hearts and minds to God’s voice rather than their own.

Whose voice is it?

Michael Stoner plans to attend Clemson in the fall and thought he would be a mechanical engineer. Now, he said that is subject to change.

“Just the thought of what I’m going to do for the rest of my life is a scary one,” Stoner said.

The retreat helped by teaching him strategies to discern the difference between what he wants and what God wants. One thing he has incorporated into his daily life is 20 minutes of personal prayer time.

“I feel a lot of comfort just to breathe and relax and not be stressed out about the things of the day,” he said.

At 18, Stoner is on South Aiken High School’s cross-country/track team, attends St. Mary Help of Christians Church and youth group, and is active in Scouting and Home Works.

Since he started quiet prayer, he’s discovered a difference between his desires and those of God. With one, he feels ambivalent and questioning, with God, he feels a sense of resolve.

Reaching out to others

“The main thing I learned was to never be afraid to spread my faith,” Kody Watson said.

A sophomore at Cardinal Newman High School, Watson plays baseball, football and basketball. He said it may not be cool to talk about God in school, even a Catholic one, but he learned that others share his passion, and he should talk about it.

A master server at St. Joseph Church, the teen said he wanted to meet others his age with the same level of faith. He connected with several people at the retreat and stays in touch through Facebook, plus recently joined the youth group at St. John Neumann.

Stoner and Watson were among 27 young men in grades 10-12 that attended the discernment weekend, many of whom show early signs they may be called to priestly service. Watson, for example, said lots of people call him Father Kody.

Open to the priesthood

Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar for vocations, said participants learned how to be disciples of Christ at all times. They talked about developing a prayer life, interacting with other faithful and trusting God.

“Be open and He will tell you where He wants you to serve,” Father Kirby said.

Youth said hearing the call isn’t about doing what you think you’re good at, or what you’re parents want you to do. It’s about finding the one area that brings happiness and peace.

Before the retreat, Stoner said he didn’t even consider the priesthood, but now he knows it is a possibility.

Watson said he is also more open to religious life.

“I think I’d become a priest if we were able to marry,” he said, adding that right now the diaconate seems more likely.

Father Kirby said it’s all part of the process — the doubts, the questions.

“I would rather hear they are wrestling with it, because it’s big,” he said. “I’d be more worried about the guy who had no questions, because maybe he doesn’t understand the commitment.”

Stoner said the key is to develop a close relationship with God.

“It won’t immediately solve all your problems, but it will make the whole process easier,” he said.