Jed Surdyke: Why Ignite?

During the latter half of my college experience, I was constantly coming to my spiritual director with questions about discernment. I knew that graduation was coming, and I was over-flowing with ambitious, and sometimes contradictory desires for my future. Part of me wanted to travel and do service. Another part of me wanted to go to grad school. Then again, I had been feeling for a while that God might be calling me to the priesthood, and I really wanted to discern that call. But if God called me to the priesthood, I would miss out on having a wife and kids, and that would be really tough. I had no clue what I was supposed to do, and that kind of freaked me out.

I would come to Fr. Carl’s office, month after month, and pour out these thoughts and desires hoping he would tell me what God was calling me to. He didn’t. Instead, he pushed me to continue spending time with Christ in prayer and paying attention to what desires were felt deepest in my being. He was convinced, drawing upon the insights of St. Ignatius, that God places profound longings in each of our hearts to guide us to the great joy that He so longs to give us. And this is how I tried to discern.

I knew that I loved to serve Christ in His Church, and that desire was irrefutable. So, through a series of circumstances I ended up applying for and taking the position as an Ignite Intern. What I didn’t realize at the time was that by bringing me to JSC, God was giving me the exact time and space that I needed to continue my discernment.

The freedom the internship allots has given me the chance to dive into prayer and reflection in a way that was close to impossible during my college years. I have come to know Christ better not just through prayer, but through the ministry in which I am blessed to participate. As a minister, I take part in the lives of thousands of young people. I share in their joys, their struggles, their moments of insight. This Christ that I am getting to know through prayer and through God’s word, I am getting to meet everyday in these kids, and it’s had a profound impact on my discernment. I have come to believe that Christ might be calling me to become like Him in His chastity, His poverty, and His obedience. I believe that He wants to love others through me. And so, when I finish this year, I will be going to live with a religious community in Kansas City to discern this call even further.

This place, and this position have been immensely helpful for me as I draw closer to Christ and listen for His voice. Being here has helped me to know that my deepest desire is to share the love of Christ which has been shared so generously with me.

Rainer Maria Rilke, writing to an author in the early 20th century, I think captures something of this discernment that I have described.

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

If you or anyone you know may be interested in our Ignite Internship, you can find the application here