- The Oblates
- Photo Gallery
- Media Center
- Contact Us
Vocation in Peril
In the summer of 1862, after six years spent in the minor seminary of Asti, Joseph’s vocation was put to a severe test. More elated than ever over his son’s remarkable success in his studies, his father saw the time ripe to persuade him to change his course. He was determined that Joseph now leave the seminary and apply to a business school that would fit him for the career that Vincent had so fondly dreamed of.
From a sense of filial obligation Joseph at length yielded to his father’s pleadings. Later he was to attribute this action to a momentary weakness on his part. To a former classmate who asked why he left the seminary, he had one reply: “I did it to please my father. But I myself am not pleased.”
During the unhappy months he spent pursuing a business course in Turin, the youth’s blameless conduct amid the enticements of a city life prompted a friend of the family to remark to him: “You’re not made for the world. You’re made to be a priest.”
That is just how Joseph felt about the whole matter. Meanwhile, he fervently prayed for deliverance. It was not long before his prayers were answered in a most unusual manner, as we gather from a sober account of what happened. In December of 1863 he fell seriously ill with Typhoid Fever. At the height of his illness he saw the vision of a cassock before him, which more than ever convinced him that God was calling him to the priesthood. As his condition grew worse, his grief-stricken father began to blame himself for bringing on this misfortune, saying that God was justly punishing him for barring his son’s path to the altar. One day as Vincent kept a silent and anxious watch at his son’s bedside, Joseph in a sobbing voice asked, “Father, would you like me to get better?” Puzzled, the father answered, “Is there any need to ask such a question?” He had never seen the boy so visibly moved.
Joseph spoke slowly and deliberately: “That is just what I mean to ask you. It was my earnest desire to rejoin my classmates in the seminary and resume my studies for the priesthood. You did not want me to, so I obeyed. But the Blessed Mother, who has heard my prayers, knows what is best for me and wants me to go back. She sees the dangers that face me if I continue as I am and, one way or another she is about to deliver me. I am certain that if you allow me to follow my vocation, I shall make a speedy recovery. If not, Our Lady will call me to herself.”
The distraught father wept silently at this totally unexpected disclosure. Then, yielding to what he felt was an ultimatum from an authority far higher than his own, he replied with what calmness he could muster: “If that is the way it must be, you have my consent, provided you get well.”
He felt an immediate improvement. A few days later he had completely recovered. Without further delay he made plans to return to the seminary after the Christmas holidays, much to the joy of his former directions. One of them remarked upon hearing news of his decision: “For Marello, we are prepared not only to open our doors, but to fling them wide open.”