Back in August, I got to interview Father George Elliott of Catholic CAST Media. Father Elliott is undertaking captivating ministerial efforts, especially in the areas of using media for evangelization, as well as discernment for the will of God in one’s life. Father Elliott and I discussed his new book Discernment Do’s and Don’ts: A Practical Guide to Vocational Discernment (TAN Books, 2019).
1) Please tell us more about Catholic CAST Media.
Catholic Cast Media is a Catholic media company that does video, audio, and text content creation for their own internal initiatives, and also for any Catholic institutions that contact us looking for help in higher-quality image and audio production. So, in layman’s terms, we are kind of like a Catholic film studio.
2) What was your goal in writing Discernment Do’s and Don’ts?
The main goal was to create a resource that would be clear and practical, and that would really embrace all of the Catholic Church’s tradition about vocation, for use with young adults. In my experience discerning my own vocation, and in my experience as a spiritual director, chaplain and pastor, there are so many young people who want to do God’s will, but do not really know where to turn for clear and practical advice on discernment. So, after having directed many people through their discernment process, and realizing that there were a lot of things that I said to every one of them, I realized that there are many priests and religious who say a lot of the same thing. So, I figured that I would write them down in an easy and accessible book.
3) What was your own discernment experience?
Throughout high school, I went through a big conversion, mostly through the witness of a young priest and a married man who both moved into my hometown at a critical point in my life. Both of them were normal, fun, loved life, and really loved the Lord and his Church. So, through my experience with them, I grew first in my convictions of the truth of the faith, and the power of the sacraments, and also of the freedom and joy of life in Christ.
By the time I was graduating from high school, I knew that there were many signs that I was called to the priesthood, but I didn’t want to be a priest. I had gotten into the Air Force Academy, which had been my dream since I was in middle school, so I went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While I was there for the first summer, which was basic training, I spent a lot of time standing at attention, and a lot of time doing pushups. I decided that I would pray whenever I was standing at attention, and that any suffering that I experienced, I would offer up for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
At basic training, they would speak often about service, duty and answering the call. Whenever they would say, “Serving your country is the highest call,” I would think to myself that serving my country was a high calling; however, it was not the highest call. Serving God is the highest call. The training slowly began to sink in, and eventually I thought to myself, “What am I doing here? I’m wasting God’s time, and America’s money; I know that I’m called to the priesthood!” So, I entered the seminary for the Diocese of Tyler.
I entered the Diocese of Tyler because it was the most familiar experience of the priesthood that I had seen. Once in the seminary, I met many good and holy priests. As I studied more about vocation, it was important to me that I discern my vocation well. I eventually realized that religious life was a higher calling than the diocesan priesthood, and that it should be given the benefit of the doubt. So, I went through a whole second stage of discernment in which I very seriously discerned religious life. I went through that process, and God made it very clear to me that I was not called to enter religious life, but to be a diocesan priest, so I continued in the seminary for the Diocese of Tyler, and was ordained a priest in 2015 by Bishop Joseph Strickland.
4) Do you have a favorite scriptural passage, and why?
I think that I would end up quoting half of the scriptures if I told you every one. But, here are the ones that I recite to myself every morning, from Galatians 2:20, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Also, John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” The reasons for those are: 1) that I want to be true about my life, to truly only have Christ alive in me; 2) to remind myself of what Christ has done, and how he calls me to love; and 3) to remind myself to live life abundantly.
5) What hope do you have for the Church?
I see real hope for the Church, as Pope Benedict XVI said, “a smaller, more convinced Church.” This is a time of turmoil. My expertise is in Patristics, and it was always in the times of turmoil in the Church that the greatest saints and theologians arose. So, I see a lot of hope in the midst of these times, to lead us out of turmoil.
6) Any closing remarks for our readers?
I encourage everyone to check out www.catholiccastmedia.com. We run CatholicLink in English, as well as the podcast Catholic Bytes. If you want to discern your vocation, and are asking yourself, “Where do I start?” Check out Discernment Do’s and Don’ts. I wrote it specifically to help people with that step in the process.