I was born into a wonderful catholic family with two amazing parents and the blessing of four siblings. My parents did a wonderful job in instilling the faith in me, showing me the gift of wonder and awe from a very early age. Looking back on my childhood, there is never a moment where Jesus was never present. My childhood was a blessing and I would not be the person I am today without it.
As a young child people would tell me that I would make a great priest or ask me if that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. Often times this idea would stress me out (for no real reason) to tears and I received much comfort from my mother in how much God loved me. The idea of truly discerning God’s will for my life was, for about seventeen years, something I would go through in about ten seconds. “Could God call me to be a priest? No I’m called to be married. I like girls and I want a family.” My junior year I had a lot of growing in trying to figure out who I wanted to be and which friends I wanted to hang out with. This preparation and self-reflection opened my heart at my first Steubenville conference to seriously consider discerning my vocation.
After that experience I was a mess. I had gone up for an altar call which was an incredibly public way to state an openness to God’s will. I was concerned with how people would think of me, did God really desire my happiness, or would I begrudgingly accept a calling and sadly drudge my way through life “doing God’s will.” My senior year an event transpired that left me in a state of despair. I approached discernment miserably and unfruitfully. I viewed God as someone who said that He loved me but only if I do what He wanted. I would demand God for answers and I would pray for fulfillment and purpose similarly to the way Augustine would pray for chastity when his heart would be praying for the opposite. I would tell God that I wanted to give Him everything if He asked for it, but in reality was holding on to everything keeping me from Him.
The process of healing from this self-inflicted pain began on the 2013 SWYM Confirmation retreat that I had the blessing of participating as a leader. I was able to personally witness to a young man seeing Jesus for the first time as well as the adoration experience. Again in adoration I was sitting there torn between discerning my will and God’s when I felt His presence and peace truly in my heart saying, “Joshua Thomas Villarreal, I love you so much. You don’t have to be anything other than Joshua for Me to love you.” It was a feeling similar to a beloved holding your face in their hands speaking to you purely, honestly, and lovingly.
My healing felt more fulfilled at this year’s Steubenville Mid-America Conference where I realized that there is truly nothing to fear from God. I was able to just be there for my friends who were experiencing God in new ways. The last month of summer this year I realized how much I really love being Jesus and allowing Jesus to bring comfort to others. Truly I experienced a moment of conversion when I discovered a band called Typhoon. Their song “The Honest Truth” sings of abandoning sin and pursuing goodness, for in pursuing goodness we can be ourselves. The band inspired me to pursue goodness with everything that I am despite my sin and suffering. This process of feeling more and more free has taken time and maturity. There was a slow realization of freedom. I found peace in working in God’s will for I do not have to worry about the future. I am so free in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in the midst of discernment, if you are feeling what I felt in the past year, do not be afraid. God loves you so much. We are all unworthy of the amount of grace and love that Christ pours out upon us. God desires your happiness so much more than we do. Discernment should not feel like the weight of the world is suffocating you: for discernment is the freedom of being open to Will of the Lord. Jesus sees you despite all of your sin and desires you; in His eyes you are still a child of innocence that He just wants to love unceasingly. He will always feel the toil our suffering brings us and give us more joy than we can possibly imagine. He will never be outdone in generosity. In doing God’s will on a daily basis will always bring joy. My primary calling in life is to always make Jesus’ name know to my heart and to the hearts of others in my thoughts, words, and actions. If I want to find peace and joy in suffering I must separate myself from everything keeping me from the Sacred Heart. In looking at discernment this way, in striving for goodness and abandoning my sin, I feel free. The only thing that keeps me from Jesus’ heart is my own sin so I renounce it. God only wants to do good things in you. He has given you gifts that will be manifested in your vocation. This is what discernment is as it should be: the freedom to love. I have never felt more Joshua.
Two of the biggest tips I would give is to, first of all, pray religiously, daily, and as much as you can. If you aren’t getting to know the Lord then it will be impossible to know yourself. The second would be to go to daily mass as much as you can. My schedule works out to where I can go seven days a week but that just doesn’t work all the time. The Eucharist provides a home in Christ.
And in the end, brothers, God gives us a pretty sweet deal: we get to join in the freaking Priesthood of Jesus Christ or we get to marry some amazing beautiful woman and bring her to heaven with us (Or be some awesome contemplative monk or give our life to God in the single life but LET ME HAVE MY ONE LINER). What a good God.
So with peace in your heart, go out and do the Will of the Lord and may the good work that God has begun in you be brought to fulfillment.
Be Sure to check out my personal blog at http://catholicswag.wordpress.com/