By Br. Rico Mercado, SDB
My vocation story started one beautiful day when I was looking into some documents and files at home, I was then fourth year high school. I saw suddenly my grade school diploma; I was staring at the younger me then trying to see what’s with that diploma. Slipped inside the card, I saw a small religious booklet entitled “Miracles of our Lord of Pardon.” Curiosity made me interested to examine it more closely, and so I got the booklet and read it.
In the booklet there were promises that if one recites the prayers in it for one year, one will enjoy spiritual rewards. And so I was encouraged to pray it. Good thing our school service arrives at school at around 7 in the morning and so I have enough time to recite the prayers inside the Chapel. The prayers were quite long, maybe it takes about 10 minutes to pray them, and so I patiently but sleepily recited them until I finish everything. And so that was my routine every day at school.
One day a priest approached me and told me that he always sees me inside the Chapel praying fervently, and then he asked me if I want to try the “Juan Nite,” which is just an overnight stay in the house of the Salesians. I think I remember telling him that I would think about it because I didn’t not want to go alone. Good thing my friends would also want to go and so I went. Actually I went for “Juan Nite” twice because I was with two separate groups of friends and I enjoyed it a lot because I felt that it was like an outing with them.
After that “Juan Nite,” the priest invited me to go to the seminary in Canlubang for a three-day stay. I said that I would think about it because I had felt that this was becoming serious and going to Canlubang for the orientation means I would really want to consider becoming a priest. And that was never part of my plan in life.
I didn’t know how that desire sprouted in my heart, maybe because of the prayers, of wanting to be like the Salesians who are nice to be with. I was not really sure. I am just sure that the desire to become a priest was born within me. And so I was confused with that desire inside me and I asked for a sign. If this desire is real and if God would grant me the signs that I would ask for, then I will try the orientation.
Amazingly, God granted the signs that I asked for and so I went to Canlubang, good thing I was again with my friends, and so I really enjoyed my stay. I felt at home. I really would want to enter and try but I was confused and afraid that I didn’t know what to do and so I asked God again to grant me the sign that I would ask. I just wanted to be sure.
Surprisingly, God granted me the sign that I was again asking, but, though that was the case, my fear and confusion got the better of me. I was taken aback, and so I said “No” to God. The priest told me that maybe after studying college I could think about it again, and so it was.
I studied in a university and I just enjoyed being a normal college student not thinking about that desire anymore. Then one day a good friend, also a Bosconian from Makati, asked me if I would want to join him in going for Mass and so I willingly said yes. After that I felt that I had to cope with my relationship with God, because I felt like I had so much time to do other things which may even be displeasing to His eyes but I didn’t not give any time for Him. And so my sensitivity in giving time for the Lord made me visit the Blessed Sacrament more often, then hear weekday Masses frequently. This eventually led me to go to confession regularly.
I just enjoyed being with the Lord. I fell in love with God. Suddenly the desire in me to become a priest sprouted again, but now it was very much stronger, and so I was again confused. I just wanted to do things for the Lord and nothing else. I wanted to say “Yes” already but I was still very much afraid and confused and I do not know what to do.
This confusion kept within me and bothered me a lot. One day when I was hearing Mass, after I have received Communion, they were playing the song “You are Mine” and I heard God’s voice singing it to me. His voice pierced through my heart that my heart melted and I felt an overpowering joy within me and I saw myself broke into tears. God cleared my confusion. At that very moment I said a full “Yes” to the Lord, leaving everything behind and that is why I am now here in the seminary still following my God who sang to me the greatest melody I have ever heard and told me “Rico, you are mine!”