Nathan Linton.02132014Anita Draper
Catholic Herald Staff

Inspired by his father’s vocation and the call of poverty, a diocesan youth has begun his Capuchin journey.

Nathan Linton, 18, a 2013 graduate of Cumberland High School, is studying on campus at Loyola University in Chicago and living at St. Joseph College Seminary.

“It’s going really well. I enjoyed my first semester,” he said. “So far, I’m enjoying my second.”

Vocational stirrings began when Linton was in seventh grade and his father, Steve Linton, followed his own vocation into the diaconate. The notion of giving up everything for God resonated with the younger Linton.

“What does God want me to do?” he wondered, and prayed.

After a few months, the thought of priesthood emerged. The idea went on the backburner for a while, but Linton didn’t forget it.

He spoke about vocations with Fr. Tommy Thompson, pastor at St. Anthony Abbot, the Cumberland parish where Steve Linton is deacon, and went to visit the seminary in St. Paul, Minn. The lifestyle was attractive. He read books about ministry.

“I was kind of growing more and more confident about my vocation in high school,” he said.

Linton was certain he wanted to be a diocesan priest and pastor of a parish when, to his dismay, the guidance counselor assigned an essay. Students were required to research the job of their dreams — and (unnecessarily, he thought) two back-up careers.

“I wasn’t happy,” he said.

Linton’s first choice was the priesthood, and he chose religious life and the diaconate as back-ups. While researching the charisms of different religious orders, he felt a flash of realization.

“There was something pulling there,” he said.

He was reading “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” by Jesuit Fr. James Martin, when he first felt the attraction of the vow of poverty — “giving up all things for God.”
“There was something really striking there,” he added.

While writing his essay, Linton pondered which order would be right for him. He immediately ruled out the monastic orders as a bad fit for his personality.

Feeling drawn to the Dominicans and Capuchins, he considered their charisms.
Dominicans are an order of preachers, consistent with his desire to be a spiritual leader, but it was the Capuchins’ service to the poor that intrigued him.

“It was the vow of poverty that really drew me to religious life,” he explained. “Only through that (service to the poor) can we know our own spiritual poverty.”

Linton left for Loyola to join the Capuchin college program, a formation program for men just out of high school. Candidates study philosophy and communications for a year or two at the university, then move on to their postulancy in Milwaukee, where they take classes on the history of the order and read the writings of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. In Milwaukee, they also minister to the poor — at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, in parishes and more — for another 20 hours a week.

After a year in Milwaukee, postulants move to California to become novices. There, they step back from ministry and focus on prayer, reflection and preparation to take simple vows.

Post-novices return to their studies in Chicago and, when they are ready, profess perpetual vows. Some friars choose to study for their master of divinity and are ordained.

During candidacy, the initial stage of inquiry, men are invited to live at the seminary, he said. They attend faith formation classes on Mondays and visit other friaries to learn more about the order.

Despite his earlier confidence about his readiness for the priesthood, Linton has not decided whether he’ll seek ordination. When he envisions himself nearer to completing his Capuchin journey, Linton sees himself returning to Chicago, finishing his bachelor’s degree and still discerning the priesthood.

He could end up anywhere — Latin America, the Middle East, somewhere in the States — but right now he’s still drawn to parish work — “the center of our spiritual lives.”

“At the same time, I think I’d just be happy working in a soup kitchen, serving the poor,” he said.

Considering a vocation to the priesthood?
Contact Fr. Tommy Thompson, vocations director for the
Diocese of Superior