Germanic Year of Discernment

A year and a half ago my family and I were soaring over the immense  Atlantic Ocean towards Germany, the location of my dad’s new Air Force assignment. Throughout the 13 hours of grueling travel, I endured enough elbow rubbing, armrest stealing antics with my brothers to last me a lifetime. Stepping off the plane and escaping my metal prison into the refreshing 75 degree summer air was heavenly. However, I suddenly realized that a new chapter of my life had begun. I was enveloped by an entirely new language and culture. I realized that after spending four years in Shreveport, the longest period of time I have ever lived in one state, I had forgotten the anticipation, excitement, nerve-wracking emotions and anonymity that go along with moving.

One of the first German experiences I had was quite comical. We had to find our two Havanese dogs, who were somewhere nearby in the airport, and pick them up to head to the base. We had no idea where they were and none of us spoke a lick of German. We ended up finding the building they were in, which was about 10 minutes away at another site. My dad went in and awkwardly asked a German at a counter, “Sprechen Inglés?” My dad asked the lady if she spoke English in half German, half Spanish. This was just a tiny glimpse of the beginning of a whole slew of embarrassments that occurred that year.
After a month’s stay in the army post hotel, we moved into our fourth story apartment on one of the four army posts, Kelley Barracks. I can honestly say that after a year, I am a stair climbing guru.  There I often thought deeply on seminary formation and further discerned if I was truly called to return to the diocese the following year. My decision to return was ultimately molded by a myriad of eye-opening experiences.

In October of 2012 I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage with the base chapel and my family to Assisi and Rome. Assisi exposed me to the subtle, quiet beauty of our wonderful Catholic Church. We walked through twisting cobblestone streets filled with fresh Italian breads, fruits, desserts and other delicacies. In Rome a French priest, a former Swiss Guard, led us around and arranged for an American Cardinal to say a private Mass for us in a chapel near St. Peter’s square. Later in the year I was able to travel throughout Germany, getting to know the culture, devouring the scrumptious apfel strudel, and witnessing breathtaking views. In the spring I visited Venice and Bari in Italy, Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, Olympia in Greece and Dubrovnic in Croatia. Visiting these countries was an immersive teaching moment; it taught me about the history of different people and their beliefs. I was also exposed to many magnificent churches In the end, I was left with a longing for God and involvement in His Church. I wanted to bring God and peace to all the suffering impoverished people I saw along the way. Throughout the whole trip I had a burning desire that kept bringing the idea of seminary back into my mind as a way I could reach out to such people.

My two favorite moments of true enlightenment occurred during my trip to Lourdes, France and to Rome for a second time. In Lourdes there was a majestic aura of serenity that encased the entire city, an aura that felt like the gentle touch of a mother, cradling all within. During this time I prayed through our loving Lady of Lourdes, asking to better understand God’s will for my life. I returned to Rome this past summer. During this time I was able to visit St. Mary Major and the Church of St. Ignatius, which contains the body of Saint John Berchmans. I prayed for the courage to surrender, to be a humble servant and to be open to God’s will by putting aside any self-centered desires I had.

I finally answered the never ending, overwhelming restlessness in my heart to return to the Diocese of Shreveport to answer the call I was hearing.  After strenuous logistical planning, my grandmother, mother, sister and I finally arrived at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, LA. I felt internally at peace for the first time in five years, but also felt completely unsure of what the future would bring. For the first time in my life, I would have to wait five months in order to see my parents and siblings. After I said goodbye to my family, I sat down in my room, encompassed by unnerving, piercing silence. After a few long minutes, I took a deep breath and exited my room, plunging into the uncharted, crisp and cleansing waters of seminary life.

I have grown happier as the days have gone by. I feel fulfilled in a place of serenity where ancient oaks provide protective, shielding shadows in which I can ignore the blaring ruckus of our noisy culture in order to hear and understand better the will of our most gracious God.  There is also no greater environment than a place where fellow supportive brothers are earnestly seeking the same goal: Christ, as well as their identity in Christ, with all of their hearts. Although it is still difficult for me to wake up early in the morning for adoration, I find comfort in this minuscule sacrifice and everything else that is a part of our daily routine for the greater glory of God. It helps us grow in holiness, which will ultimately bring us the greatest happiness we can encounter in this world.

My time at St. Ben’s is a great blessing, an amazing time of spiritual maturation and intellectual growth balanced with good-hearted fun. My decision to enter seminary is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I sincerely look forward to many more days to come. May you receive the grace to be unconditionally ready for the day the King of Endless Glory calls out for you to leave all you have known to come and follow Him, even if it means you must journey across an ocean and back.

Steven Griego is in first year college at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, LA.

5 Responses to Germanic Year of Discernment

  1. Chimene Griego says:

    So proud of you son! Great article, well written… I love you!

  2. Manuel Griego says:

    Totally, completely, proud of and love you our son, brother!
    Dios de Bendiga, Your familia in Germany!

  3. Michael says:

    Excellent articl and very inspiring. And very well written.may God continue to bless you on your journey and if it is His will; please God let be, you will be a great inspiration to all. God Bless you Steve now and always!

  4. Ethelyn David says:

    Praise God for your answer to His call! I will keep you in prayer. Always keep seminarians and priests in prayer as I always remember: No priest = no Eucharist. There is the Seminary of Christ the King here in Mission, just outside of Vancouver, BC. It’s a Benedictine Abbey. I try to go several times a year. Maybe you will visit here one day. Please keep my son Austin in prayer for his vocation. I pray Mother Mary touched his heàrt and speaks to
    him as we journey to Medjugorje end of April. God Bless!

  5. Kimberly Brookins says:

    Beautifully written. Made me cry and laugh.

    Love and prayers for you and your family.

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