1st Step to Ordination: Aspirant


   Aspirant almost sounds like a medical cure, or a physical ailment, but this means nothing more than announcing your interest in aspiring to ordained ministry. 
   When I look back on this stage of my journey I can say that I was definitely afflicted. On one hand part of me was starting to recognize that I was being called. At least three people came up to me over several years asking me if I was "in ministry", and I would tell them "No, I'm just a lector." When I read "Listening Hearts" my recognition of a call suddenly started blasting me like a lighthouse at night.
   Being called to ministry just didn't make sense to my logical mind. Why would God want me? I'm not a scholar or a theologian--I spent many years working in a factory! I didn't consider myself to be particularly "holy", although I have deep beliefs in a God who wants to be as close as a parent, and not as an angry judge.
   I also was concerned with "What will my friends and family think?" This is a crazy idea, after all! Will I suddenly be shunned or isolated? Do I really want to take that chance? What if I start this process and fail to reach the end? I found many reasons NOT to do this.
   I only had one reason to follow this path: What if God was really calling me? Could I continue on with my faith practice knowing I was ignoring the summons?
   If you are wrestling with this as I was, I can offer you this advice: Take a chance! There are times in life when it is worthwhile standing up and sailing against the wind. For me, the suspicion that God needed my service reminded me of the poem by William F. O'Brien:

Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing,
Others say nothing gambled nothing gained,
Go all out for your dream.
Life can be lived either way, but for me,
I'd rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.

Some say "Don't ever fall in love,
Play the game of life wide open,
Burn your candle at both ends."
But I say "No! It's better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all, my friend."

When many moons have gone by,
And you are alone with your dreams of yesteryear,
All your memories will bring you cheer.
You'll be satisfied, succeed or fail, win or lose,
Knowing the right path you did choose. 

   As an Aspirant you are asked to come up with an idea for a project and then implement it--nothing large, just something simple that gives you the experience of working with the parish members. It's a great idea to participate in the many lay ministries such as acolyte (altar server), lector, Eucharist Minister, choir, Altar Guild, and whatever else gets you involved in parish life.
   You are also asked to start work with a Spiritual Director: someone who can offer you advice and direction on deepening your spiritual practice and belief. I have gained new insights and deeply cherish the two Directors I've worked with over the last 3+ years.
   As you work on discerning your call in this Aspirant phase you begin to prepare an application to the Diocese to be formally entered into the process for ordination. Don't worry about changing your mind! There are numerous opportunities to turn away if you feel this isn't for you.
   If, in the end, you are left with a deeper meaning of your faith, then what loss have you suffered? Much of this process is learning to trust in God. Years later, I am still learning that!!

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