Deacon Nick Smith
2021-22: Theology IV
St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN
I grew up as the oldest of 7 children in Des Moines, attending St. Augustin School and, following junior high, Dowling Catholic High School. While the Catholic faith was a deeply rooted reality of our family, I never seriously considered the priesthood until I was 16. Before that time, my parents and other people at school and church would encourage me to think about becoming a priest. I enjoyed serving Mass, something I began in the 5th grade and continued all the way through high school. In addition, my family would pray together regularly and I would even join my mom and dad on occasion for their weekly adoration hour. These were the initial seeds of a priestly vocation before I had even begun to discern.
When I was in 10th grade, Fr. Zach Kautzky asked me if I would be willing to serve daily Mass on the scheduled three mornings per week at Dowling. I willingly agreed, and so I began to wake up three mornings a week at 6:00 a.m. to serve 7:15 a.m. Mass before school. This became a weekly routine, and alongside attending Mass more regularly, I began going to confession with more frequency. I enjoyed taking time out of my day for silent prayer, and throughout the next several months, I felt closer to the Lord than I had ever been. I even attended a seminary visit, although I did not feel particularly called to the priesthood at this time. My faith began to become a personal relationship, not merely a theoretical ideal or moral system.
In the fall of my junior year, I was in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament when, in the silence, gazing upon the priest doing benediction, I felt a movement in my heart saying "That is where I want you to stand." In this moment, I heard Jesus' invitation to me to stand in the place of the priest-to be his priest-in order to give him to his people. I discerned this call throughout the rest of my junior year with the help of priest mentors, attended another seminary visit, and by the summer before my senior year, I was ready to apply for the seminary. Discerning and receiving a priestly vocation has been a life of abundance. Jesus calls seminarians and priests to a unique and intimate relationship with himself that, even amidst the difficulties, is filled with the peace and joy that every heart desires.