Today at 9:03, the 8:15 Mass crowd was told by our pastor to hold on a sec. (The devil in me couldn’t help glancing at my watch.) I think we took it well, all things considered. Before anyone could grumble much, David Heighington, the young seminarian who has been visiting our parish, climbed briskly into the ambo and began talking. A few minutes later, we were all applauding.
This weekend, David explained, the Archdiocese of Boston had asked seminarians to address parishes about vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. David has been with our parish since school let out in May, appearing just as our beloved previous seminarian-visitor, Kwang Lee, was moving on as “Father Kwang” to his first parish assignment, at Sacred Heart in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Many of us had proudly attended the new priest’s ordination Mass on May 21.
Just a few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine that someone could replace The Amazing Kwang, but now David seems a good candidate. A resident of Dracut, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the prestigious boarding school Phillips Academy in nearby Andover, David went straight from a bachelor’s in elementary education at Boston College to St. John’s Seminary last fall. He is exceptionally polished for what couldn’t be more than 22 or 23 years, and if all goes as planned, he will be a diocesan priest before the age of 30, a credit to greater Boston. With a sharp nose accenting a pleasant face and a hairline that is just beginning to beat a retreat, David is brightly intelligent, unfailingly friendly. My summer intern raved about his participation in her recent eighth-grade retreat. I hear he even plays a mean violin—although his bowling skills are an open question. (Note that David did not boast of either Andover or BC during his talk today; I have added that information from personal knowledge.)
David spoke convincingly of his own call to the priesthood and his on-going effort to discern what God wants from him. He explained that desire is the voice of God calling to us. Admitting that there are many kinds of desire, including the sexual, he said that he had discovered for himself a deeper kind, closer to his heart. After attending church with his parents every Sunday during his youth, including his years as a day student at Andover, he had entered college with an uncertain faith. Still, he said, he went to Mass every Sunday, an admittedly countercultural habit. Then a couple of service trips—one to the Appalachians and another to Salvador—gave him a deep and unaccountable experience of happiness.
He said there are three things a young person should do if he or she thinks God might be calling him or her to the religious life:
- pay attention to the sounds and signs of God’s call
- reflect on God’s call (develop a habit of prayer)
- love, practice charity
In our parish—through the practice of daily Eucharistic Adoration, daily prayers for vocations, the influence of our honored pastor Rev. David Barnes, and now the ongoing presence among us of distinguished young men like Kwang and David—there is strong support for the Catholic priesthood. The development of good priests is something we all desire.
Footnote: The photo at the top of this post is not of David Heighington but of Father Arrupe, who was assigned to Japan early in his priesthood and afterward usually prayed in what we might think of as a Buddhist posture. Surely living in the suburbs of Hiroshima on the day the Bomb fell must have been a transformative experience.