'Be a Priest My Son'

By Deacon Matt Holladay, MIC

Deacon Matt Holladay, MIC, was ordained a deacon in 2018. God willing, he will be ordained to the priesthood this summer. Here, he talks about how the Blessed Virgin Mary led him to discover the Marian Fathers and pursue a call to the priesthood.

I call my mom the second greatest mom in the world. She would tell me often, "I love you just for you being you." She made me feel like I did not have to earn her love.

Of course, my mom's love reflects the love of the greatest mom in the world, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who loves us more deeply than any human person. Through her motherly guidance, she led me to join the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I was raised Catholic and am the oldest of three. My dad converted to Catholicism and came into full communion shortly before marrying my mother. My parents always made sure I went to Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. They both have been supportive of my vocation through all the stages of discernment. I could not ask for better parents.

I did not always dream of becoming a priest. For a time as a child, I hoped to become a professional basketball player. Then around sixth or seventh grade, I started to make the faith my own after reading the lives of the saints. Around then, I started praying the Rosary every day, and I made time for personal prayer. These spiritual practices laid the roots of my vocation.

One day during the summer before my freshman year of high school, I was in my room praying the Rosary. In a brief pause between decades, I heard the words in my heart, "Be a priest, my son." A peace came over me, and I was sure it was of God and perhaps a call from the Blessed Mother. This experience began a long road of discernment.

In high school, I received the call to religious life because of a deep attraction to the vows and community life. For years, I discerned various religious communities, visiting some and living for a time with others.

In 2007, I happened upon the back of an issue of Marian Helper, which led me to visit the spiritual director, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, in Steubenville, Ohio, for a vocation retreat. I received many graces that weekend and decided to apply to enter the Marians.

Although I did not know much about him at the time, I felt close to the Marian's Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczynski. I was impressed with the miracle attributed him. Through his intercession, a baby declared dead in the womb was restored to life. I was also drawn to the Marian's Renovator, Blessed George Matulaitis. I was struck by his thoughts about vocational discernment as well as His love for Christ and the Church.

At that retreat, I learned more about the Marian charisms: honoring Mary Immaculate, praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, assisting the Church wherever the need is greatest, and spreading the message of Divine Mercy. Soon, I started to feel like God always had this calling engraved on my heart.

My devotion to Mary and personal daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament keeps me grounded in my vocation. Ever since I started praying to her on my own in middle school she's given me the strength to say "yes" to the Lord. She's truly the greatest mom in the world.

If you feel called to support the Marian seminarians, please visit Marian.org/HolyPriests

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