Tom Fallati is a seminarian of the Diocese and a parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville. He is studying at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. (Provided photo)
Tom Fallati is a seminarian of the Diocese and a parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville. He is studying at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. (Provided photo)
Over the years, I had often heard priests refer to the opportunity to be with the dying as a “privilege.” That always struck me as curious; how could being present at such a difficult time be a “privilege?”

Two years ago, I gained a profound insight when my father lay dying in a nursing home. I was able to accompany my pastor, Father James Walsh, as he celebrated the Sacrament of Anointing. Hearing Father Walsh recite the prayers of the sacrament and speaking to my father even as he was unconscious moved me. My father could not speak, but here a priest could pray for him and celebrate this sacramental encounter with the Lord. This brief moment was consecrated; I felt the Lord’s presence. I was already at that time a seminarian, but I had discovered something deeper about priestly ministry than I had known. I had experienced how this moment of ministry was “privileged.”

I emerged with a more profound sense of vocation, of the gift that it is to serve the Lord in ministry. As I heard the first stirrings of a call to the priesthood, I naturally focused on whether I would be able to fulfill the role of the priest. I thought of the visible “doing” of ministry: preaching, celebrating the sacraments, leading a parish and the like. And I have seen this in so many priests who have inspired me, truly following St. Paul’s call to “pour out” themselves (Phil. 2:17).

As I discerned, I asked if I would be able to fulfill this role. Was I holy enough to be a priest? Did I have the “talents” and “temperament” for the daily life of the priest? How would I relate to those in difficult circumstances, particularly in illness and death?

The truth is that whatever “talents” we have are simply gifts from God, as St. Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). It is important to reflect on these gifts and to consider how the Lord is calling you to use them. We can gain insight from wise spiritual counsel, from priests, deacons and lay persons who may call your attention to these gifts and how the Lord may be calling you to place them at the service of the Church.
This is indeed the focus of discernment.

But as much as ministry is an offering back of the gifts that we have received, I have discovered that there is in fact a deeper gift that one receives. As Venerable Fulton Sheen observed, vocation entails an “emptying,” but also a “filling up.” As much as we may “pour out” the gifts that we have been given, we experience the “filling up” of graces from the Lord.

The gift comes in many ways, some obvious and others subtle to discern. It may be a parishioner’s words of appreciation for your vocation. It may be a parishioner’s expression of heartfelt gratitude for even the smallest service in ministry. And there are the more hidden graces that the Lord provides, like the graces that I experienced alongside my father at his anointing.

Ultimately, the response to God’s call is a surrender. And what lies on the other side of the “Yes” is in fact a great gift that the Lord offers. This is the true gift of vocation.

Tom Fallati is a seminarian of the Diocese and a parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville. He is studying at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts