(LifeSiteNews) — West Point graduate William Waters didn’t want to be a priest — but a reignition of faith and devotion to praying the rosary both clarified his vocation and infused in him a deep love of the mission God was calling him to undertake.
Now a seminarian with the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, Waters described his circuitous route to the priesthood in a heartfelt interview posted to YouTube on March 10.
Raised in a staunch Catholic family, Waters said his vocation discernment began at the U.S. Army’s West Point Military Academy in New York, where he took on his faith as his own for the first time and encountered a priest whose godly masculinity drew his respect and admiration.
“There was a really good priest there, Father Matt. He had graduated from West Point [in 1986], commissioned into the Army infantry, and then felt a call afterward and came back as a priest. And he was all man and all priest, and there was something attractive about that,” Waters said. “I wanted to be like him.”
Later, Waters would forge friendships with missionaries affiliated with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), an outreach group that helps college students connect with their faith.
“They had a joy that nobody else had. They had a love and a peace that nobody had,” he said. “And it was very clear as soon as you talked to them it was because of Jesus Christ. And that holiness was attractive.”
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Waters said “one of the gifts” that the FOCUS missionaries gave him was “the gift of Marian consecration.”
“Mary showed up in a big way,” he said, explaining he consecrated himself to Mary before his graduation from West Point and even had “Totus Tuus,” or “All Yours,” inscribed on his class ring.
He said that’s when Mary “started working on me,” and the thought of priesthood first occurred to him.
“The funny thing is I didn’t want to be [a priest],” he said, explaining he decided to explore the possibility merely “out of a sense of duty,” noting that the West Point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” inspired his spiritual life as well.
Though he went on some discernment retreats, he said he didn’t feel called to pursue a priestly vocation and instead dedicated himself to simply living out his faith by praying a daily rosary and seeking to do his best as a platoon leader, a friend, and a member of his parish community.
Then his journey began to take some twists and turns.
He entered a dating relationship with a devout Catholic young woman but felt called again to pursue the priesthood after he decided to attend a talk that unexpectedly turned out to be about encouraging vocations to the religious life.
Despite his desire to continue his relationship and ultimately get married, Waters prayed with his girlfriend about the matter and dutifully applied to seminary, all while hoping that God would shut the door on the priesthood for him.
To his chagrin, he was accepted to seminary, even though he attempted to sabotage his applications by affirming he didn’t want to be a priest. Then, despite being accepted, he was told by his Army superiors that he was not allowed to enter.
Confused, Waters pointedly asked Jesus in prayer to make his vocation clear.
He said his prayer was answered through a chance encounter with a woman at Mass who turned out to be the wife of a four-star general. After a brief conversation, she gave Waters her husband’s contact information, leading him to buck military protocol and hierarchy by “jump[ing] seven levels of the chain of command” and asking the general for his permission to leave his battalion and enter seminary.
Against all odds, the request was granted.
Waters said his first year at seminary was the happiest he had ever experienced, even though he still struggled with his calling. Then at seminary, a friend told him about a spiritual practice that had changed his life: praying four rosaries every day.
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Inspired to take up the habit as well, Waters began to pray four complete rosaries daily. He said that one Saturday at chapel, after finishing his fourth rosary, he finally received the grace to fully accept his calling and truly say that he wanted to become a priest.
Waters is now pursuing Christ wholeheartedly as he completes his formal training to enter the priesthood and has begun sharing the power of the rosary with others, including several homeless men who he began praying with in an informal act of evangelization.
“I share this with you so that you might know what Mary did in my life,” Waters told viewers. “I know that she changed my heart. That she worked two miracles in front of my eyes to let me see it, to confirm this vocation, to help me know that the only way I’m going to be a holy priest and a great saint is through her.”
“And so, I intend to pray the four rosaries every day of my life until I die,” he said. “And I hope you’ll do the same.”