Vocation story published

A month ago I was contacted by a former colleague from my first stint at CNS as an intern. At the time she was an assistant editor, now she is busy raising her young family and works part time with Peanut Butter & Grace.

Peanut Butter & Grace is a web site and social media conglomerate seeking to provide parents with practical ways to pass on the faith to their children.

Later this week, they will be releasing my first video as a part of a new series “Brick by Brick with Father Brooke.”

In anticipation of the release of the series and on the occasion of the the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I also shared my vocation story on their Web site.

Unlike my column with Catholic News Service in the fall, which also provided practical tips for promoting a culture of vocations, this article is exclusively my vocation story.

CNS Column on Vocations

This Web site was initially launched in the summer of 2008, when I was an intern at Catholic News Service. I created the site to post the articles I was writing for Catholic News Service as they were published in various Catholic news sources around the world.

Several years later, I’m grateful that the good folks at CNS have asked me to begin writing for them again. I’ve started to write columns on occasion for them.

My first contribution was written back in November on vocations. (I apologize for not posting this sooner.)

I recently wrote another column on confession. I can’t link to it until I find it published in digital form of one of the many diocesan newspapers around the country. When that happens, I’ll add a link here.

“In persona Christi capitas”

***The following post was written by now Fr. Joshua Duncan on an old site for the Jefferson City Seminarians, which has since been migrated to this site and taken down.***


Recently on my Facebook page, I wished all the “Spiritual Fathers” a Happy Fathers day because of all the wonderful work they do for all of us.  I was met with a comment that suggested the misunderstanding of what it means to be a priest.

“Having been raised Catholic, I must say that the idea of having to go to a “priest” as a mediator between God is false doctrine. As believers in Christ we are all priests.”

Initially I took this statement as a question about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, however, after rereading it a couple times I felt as though I should take a broader look rather than focus specifically on the sacrament – after all it wasn’t really mentioned.

Through many other comments, the implicit question of “Sola Scriptura” was also raised, so I felt as though this could also be addressed in my response to the above comment.

Here’s what I ended up presenting in what is known as a “Facebook Note” (similar to a blog post, but much less formal).

“In persona Christi capitas”

The first thing we need to unravel more is what exactly the term “priest” is…

The term “priest” means “one who presides over a sacrifice and offers that sacrifice and prayers to God on behalf of believers.”

-Back in the OT, the men of the tribe of Levi were called “priests” (they offered sacrifices of bulls and goats to God again and again)… however the sacrifices of these men were not sufficient to forgive the sins of the people, which is why Christ came.
-“Catholic priests offer the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, wherein he died two thousand years ago and rose from the dead. Catholics believe that the Mass is the perpetuation in time of the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

(Above are either direct quotes or a summary take from “To Save A Thousand Souls” by Fr. Brett A. Brannen)
–Basically, what the above is saying is that though the sacred power bestowed upon the Catholic priest, the priest helps to perpetuate, in time, the eternal sacrifice of Christ, here on this earth. – This is during what is known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (Also another reason why Catholics call their “service” Mass, not Church. Church is a building, or a common community of people.)
–In Catholic theology, Saint Thomas Aquinas expresses, “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” Thus, Catholic clergy share in the one, unique, Priesthood of Christ. –Similar to #1545 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
-By virtue of his ordination and the sacred power entrusted to him, a priest acts “in persona Christi capitas”, in the person of Christ, the head [of the church].

-In conjunction with celebrating the Holy Mass, priests also are held with carrying out the other Sacraments instituted by Christ.
-Priests also pray with and for the people of God. This phrase is where many can get hung up with the fact that “Oh I don’t need a priest to pray for me, I can pray myself or with some friends.” While this statement can be necessarily true, in the context of the Holy Mass and other Sacraments, the priest is the one offering up the prayers for the people or acting “in persona Christi capitas” where prescribed.
-Priests preach the Gospel of Christ. Another one where some get hung up on… It is very true that it is our Christian duty to all be preachers of the Gospel of Christ – whether it be by word or action. The one thing you have to look at on a deeper level is that this very fact does not make a priest a priest. It is however an important component, especially when preaching the Gospel at Mass, but as you very well know, Deacons are also able to preach the Gospel at Mass. We all preach the Gospel in some way in our own lives – within a Bible study context, living out our Christian lives, etc. You just have to go back and look at the first statement I posted, the definition of a priest.

Now I realize that there are many other topics of priests’ “sacred powers” (coming from Christ Himself) that many people have trouble with understanding… the most popular being the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation… but the main point to take away from this is that every person has their place in the Body of Christ. Some of us are called to be apart of that community participating in Mass, while others are called to the priesthood.

In regards to “spiritual fatherhood”, there are many places where St. Paul himself refers to others as his children. See 1Cor 4:14, Gal 4:19, Eph 6:1, Col 3:20. St. John also refers to his children in 1John 2:1, 2:12, 2:18, 3:7, 3:18, 5:21.

Another important point discussed was the fact that Catholics do believe in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. (It is important to know the difference between “Tradition” vs. “tradition” -which I’m not going to get into). Only believing in “Sola Scriptura” poses many problems, sometimes even dangerous problems. I am going to include a few links of some websites I found very helpful, mainly because I don’t want to “recreate the wheel”, or try and restate something that is already stated in a helpful way.

What Catholics Believe about Sacred Scripture:
“As with other doctrine, too often non-Catholics never take the time to read what the Catholic Church truly teaches about the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. They have only too often accepted uncritically what her antagonists say she teaches. The following, therefore, is a selection from the most up-to-date reliable source—the Catechism of the Catholic Church—on what the Catholic Church teaches on Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, the Deposit of Faith and the authority behind how Scripture is to be interpreted.”

The Practical Problems With Sola Scriptura:
“Simply stated, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (“Scripture alone”) teaches that every teaching in Christian theology (everything pertaining to “faith and practice”) must be able to be derived from Scripture alone. This is expressed by the Reformation slogan Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum (“What is not biblical is not theological,” cf. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Richard A. Muller, Baker, 1985).”

Searching for Authority:
“Only the Catholic Church truly represented visible and doctrinal unity. The alternative to Catholicism was doctrinal chaos and no unity. The Reformers had decided according to their own judgement which parts of the Catholic faith to keep and which to reject; their followers continued the process of revising, and then the results were codified as revealed truth. The authority of the Catholic Church was simply replaced by the authority of Luther or Calvin. In the liberal denominations the fall was even worse; the principle of revealed truth was replaced by theological pluralism, the absolute belief that there are no absolute truths. Yet in both, the Church’s authority was replaced by the individual’s, and the visible church became nothing more than a collection of individuals.”

Logic and Foundations of Protestantism:
“But when I got down to making a serious attempt to explore the implications of this rock-bottom dogma of the Reformers, I could not avoid the conclusion that it was rationally indefensible. This is demonstrated in the following eight steps, which embody nothing more than simple, commonsense logic, and a couple of indisputable, empirically observable facts about the Bible:”

…Never underestimate the seemingly intimidating power of the Catholic Catechism! For which if there is a question, then there is an answer…sometimes it just might require digging. And there’s always the ever knowledgeable priests in our midst, or those who are learned in the faith who can help explain! It’s better to question and get answers than to remain indifferent and ignorant.

Peace & God Bless!

…and if you were interested how the rest of the comments/conversations went, we further discussed the concepts of purgatory, working out salvation, and still-to-be discussed in great length is the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the all-famous question, “Why do we have to tell our sins to a priest? I just tell mine straight to God and that works for me.”

To Be Continued…

God’s will and the Lord’s Prayer

This morning the second reading for the Office of Readings was written by St. Cyprian, the topic was the Lord’s Prayer. In Today’s portion of the passage the focus was on the words “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

There was one part of this reading I found to be particularly moving:

“This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us. For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God”

As a seminarian and someone discerning a call to the Priesthood, I think a lot about what God’s will is in my life? how can I figure this out? How do I live out his will? It is the big question that all Catholics must wrestle with along their path to holiness. I found these words of St. Cyprian to be particularly helpful in terms of how one can approach discernment. The notion that we cannot prevent God from doing as he wills was the part that really hit home. This is an important lesson in humility, who are we to think that we are greater than God and therefore can stop him?

I hope that you all find this passage to be as helpful and moving as it was for me.

St. Cyprian…Pray for us

The call to serve

Below is an article I wrote back in 2007 for the Catholic Spirit, diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen. I had just finished my senior year of high school and was living in New Jersey at the time.

Please pardon the quality of the writing, this seems like a long time ago. This was before I went to the University of Missouri and worked at Catholic News Service. However, I feel the message is still extremely important. After the article you can read some further comments that will explain further why I am choosing to share this article with you now.

To most Catholics the phrase, “a call to serve” only applies only to individuals called to become priests and nuns. However, we, as Catholics, are all called to serve those in need. For high school age students there is no better way to answer this call than JusticeworX and other service trips.

I personally have had the opportunity to participate in the JusticeworX program three times. With my youth group at St. Charles Borromeo I have also completed service trips to Appalachia and New Mexico.  I will also be traveling to Mexico for a service trip in the near future.

All of these service trips have taught me many valuable lessons and most importantly they have allowed me to grow in my faith. One of the things I love to do on the trips is meet people. In the people I serve with, and for, I am able to see Christ.

While I certainly see Christ in those who I serve and in my fellow peers. The people who have made the biggest impact on me are the individuals who work for the organizations. Many of these people have nothing themselves, yet they are willing to dedicate all their time to helping those in need. This kind of service is truly inspirational.

The trip that allowed me to grow in my faith the most was my trip to Kentucky one year ago. I had been preparing for this trip for months, then, two weeks before the trip, I broke my leg. I doubted whether I should still go on the trip. Even after my youth minister convinced me to go, I was still skeptical. I didn’t believe I would be able to do much of anything, I felt useless. I even thought I would be a burden and have a detrimental affect on the other student’s experiences.

However, I was wrong. I was able to help and make a difference, even if I was on crutches. I was able to help measure wood to help build a porch. I was able to get a lot out of the fact that despite my injuries I was still able to answer the call to serve and make a difference.

One of the other factors that made the Appalachia trip stand out more was the staff at the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity where we were working. This particular chapter was going through some tough times financially. The foreman had no idea whether or not he would have the supplies he needed on a day-to-day basis. Yet, despite not knowing what he would do the next day he maintained a positive outlook. He would always greet us with a smile. The foreman was a classic example of the type of people who I described before.

Every Catholic is called to serve those in need. I answered that call by participating in service trip through my youth group. While I went on these trips to serve those in need, I was also able to grow in my faith and learn many valuable lessons. I encourage all Catholics to go out and answer the call. Especially to those who are in high school, there are many wonderful programs available, take advantage of them, answer the call to serve.

As I mentioned before the article I was living in New Jersey at the time, so the specific programs referenced are programs available in that diocese. However, the Diocese of Jefferson City is no different. The diocese has opportunities to high school aged youth to answer the call and serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. The program I am thinking about is CHRISTpower.

During CHRISTpower students will have the opportunity to participate in different service projects during the day and then other activities during the evening. All of these programs are designed to give a young high school student an opportunity to encounter Christ and grow in their faith. I know many friends who have grown tremendously in their faith because they took just one week out of their summer to serve others.

I know that as my faith grew through these programs, I began to discern a call to the priesthood. This is not to say that every guy who attends CHRISTpower will become a priest and every girl, a nun. This means that when youth are allowed the opportunity to experience Christ in their lives in a very real and tangible way, they begin to think about how God is calling them to serve.

As I mentioned in the article, we are all called to serve, it is our baptismal call as a part of the Body of Christ. God has a plan for each and everyone of us in terms of how he wants us to serve our brothers and sisters. The only way to know this is to take that leap, put away all fears and serve others, in doing so you will experience Christ.

So if you yourself are in high school and are thinking about going but are unsure, go, you will not regret it. If you are a parent, encourage your child to attend CHRISTpower. Or if you know someone in your parish, encourage them to attend as well.

Information about CHRISTpower including all the necessary sign-up forms can be found on the CHRISTpower page on the Discover the Priesthood Web site.

Encounter With God’s Call Weekend

This weekend will be an Encounter With God’s Call Weekend. Like in the fall, men who are at least juniors in high school are allowed to come and visit to the seminary to learn more about seminary life and discern God’s call in their life.

It is not too late to sign up, please do so by contacting the Diocesan Vocations Office or Conception Seminary College.

In the meantime enjoy this awesome  video.

Please consider coming, its not too late.

Please pray for all those attending the retreat, that they may they may be able to encounter God’s call in their life during their time at Conception.

The need to attend Sunday Mass

Today, as everyday, I was scrolling through my Google Reader (a great tool by the way) and I came across this piece by Archbishop Dolan. I thought it was a fantastic piece. In it he reminds us of the need to attend Sunday Mass. I find this to be something very important. The attendance of Mass every Sunday when I was growing up was certainly instrumental in the development of my vocation. I remember the one of the first times I went to Mass, I asked my mother how I could become an Altar Server. Anyway, I loved the article and thought I would pass it along, in the hopes that more people will attend Sunday Mass.

Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, seminarians are finding ways to work some green into their outfits today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Save these dates

Just thought you might enjoy a list of upcoming vocations related events in the diocese.

VIP Dinner, An Evening with the Bishop: April 9 in Jefferson City – Come spend an evening with a live auction and dinner with Bishop John R. Gaydos. This dinner helps to promote seminarians and their vocations in the Diocese of Jefferson City. Contact the Stewardship Office for more information

Encounter With God’s Call: April 17-19 – If you are a junior in high school or older come to Conception Seminary College to  learn more about seminary life and God’s call in your life. Contact the Vocations Office for more information.


Permanent Diaconate Ordination April 17, 11 AM St. Joseph Cathedral, the deacon candidates and their wives recently came up to Conception for a retreat, we enjoyed their company and had a lot of fun joining them for meals and prayer.

Priesthood Ordination of Deacon Francis Doyle and Deacon Dylan Schrader May 22, 11 AM St. Joseph Cathedral. Come and see two of our seminarians become ordained Roman Catholic Priests.

Winter Olympics

The seminary is no exception, just like everywhere else around the world, seminarians get excited about the Olympics. What a wonderful event to bring the world together. Although I must note that we don’t get to watch as much as others because we still have our seminary schedule. In fact later this week we will have a three-day silent retreat during which, there will be no Olympics, and that is by no means a complaint. I am very excited for the opportunity to grow closer to Christ during the three-day silent retreat.

On a related note, this morning I came across wonderful Olympic  story. It is a story about vocations. In 1998 during the Nagasaki Winter Olympics, then 17-year-old Kristin Holum burst on the scene, many thought she was ten years away from her prime. Now twelve years later, Holum will be spending the 2012 Olympics helping the poor in England as a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Renewal. I found the article on Yahoo! to be quite inspirational, be sure to check it out here, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Please pray for the safety of all those involved with the Olympics, athletes, volunteers and spectators, as well as for an increase in vocations to religious life.

Editing some videos…

In addition to writing/blogging/online journalism one of my other hobbies is video making and taking photographs. While on break I have snapped quite a few photos on my trip through the Northeast, I’ve also been working on a video.

While the video is still in progress I’ll hope you all will get the chance to see it sometime soon. As I was working on this video I couldn’t help but laugh and remember that two years ago during my winter break I made another video which was shown at the Bishop’s Campus Ministry Forum. At the time I was a leader at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, and put together the video to show Bishop Gaydos during our meeting with him to review how things are going in campus ministry.

It’s nice to think about all that has changed in the past two years and all that hasn’t changed. That day was the first time I met Bishop Gaydos, and was one of the first times I got to meet folks from our diocese outside of Columbia. Two years later I’m a seminarian for this diocese, and very happy, proud, and grateful to be where I am now, and where I’ve been the last two years.

Here’s that video I was talking about…needless to say, I think I’ve improved some since then.

I’m not the only seminarian who enjoys making videos, Eric Martin is also a big fan of video editing…be sure to check out this awesome NCYC video he made in November: