There’s a story going around the sports pages in the States about Grant Desme of the Oakland Athletics. No, he hasn’t admitted to using any performing-enhancing drugs. Nor is he in trouble with the law. Actually, he’s the opposite of most people in the world. He’s decided to retire from professional baseball so that he can enter a Catholic seminary. Which assuming he continues with his seminary studies and then takes the sacrament of Holy Orders, he then will have to take three vows: poverty, obedience, and chastity. Each of them a far cry from the life of a sports star in any country: lots of women (Tiger Woods), being above the law (Gilbert Arenas), and more money than people usually know what to do with (everyone).
Of course there are different takes on how far he could have gone as a professional athlete, but regardless of that, he’s made a choice that fewer and fewer young people around the world are making. One of the Popes said that about a quarter of the people are called to religious life, but only a percent answer that call, which has led to the priest shortages in the Western world. There are several parishes in the United States (and I assume Europe) that are making contracts with parishes in Asia and Africa, so that for a couple of years priests can have the experience of coming to the States and the parishes have priests. Father Simon at Myeong Dong Catholic Cathedral (where I attend Mass) worked in a parish in New Jersey for three years before he came to Myeong Dong.
And yes, sadly there are sportscasters and media personalities that are saying some slightly dumb and slightly offensive things about his decision (ie: ‘if he really wanted to be around padres and cardinals, wouldn’t if have been easier to get a trade to Sand Diego [Padres] or St. Louis [Cardinals]?’)
When I was younger I thought that it would be cool to be a nun, sitting around talking to God and reading books. But after some hard thinking (discerning), it dawned on me that I really wasn’t cut out to be in religious life: it’s not really in my heart, like it is in my head. But I definitely have respect for anyone that makes the decision to follow their calling and enter religious life. Good luck to Grant Desme in all his future endeavors!