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placeholder A’s prospect Grant Desme trades in uniform for seminary
    • Desme to join

Walk for Life West Coast

Lent — a paradigm of Christian living

Operation Rice Bowl begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17

Lenten regulations

Why I became a priest: Encouragement from family, inspiration from priests

Bishop’s Appeal kicks off Feb. 13-14

Special Mass and anointing of the sick to take place at cathedral

Parents group hosts screening of film on dangers to kids on achievement track

Sister Catherine Arnoldy, SNDdeN


Concert for Haiti relief

At CRS camp, 50,000 find help and hope

No sleep, little aid: Salesian nun pleads for more help for Haitians

Food cards required for quake victims

Coping with care of quake victims

Haitian bishop: build anew based on justice

placeholder February 8, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
A’s prospect trades in
uniform for seminary

When top Oakland A’s baseball prospect Grant Desme capped off a stellar minor league season by announcing his January retirement to join the priesthood, head-scratching reporters across the country clamored to ask him why.

Grant Desme

The 23-year-old California native, who will enter St. Michael’s Abbey (see related story) in Silverado this August, has capitalized on the surprising attention.

In interviews with mostly-secular media outlets, Desme has explained his calling to readers, viewers and listeners far beyond the ballpark. “It’s almost miraculous,” Desme said. “God has definitely used this more than I could imagine.”

Desme’s story is certainly compelling, given that the outfielder had just enjoyed a phenomenal comeback year after injuries benched him for much of the 2008 season.

Among other accolades, he was voted A’s No. 8 prospect by Baseball Magazine and was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League, batting .288 for the year. There was even speculation that he’d be invited to big league spring training with Oakland.

“But every time I prayed, I said ‘Is there something more, God, than just baseball?’” Desme said. “Even after I had a wonderful season — better than I ever could have expected — there still wasn’t a peace or really a sense of fulfillment.”

Despite — and because of — the glare of attention, Desme said he feels peace now. “It has reinforced my decision because God has worked so much good through one little decision,” he said.

The even-toned Desme said he’s staying grounded with loved ones’ support. “And I still make sure I get up and go to Mass every morning and try to get my Lectio Divina and my Rosary in,” he said.

Desme said it will be nice to drop from the public eye when he enters the Abbey, a monastic community of Norbertine priests.

A spiritual advisor directed Desme to the Abbey, and he said he was drawn by its austere lifestyle and emphasis on liturgy and living in community. It will take nine to 10 years of study and formation before he can be ordained.

Desme said he had a devout upbringing in Bakersfield with his parents, younger brother and younger sister, who have been “extremely supportive” of his decision. He grew up serving Mass at San Clemente Mission Parish in his hometown, and the family began attending St. Francis Parish when the Latin Mass moved there. Bakersfield is part of the Fresno Diocese.

After graduating from Bakersfield’s Stockdale High School, Desme attended San Diego State and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo on baseball scholarships.

The A’s drafted him in 2007 after his junior year, but in 2008, Desme said, he began to feel the pull to serve God. His discernment ramped up while he sat out most of the season with shoulder and wrist injuries, which he called “the biggest blessings in my life.”

“Baseball ruled my life, so when that was taken away, that made me (think), why am I here on this earth if something that I love and have put so much effort into can end one day,” he said.

Desme also took an impromptu pilgrimage to Rome to see the exhumed body of his confirmation saint, Padre Pio. “The whole experience of Rome was really edifying and helped me love my faith and the Church,” he said.

The 6-foot-2 Desme said he grappled with walking away from his talents. “God has blessed me with skills and talent as an athlete, but there is a higher good, and I would consider the skills and talents to be on the lower end of the spectrum,” he said.

As for suggestions that he stay in baseball to use the sport as a pulpit, Desme said, “Maybe the perception is athletes can help, but really the prayers of other people and the sacraments that the priests give are what help sustain us.”

He also rejected the option of playing for awhile before entering the priesthood. When Jesus called St. Peter and St. Andrew, he said, they “dropped their nets and left everything, right then . . . When God calls, you answer.”

God’s call wasn’t a thunderclap

For Desme, God’s call wasn’t a thunderclap, but a tug he felt during prayer and in everyday events. Anyone feeling that tug should investigate further, he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to be a nun or a priest or a brother,” he said. “Pray about it.”

Desme said that just considering a religious vocation “is a grace from God,” and even if his pursuit of the priesthood falls short, he doesn’t anticipate any regrets. “In the end, going to the seminary would help me be a better father and husband anyway. Baseball wouldn’t (have done that),” he said.

That’s not an indictment of the sport, Desme indicated, and described the support of his teammates and A’s management as “humbling.”

He meets questions about the wild “locker room mentality” with charity. “It’s easy to point the finger at people and say that [they’re] doing wrong, but you never know the circumstances that they’re under,” he said, adding, “We’re sinners, also. You’re first responsible for your own soul.”

The uniforms will be a little different, but Desme feels the sports experience will actually help ease him into living in community with men. “I’ve been on a team my entire life.”

Desme said he’s also easing into the Abbey by taking preparatory classes before he begins his four-month postulancy—“the period of ridding yourself of the world and getting used to living the life”—on the Feast of St. Monica, Aug. 27.

He’s not fearful about what “living the life entails,” except getting his voice ready for the Divine Office choir. “If things don’t get better than they are now,” he laughed, “whoever’s sitting next to me is going to be extremely holy for all the penance from how bad a singer I am.”

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