FORT WORTH (CBS 11) – No sex, no money, and complete obedience. Not what you think the average 20-year-old guy would go for. But according to the Catholic Church, the number of men joining the priesthood is up.
In the Diocese of Fort Worth alone, the number of seminarians has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.
And who is joining might surprise you.
Brett Metzler bench presses 250 pounds, squats 305, and can shoot hoops with the best of them.
But the former high school Athlete of the Year is not your typical college student.
20-year-old Brett believes becoming a priest is a better fit.
The Denton County native is preparing for the priesthood at Saint Joseph’s Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana–1200 acres of woods, water, and worship north of New Orleans.
He says his calling came during his freshman year at Texas A & M.
“Everything that everybody was telling me to do that was supposed to fulfill me, it just wasn’t working,” explained Metzler. “I was living in a house with four of my best friends from high school. I mean it was a blast. We’d throw the frisbee and play football every day. I just felt a feeling kind of like unfulfillment every night when I was going to sleep.”
He says it was the book, Fulfillment of All Desire, about the saints and their paths toward holiness that confirmed he must give his life to God.
“I was just reading it and crying, reading it and crying. Guys, at least me, I didn’t cry a lot. Stuff that she and other saints would say in talking about their love for God, you can’t read poems that beautiful. It really stirred my heart.”
Today Brett and 100 other Roman Catholic seminarians begin and end their day with prayer. They eat, attend classes, even hang out in their on-campus sports bar — all the while developing four Benedictine pillars of the priesthood: the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.
Father Gregory Boquet, the school rector, says it’s the human pillar at St. Joseph’s that’s changing the face of the future priesthood, drawing young men who may have never felt they fit in before.
“The priesthood has stress involved with it,” said Boquet. “And if you don’t take care of yourself physically as a young man, you’re not setting yourself up for a very good foundation to build if you want to progress into the priesthood.”
Boquet, a Benedictine monk, first came to St. Josephs 30 years ago. He built an extensive weight room, has a fitness expert come once a week to the school, and has each seminarian’s physical fitness evaluated once a year.
Boquet, who happens to be legally blind, says the *church* is no longer blind either. Strict psychological evaluations are required to enter the seminary.
“If it looks like this man lacks some maturity and psychosexual development or in his ability to relate to other people, they’re not accepted into the seminary,” Boquet continued. “A good seminarian attract other good seminarians.”
The end result?
“Many of the guys who come here are so relieved. They want to be a priest and they see guys just like them! They’re normal. They’re regular guys who can really inspire people.”
Still, to commit to a life of celibacy, poverty, and service…especially at such a young age?
We asked Brett Meltzler if he has doubted wanting to become a priest.
“There’s a month when I was really excited to become a priest. And then just normal guy stuff kicks in. I mean you want to get a girlfriend. You’re in college and there’s thousands of beautiful woman everywhere. I mean you want to get a girlfriend, you want to get married. I thought I was going to have hundreds of kids for my family to play with when I got older. But the more you pray about it, the more time you spend in silence, the more God kind of reinforces that call.”
So unless he hears otherwise– Brett says he’ll continue to listen for God’s voice and guidance.
“It takes some discipline to sit down and listen to God, even if it starts with 5 minutes a day,” Brett added. “God can work with that.”
Silence he seeks in the woods of St. Joseph’s seminary, as he prepares to shepard his own flock one day toward an eternity of peace.
“I think that’s why so many people come into the seminary and so many of the youth is starting to go to church now. Because they’re realizing that fulfillment and happiness isn’t found in what the culture is telling them it’s found in.”
Becoming a priest requires an 8-year discernment process. At St. Joseph’s Seminary College, 75% of all seminarians graduate and go on to become priests.