God’s Constant Call To Become A Priest

Fr. Garabed Kochakian

God’s voice comes to us through people in different ways and through experiences in different ways.

The voice of God’s call came to me when I was in High school, when I was becoming deeply involved in the Armenian Church community as an older teenager. I didn’t grow up in the Armenian Church. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, attended a Unitarian Church and then wasn’t confirmed in the Armenian Church until I was 21.

Through it all there were “points of light,” experiences that were like voices that spoke to me. There were opportunities given to me: A priest invited me to learn how to play the organ and I became the assistant organist at my church. I joined the ACYOA and interacted with other youth. And I went to a summer study conference at St. Nersess Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

That was a profound call for me, my first St. Nersess experience. There I realized that many other young people believed the same things that I believed. I wasn’t an oddball! Young Armenians from other parts of the United States shared the same faith that I did and we had fun together. We celebrated it! At St. Nersess I felt happy and complete. I wanted to be in that church family and that was a great reinforcement of God’s constant call to become a priest. My involvement in the Armenian Church made me feel fully happy and complete. I realized that through that feeling of happiness and completeness, God was speaking to me, calling me to take my place in the Armenian Church as a priest.

I was in seminary at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary for seven years. I had my ups and downs, points of frustration and points of great satisfaction. I shared it all with my classmatesFr. Kevork (Arakelian), Fr. Yeprem (Kelegian), Deacon Sarkis Hardy, Fr. Abraham Ohanessian, Clara Takesian, Valerie Goekjian-Zahirsky, Michael Zeytoonian, Fr. Krikor Saboonjianall of these people who are all my colleagues now. I could hear God’s voice speaking to me through them. Through these loving relationships I felt that God was reinforcing me in the midst of my journey to serve him as a priest.

In those days at Seminary we saw so many students come and go. All the time I used to shutter, thinking, “Am I going to be the next one to fall from grace? Will I be the next one to change my mind and leave this place? But it didn’t happen. I was encouraged by God through my friends. This was a voice from God telling me to stay with it.

The best way to know if God is calling you to be a priest is to pay close attention to people and experiences. God’s call does not come on the telephone. It doesn’t fall from heaven. Through it all I learned to watch and to listen even when everything in my life seemed noisy. In that noise God’s voice is there someplace.

How do you discern your call? How do you figure it out? By listening. If you hear the smallest thing that catches the ear of your heart, listen to it. There might be a profound message in it. Give yourself over to spiritual listening. It’s the way of the heart. God speaks to you from inside, from within your heart. It’s within you to be able to discern everything that’s outside of you. God’s voice comes from two places: from within your heart and from people and experiences outside.