Monday, November 11, 2013

Vocations Spotlight: Fr. Kyle Sanders, Part 1

Happy Monday all! I am very pleased to start a new (and hopefully ongoing) series on vocations. What I'd like to do is feature slice of life glimpses from Catholics in different vocations: How did they discern their vocation and what is their day-to-day life like? 

We begin with the priesthood. Fr. Kyle Sanders is an engaging young priest who graciously agreed to my request for a Q&A post, and he introduces himself at his blog, Reverenced Reading, as follows: 
"I am a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I was born and raised right outside New Orleans. I attended Catholic school my entire educational career. By the time I graduated high school, I had two paths to choose: rockstar or priesthood. I pursued both for awhile but eventually came to the understanding God's will was priesthood and my will was rockstardom. After making that decision, to allow God's will to be mine, I needed a new way to channel my creativity. I began writing as I finished up my formation for priesthood. I still play music, but priestly ministry comes first. My bride: St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Harahan, LA."

 And so without further ado, here is the first part of my interview with Fr. Kyle:

Would you briefly describe your childhood faith background?

I grew up in a mixed religion family. My father is Catholic and my mother is Baptist. They were married in the Church, and part of them receiving dispensation for doing so my father promised to raise their children Catholic. For the whole of my cogent life, my mom has not darkened the door of a Baptist church except for her mother's funeral (but she has come to see her son celebrate mass). My father grew up in a mixed religion family. His mother was Catholic and his father was a faithful Presbyterian (who oddly enough was a tour guide in St. Louis Cathedral). My dad, then, had experience seeing what it was like to raise a child Catholic in the midst of a mixed religion family. His mother was what one would call 'a church lady' only her holiness offset the self-righteousness generally attributed to the breed. I was baptized as a child and went to Catholic grammar school. I learned about Scripture and about the faith and was a bit more attentive than most of my classmates at mass. I became an altar server in the fourth grade. My prayer life consisted primarily of the guardian angel prayer before bed.

When and why did you decide to become a priest? Was it a specific experience, or did it take root over a long period of time?

I would maybe rephrase the question slightly to 'when and why did you decide to answer the call to become a priest?' Because ultimately, the man discerns with the Church in the Holy Spirit and although a man may 'decide' to become a priest the call must be confirmed by the Church as a genuine call.

The call was initially inspired by the witness of a newly ordained priest who was assigned to the parish where I attended youth group. I was attracted to the way that he was living his life. They way that he led worship in mass. He was happy, and a happy priest was not what I grew up with.

Then during my senior year of high school, I came to the crossroads all seniors come to: where am I going to college? The call the that I had heard two years earlier was still there. It had come back in small ways, like little grace-filled post-it notes, little reminders, but I wanted to be 'sure.' So I spent many hours upon hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying for the discernment of my vocation. Slowly I was beginning to abandon myself to the divine will although it was still not totally clear for me.

Then one night I was in adoration. A person walked into the chapel and soon after his phone rang. I had my eyes closed praying the rosary, but I could hear unintelligible speech outside. He comes back into the chapel and asks the person closest to the door where a neighboring parish was. As soon as those words leapt from his mouth my heart lit up like a bonfire of Guy Fawkes Day. It was beating as loud as a military tattoo. In all that, I heard the words, 'Kyle, show him where it is.' I hesitated out of confusion mixed with fear, but the fire and beating of my heart was irresistible. So I got up and left the chapel. I could see his break lights so I ran to his car and knocked on the driver's window. I could tell I scared him, but he rolled down the window and in the glint of the streetlight I could see the white of a Roman collar. I was too slow to realize the importance of that. I told him to follow me, and he did. We arrived at the parish and the parking lot was packed. The pastor of that parish was also the chaplain at my high school so I figured I'd say hello, only he wasn't anywhere on the campus. Resigned not to see him, I walk back towards my car. In the parking lot, I ran into the priest that first initiated my desire for the priestly life. This is the second priest but I still wasn't getting it. He invited me to go a part of the campus I had not explored where there was a dinner. I walk into the school cafeteria and on a white banner hanging from the ceiling written in red letters were the words 'Thank You Priests for Being Priests.' It was then that I realized what God was doing. I spent the next 10 minutes outside in tears, praise and awe of what the Lord had done.

Do you have any suggestions or guidance for those who are currently struggling with vocational discernment?

My first advice would be to pray, pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more. We aren't able to receive the depth of the Lord's will unless we listen in silence within the communion of prayer.

Abandon your own thoughts and desires and make your prayer to be conformed to the will of the Father. In other words pray often with the agony in the garden and the conversion of St. Paul.

The Lord doesn't work episodically like a sit-com. He's more of a novel writer, so reflect on your past as look and see where and when He was active. He's been guiding you and showing you His desire for you throughout the entirety of your life, not just now.

 The above are the questions relating to discernment of his priestly vocation, we still have more to come from Fr. Kyle! Before I give you a teaser for what I'll post next week, I wanted to briefly reflect on what is written here. I find family faith stories SO incredibly interesting, and I note that Fr. Kyle came from a mixed religious household. That applies to so many families, and shows that a vocation to the priesthood can blossom even when both parents aren't Catholic. 

I absolutely loved Father's clarification on my second question, about how he decided to become a priest. His explanation of it as "answering a call" rather than a decision in the traditional sense is just beautiful. As well, I know that I will be reflecting on his thoughts about discernment for a long time to come. His description of the Lord being a novel writer, and our discernment of His Will as needing to incorporate a look back on the story of our lives to see where He has been active and how He has been guiding just sublime. This visual will guide my prayers from now on. The Lord as the Master Storyteller, I just love this. And we certainly need to be paying attention to the plot to see where the author is leading us, no?

Come back next Monday to learn about Fr. Kyle's thoughts on:

- his favorite experience in priestly ministry;
- the most challenging part of priestly ministry;
- his daily prayer routine and how he balances it amongst his other responsibilities;
- the highly underused Sacrament of Reconcilliation;
- Pope Francis,

...and more! To keep up with Fr. Kyle and his ministry, sign up to subscribe to his blog, Reverenced Reading, and/or follow him on Twitter, his handle is @colonel4God.

Thank you SO much to Fr. Kyle for agreeing to be featured in Vocations Spotlight at Life of a Catholic Librarian, and see you all next week for Part 2 of his interview!

*Photo courtesy of artur84, at


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