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'God or the Girl': Vocational Struggles on TV

Interview With Father Brian Bashista

ARLINGTON, Virginia, APRIL 14, 2006 (Zenit) - Four young men struggling with discerning their vocation to the priesthood give a glimpse into their real-life journey on national television in a five-part series starting this Easter Sunday.

The series, "God or the Girl," captures the tension and triumph of Joe, Mike, Steve and Dan, four men in their 20s who are at a crossroads in their lives. Over the course of this series they decide whether or not to enroll in the seminary.

The series on A&E Television includes one of the mentors, Father Brian Bashista, vocations director for the Diocese of Arlington. The diocese has 24 seminarians studying for the priesthood.

Father Bashista shared with us his impressions of the A&E series and the state of vocational discernment in the United States.

Q: What is the main purpose of this series on vocational discernment?

Father Bashista: I do not believe the producers claimed to have created a show specifically on vocation discernment.

As I understand, they were just trying to present the real-life struggles of four young men who are considering the very important life decision of whether or not they are being called to the priesthood, and to share these struggles with a wide and -- as the producers discovered -- a very curious secular audience.

The series does, however, provide good examples of individuals who are being faithful to their responsibility to seriously discern their God-given vocation, and gives a very frank presentation of the various aspects of discernment.

From my perspective, as a vocation director, the producers did an incredible job of capturing a snapshot into the reality of this discernment with all of its twists and turns, ups and downs, highlights and lowlights.

Q: What are the most common struggles that young men have today in discerning their vocation to the priesthood or marriage?

Father Bashista: In general, many of our youth have not built the habit of prayer through which the Lord disposes them to hear and respond to his vocation invitation.

Most just "happen" into the married life without being sincerely open to the possibility that Christ might be inviting them to follow him as a priest or consecrated religious. Without prayer, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to receive the grace one needs to realize and embrace their vocation with trusting faith and reasonable conviction.

The struggles of young people discerning their vocation are illustrated best in Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed. Sometimes the call falls on souls who are hurrying about on the path of a busy world. The apprehension of making a lifelong commitment coupled with a fear of losing one's independence means the call goes unheeded and is thus trampled underfoot.

Some souls are more open to the call, but are like the rocky ground. They sense the initial call, but the unrealistic expectation of immediate clarity or a "sure sign" that this is God's will means that the call is never really nurtured either by themselves or, more often than not, by friends and family, particularly parents.

The call also falls among souls enmeshed in the thorny dangers of the riches and inordinate pleasures of life. They fail to cherish the call by reforming their lives in harmony with the Gospel, or in fully appreciating the great gift of chaste living, whether as a celibate priest or as a married man. Therefore, the call is choked and eventually dies.

But others are like the good and fertile soil. They are souls who are prepared to properly receive the Lord's call through the watering of prayer, the tilling of hard work, the warmth of their humble generosity, and the light of their sacrificial lives.

These souls welcome the possibility of whatever vocation the Lord may be calling them to. They are thus able to follow his voice by either entering the seminary for further discernment or to seek confirmation of their vocation elsewhere, perhaps on the road to marriage.

Q: What advice would you give to young men in the midst of this struggle?

Father Bashista: I would advise them to focus on these virtues of prayer, hard work, generosity and sacrifice.

They provide the active, practical means of countering the temptations against the Lord's call, especially the false humility of a sense of unworthiness, the difficulty of choosing and living celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, and the need for objective certitude before answering the call.

"Fear is useless, what is needed is trust," says the Lord. And that is especially true in vocation discernment.

Q: Do you think that this television program will help those who are struggling with their vocation and also help those who don't understand what a vocation to the priesthood is about?

Father Bashista: Absolutely. This series shows how these four faithful Catholic men grapple with their strengths and weaknesses in responding to the Lord.

Their sincerity is contagious and will be a source of insight, challenge and encouragement to those who watch.

The pastoral, priestly example of the missionary, Father Jorge, will go a long way in clarifying the essence of priesthood as a life of loving, sacrificial service for others.

In a wider context -- and contrary to popular opinion -- the series will also reveal to its viewers what many in the Church have already know for years, namely, that numerous outgoing, affable, balanced and intelligent young men are seriously considering a call to serve Christ and his Church as a future Roman Catholic priest.

As we see in these four men, many others like them are well on their way to become highly successful in the eyes of the world ... but are willing to give up everything for a life which points to a reality beyond this world.

Despite what their friends, family, classmates or co-workers might think, they are willing to seriously explore this road less traveled.

Despite their mixed motives and normative questions, fears and doubts, they will be admired for their courage and faithful witness in taking serious note of the Lord's invitation to "Come follow me" ... and will no doubt inspire others to do the same.

Q: What do you think is the current situation of priestly vocations in the United States today?

Father Bashista: It is a new springtime of hope for priestly vocations.

I believe that we are experiencing a time of purification which will produce the lasting fruit of strong, courageous responses on the part of those men Christ is calling to tend "his flock."

His people are hungry for holiness and truth. Through persevering prayer, that hunger will indeed be satisfied by faithful, sacramental and pastoral care on the part of future priests and consecrated religious.

A close priest friend of mine commented after viewing this series that "We are indeed entering into exciting times if men like these are the future husbands, fathers and priests of the Church."

Q: How can we help young people to consider the priesthood and to discern wisely?

Father Bashista: Families must pray for and encourage their children's vocation responses. They must begin to give their children the tools with which to uncover each child's unique vocation.

Parishes must pray for and support vocations from the young people in their midst.

Priests, religious and educators must be attentive to the qualities of the youth to whom they minister and invite those who seem to have the disposition and qualities of a potential priest to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

If young people see that we, as a Church, value and esteem all vocations and the importance of their individual discernment, they will themselves give it the attention and prayerful consideration necessary for its discovery.

I also believe that faithfully living of our own vocation will go a long way in helping others to discover, fully embrace and faithfully live their vocation as well.


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TV, God, Girl, Priest, Vocation, Bashista

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