Greetings in Christ! Welcome to the “Hearts Burning” blog organized and written by the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Writing to you now is seminarian John Bilenki. I am in Third Theology and serve as one of the editors for this blog. On behalf of my brother seminarians, I wish to make known to you the purpose and hope of this blog.
We’ve taken the title “Hearts Burning” from Luke 24:13-35 which recounts the story of the disciples’ on the road to Emmaus. On their journey, the disciples encounter someone whom they do not recognize (spoiler: it’s Jesus!). They share with their new companion the news of Jesus’ death, the confusion of finding Jesus’ tomb empty after three days, and their fear of persecution by those who killed Jesus. They do not know what to think or what to do! As they walk along, the man opens the Scriptures for the disciples, explaining why those things had to happen to Jesus. Finally, they arrive in Emmaus. Sharing a meal together that evening, the disciples’ companion takes bread, gives thanks to God, blesses and gives it to the disciples and with that, the eyes of the disciples are opened and they recognize that this is Jesus! Jesus then vanishes from their sight. Contemplating their conversations with Jesus that day and now at this climactic moment, the disciples say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32). The disciples turn around and return to Jerusalem and proclaim the risen Jesus.
This story is so helpful for contemplating Jesus’ presence and working in our lives. It is often subtle and hidden, but when we recognize Him, it is powerful. Through these encounters, Jesus changes us; we are moved to respond in some way.
I am confident saying that every one of my fellow seminarians could share with you an “Emmaus moment”. By this, I mean a moment or a time in our lives when Jesus first put the priesthood on our hearts. At these graced times, common to us yet profoundly unique and personal, our hearts were burning. Perhaps this ‘burning’ involved a range of thoughts and mixed emotions such as excitement, uncertainty, joy, peace, unworthiness. Perhaps you have experienced these feelings too in your own life as a disciple of Christ or even in your discernment of your own vocation.
For myself, as a junior in college, the Lord helped me recognize an abiding, life-giving peace and joy as I grew in my prayer-life and served my brothers and sisters at my university through Campus Ministry and as a resident assistant. Talking to the vocation director and meeting other seminarians and priests of Baltimore, I recognized a joy in them that seemed very similar to my own; I could see myself as one of their brothers. My heart was burning within me. And so, with God’s grace and the Church’s guidance, I began my journey in seminary in 2017. And now, four years later, I continue to move closer to priesthood, one day at a time!
Our hearts are burning as we prepare for ordination: burning as we grow in love and knowledge of Jesus and His people, of Scripture and theology, of the priesthood; burning as we grow in holy friendship with one another and those supporting us along the way. And so through this blog, the seminarians want to share with you the goodness and joy of the journey to priesthood. We desire to share moments, experiences, and perhaps some of the more unique aspects of our lives where we encounter Christ and find our hearts burning. We hope that this blog will serve as a window into our lives. Please pray for us and for an increase in holy vocations in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to priesthood, religious & consecrated life, marriage and chaste single life. Thank you for reading and may Christ’s peace be yours!
John Bilenki is in Third Theology at the Pontifical North American College. John is 25 years old, from Woodstock, Maryland. Lord-willing, John will be ordained a transitional deacon in May 2022 and a priest in Summer 2023. Please pray for John!