April 2, 2015
I have spent now about five and a half years in the seminary. In a little more than six months I will be ordained a deacon with around 40 other men from my class at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York in St. Peter’s Basilica will ordain us.
In this basilica under almost every altar there are tombs of different popes who have become saints, among my favorites being St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo the Great, and St. Pius X, who so generously erected the Diocese of Bismarck. These men and the many other saints that are buried in St. Peter’s have been an incredible witness to me over my years studying in Rome. They weren’t men who were weaklings and gave up when times were tough, but men who stood strong and defended the Church in Her weakest moments. These saint-popes were men who have laid down their entire lives for the Church and didn’t look back.
Some men are called to do the same as these saints. I happen to be one of them, and God and His Church have asked me to lay down my life in three particular ways. These ways are some of the most counter-cultural things to take on, especially in our world today. These three ways are the promises that I will be making on Oct. 1, 2015, at my diaconate ordination, which are perpetual celibacy, respect and obedience to the Bishop of the Bismarck Diocese, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully.
Like the Apostles who had a formation period in their lives with Jesus before they started to preach the Gospel, I will have had about six years of seminary formation before I become a cleric of the Church and able to proclaim the Gospel. These years in formation have been challenging but much more rewarding. There have been days where I have doubted if I am actually being called to be a priest and have thought of other vocations, such as getting married and having around 10 children or joining the Benedictines out in Richardton. But, there have been one hundred times as many days where my vocation to the diocesan priesthood has grown consistently clearer.
I guess a question somebody could ask is how was your vocation clear to you? Or, how did you know that God was calling you to be a priest? Or, did God come down on top of a mountain and speak to you in Old English, like He did to Moses (Charlton Heston) in the 1956 film
The Ten Commandments, and tell you your vocation? It would have been nice, at times, if God would have spoken to me in Old English like he did to Charlton Heston, but He hasn’t. There are priests and seminarians that have related to me that there were certain spectacular signs that led them to believe that God was calling them to be priests. But, for me and the majority of seminarians and priests I know, there really weren’t any huge fireworks or lightning strikes that told us to be priests.
It was actually pretty simple for me once I joined the seminary, but I had to join the seminary first, which was the hardest part. What led me to join the seminary in the first place was not because I had this overwhelming desire to be a priest or an absolute knowledge of my vocation. There were three simple reasons I was lead to the seminary. First, I thought I should join the seminary for just one year and leave after that, because I thought it would be a good experience, where I would end up becoming a better man in general, a better husband, and a better father. Second, I knew that I wasn’t making a life-long commitment just by joining the seminary. Lastly, I didn’t want to look back on life at the age of 40 having been married with a family, and think that I missed my vocation to the priesthood. These were good enough reasons for me to join the seminary even though I wasn’t entirely sure where God was calling me in my specific vocation.
My vocation became clear and my desire to be a priest grew as I went along in the seminary, because I wasn’t discerning by myself without anyone else’s help. God gave me the voice of the Church to help me discern, which means that the bishop, vocation director, and the seminary were and still are here to help me know God’s will. I have trusted what the Church has told me about my vocation, and contrary to worldly belief this has brought me great joy. With all this and the constant help of God’s grace and many hours of prayer have led me to confidently believe that God is calling me to be a Catholic priest.
Krebs, who grew up as a member of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, is preparing for the priesthood studying in Rome. He will be ordained a deacon in October.