If you promote Christ, the vocations will come. That’s the experience of five-year priest Father Brian Larkin.
“God calls people if they love him,” said the 35-year-old pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver and former parochial vicar and administrator of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn.
Counter to the experience of many young adults who lose their faith in college, the Denver native fell in love with Christ when he joined a Bible study led by the Fellowship of Catholic University students at Colorado University in Boulder.
“I was in the first men’s Bible study at CU,” he recalled. “I really just fell in love with my faith as a student.”
Ironically, his nudge to begin discerning the priesthood came from a seminary dropout.
“My senior year in college my roommate left to enter the seminary, which he later left,” he said. “He was such a good guy and so earnest it made me realize I wasn’t open to God about the possibility of priesthood.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he stayed on campus two more years as a FOCUS missionary.
“I found great joy in leading people to Christ,” he said. “Jesus says over and over in the Gospel, ‘he who keeps his life will lose it but he who loses his life for my sake keeps it.’ That’s the logic of the Christian life—giving your life away actually is the key to finding life.”
His first year as a campus missionary he accepted Christ’s call to the priesthood and applied to Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, but didn’t enter until his commitment to FOCUS was done.
“People were not trying to get me to be a priest,” he said. “My FOCUS mentor helped me understand the beauty and power of Christ. When we promote Christ, that’s when vocations come.”
Although eager to start priesthood formation, he expected to find a bunch of misfit classmates.
“Delightfully, I was wrong,” he said. “(They) are some of the best men I’ve ever encountered in my life and a tremendous blessing from God.”
His seminary experience was so positive that while there he helped found the Companions of Christ, then an association of seminarians, now of diocesan priests, to share a life of prayer, foster fraternity and pursue lives of holiness.
“Having authentic community with men and with God was hugely important for me,” Father Larkin said.
He credits the seminary with transmitting intellectual and human formation that is ahead of its time and immensely enriching. Daily holy hours, top-notch professors, humble priest mentors and a saintly confessor made his seminary years, “wonderful and challenging.”
“The seminary was a concrete experience of the Church really being a mother to me,” Father Larkin said. “I felt I was formed in the heart of the Church and was able to receive her wisdom and her goodness.
“It was an experience of powerful truth in the classroom, which flowed out into the life of the seminary.”
Today, he’s handing on what he received. His zeal for teaching and preaching is evident in the Bible and faith formation groups he leads that draw some 120 young adults and a throng of others of all ages.
Studying Scripture and staying current on theology keeps his mind active and keeps him in touch with God. It also makes him a better preacher.
“A priest is supposed to be a man who knows God and who knows about God,” he said.
“The best thing a priest can do for his people is to pray a holy hour and to continue to study,” he asserted. “Those are at the heart of my service.”
He is filled with gratitude for those who made his seminary formation possible.
“Vianney (seminary) was a gift beyond anything you can imagine,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful.”
He’s realized that supporting future priests doesn’t just help them, but the whole Church.
“The Church cannot be what she’s supposed to be if we don’t have the right priests and help them to be holy and healthy,” he said. “When they are, it blesses the entire Church.”
Father Brian Larkin on service
Q: How do you strive to be of service to others?
A: The best thing a priest can do for his people is to pray a holy hour and to continue to study. Those are at the heart of my service. A priest is supposed to be a man who knows God and knows about God. People need to know the truth. For me studying, staying fresh on theology and Scripture … makes me a better preacher. It keeps my mind active … and it keeps me in touch with God.
Q: What would you say to those who supported your formation in seminary?
A: A huge thank you. … Through their generosity, Vianney (seminary) was a gift beyond anything you can imagine. I’m extremely grateful. The Church cannot be what she’s supposed to be if we don’t support our future priests and by doing that they are helping not just priests but the entire Church. The Church cannot be what she’s supposed to be if we don’t have the right priests and help them to be holy and healthy. When they are it blesses the entire Church.