Deliver us from evil. This should be our prayer as the Church endures the ongoing scandal resulting from clerical sex abuse. I never grew up in the Church not effected by the clerical sex abuse scandal. As I began discerning priesthood several years ago, I became the target of jokes, whispers and disapproval. I never thought, however, that in the years of my priestly formation the scandal could grow to what it is today. Revelations of clerical sex abuse have now reached the highest echelons of the Church. Even seminarians, young men discerning God’s will for their lives, were victims of abuse by the very men they trusted with their futures. Who could I trust?

One afternoon, after reading article after article about the extensive abuse, I asked myself why I was still studying to be a priest. The clerical collar, the badge of the Catholic priesthood, no longer looked noble but dirty. The parish no longer sounded like an oasis of prayer but a crime scene. I began to ask myself why I wanted to become a priest. What was my intention? Did I want the benefits of a priestly life? Did I want to escape the world that was seemingly falling apart around me? Did I have something to hide? Then in an illuminating moment, all of my fears and anxiety faded away.

I was reminded why I wanted to become a priest; I wanted to serve Jesus Christ and his Church. I wanted to be a medic on the battlefield of life, binding the wounds left by sin, carrying my brothers and sisters into the safety of the Father’s arms. This was my vocation, and no sin of any priest or bishop could stop me from pursuing that purpose that God had created me for. Today I look at this crisis and I see the pain and suffering, but I recognize it as a call to arms. As a man studying for priesthood I must “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) because as an earthy ambassador of Jesus Christ “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The priesthood may be disfigured by sinful men who have hidden in its ranks, but the Catholic priesthood is still the love of the heart of Jesus, a self-emptying sacrificial love. Jesus tells us throughout the Gospels not to be afraid. Perhaps for a long time we didn’t know what that meant, but in this time of great struggle he asks us to trust in him. We may be tempted to fall into despair but we must look at ourselves and see what lies in our hearts. We cannot undo the serious crimes that have been perpetrated by corrupted clergy, but we can change the future of the Church by looking into our own hearts to see what we find there. Is there lust, envy and hatred that has clung in the deepest caverns of our hearts? Have we turned our hearts into vaults, locking God out of the places in our lives where we need him most?

As a young man studying for priesthood, I have been forced many times to examine my weaknesses, faults and sins. Like a block of marble in an art studio, priestly formation chips away at our hearts. This sometimes painful process seeks to reveal that beautiful and absolutely unique piece of art that lies within that block of stone. This crisis has helped me to understand why I must root sin out of my life. I must not only do it for myself, but for God and his people. Over the past few weeks we have seen how much harm sin can cause. We may feel like we can do nothing, but we can transform the Church my starting to transform ourselves.

In the past few years I have met many priests and religious. Some are only recently ordained while others have dedicated decades to ministering to God’s people. I encounter them at Mass, in the confessional, the breakfast table and the classroom. These men and women have been lanterns illuminating the way along my path of discernment, and I cannot imagine getting this far without them. God has sent these priests and religious into my life in order to pick me up when I lose strength and encourage me when I have lost all courage.

We need priests, but most of all, we need holy priests. While today may be perceived as the worse time to become a priest, I see it as the most important time to study for priesthood in recent memory. I am honored to study and pray beside the men that I meet in formation today. Many of my friends have already entered seminary, and their love for Christ and his Church are hope for me and hope for the future. As a storm buffets the Church, Jesus is asking you step out of the boat and reach out to him. The waves are crashing, but keep your eyes on Jesus and be not afraid.