When most people encounter a Catholic seminarian, it usually takes place in the context of one of several summer parish assignments each seminarian must complete as part of his formation for the priesthood.

The average parishioner sees the seminarian in the back of the church, greeting people before and after Mass. Rarely does a parishioner have the opportunity to speak to the seminarian about his vocation. The seminarian likely comes across as a nice guy, but to be a seminarian is to be more than just a friendly face.

A man decides to pursue the priesthood because he has felt a divine call from Christ in his life. If a man enters the seminary for any other reason, he should leave immediately. If Christ is not the reason for being in the seminary, then who or what is?

A seminarian, therefore, is a man who has experienced this divine calling and has responded to it. First, he accepts the call and decides to radically change his life. This often entails leaving a job, a girlfriend or fiancée and a comfortable way of life.

Everything following this divine invitation is ultimately a loving response. The entire formation process should be centered on developing a greater love and relationship with Christ. Once a seminarian has made the commitment to follow Christ, his life becomes an ever-increasing reflection of the love of Christ.

This love should be concrete, not a facade he puts on around religious or influential people. Someone studying for the priesthood is called to be constantly prayerful, prudent, chaste, celibate, wise and innocent: in short, he is called to be holy as Christ and the saints are holy. Every action must be rooted in Christ for the good of the kingdom of God.

In a world where Christ has been relegated to the corners of society, the seminarian should stand out - not ostentatiously, but as one who has found something remarkable and has left everything to pursue it.

Seminarians are ordinary human beings who often fall short of their calling. Tradition tells us that when St. Peter tried to abandon his mission in Rome, he saw Christ and asked, "Where are you going?" Christ responded, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again."

Christ never abandons us. The awareness of His love and the desire to reciprocate it motivates the seminarian to go beyond himself.

This love drives him to get out of bed to pray in the morning, to be patient with the person with the irritating personality or to spend time with the lonely. Even when he fails, Christ is there to put him back on track with the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Throughout my three years of formation, the people of the Albany Diocese have been kind and gracious. Their financial generosity allows seminarians like me to study and engage in the life of the seminary - a place conducive to knowing and loving Christ.

On behalf of all the seminarians in our Diocese and throughout the world, I ask for your constant prayers. Your prayers will give us the means to see Christ's true path clearly and the courage to generously and lovingly respond to it each day.

(Brian Slezak is in his second year at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, Ill. He is a native of St. Margaret of Cortona parish in Rotterdam Junction, now a mission of St. Joseph's in Schenectady.)

This is part of The Evangelist's ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their studies, work and development. To read previous installments, search for "seminarian diary."