Tony Robbins first thought about being a priest in grade school, but it was never a serious consideration. He mostly imagined himself getting married instead.
Yet God was persistent. He would "drop me hints and tug on my heart to help me consider the priesthood in a deeper way," Robbins said.
A strong hint came during his confirmation at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock. Robbins said he received the Holy Spirit in a powerful way and looked forward to receiving other sacraments.
"I thought, 'Yeah, and I've got holy matrimony to look forward to.' Then, out of nowhere, I heard something say to me, 'or holy orders.' My immediate response was, 'Dear God, no!'"
Yet in high school, Robbins said he noticed how priests seemed so happy when they celebrated Mass. "I would wonder, 'what is it that he has that makes him so joyful?'"
Despite his struggle, family and faith remained constant in his life. While growing up, his parents, John and Kay Robbins, took him and his five brothers and sisters to Mass every Sunday. They also prayed as a family before meals and said the rosary together.
After graduating from Hall High School in 1997, Robbins went to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock while also working at his dad's company, Datapath, a computer software business.
By 2003 he decided to get serious about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. His New Year's resolution was to go to Mass daily and be open to God's will. He joined the Knights of Columbus, got involved with campus ministry at UALR and volunteered for Life Teen at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church.
He considered a teaching vocation but decided what he really wanted to do was teach the Catholic faith so the idea of priesthood began to take root in his mind. Once he realized seminary was designed to help him discern his vocation further, he applied and was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Little Rock in April 2004.
That summer he earned a bachelor's degree in math from UALR and enrolled in the pre-theology program for seminarians at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, the following semester. After completing the program he enrolled at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana in 2006 to continue his formation.
Looking back, Robbins, 31, said he is amazed at how far he has come. When he went to Steubenville, he had little confidence that he could be a good priest. Among other things, he was nervous about speaking in public. He took those fears to prayer and that helped him be patient with himself and allow God to work in him.
"I'm amazed at God's work in me. He has taken all my fears, all my doubts and all my concerns over the years, and alleviated them," Robbins said. "The way I have experienced God's call has been unchanging."
Reflecting on his upcoming ordination, Robbins said he is filled with gratitude. "I feel like I am receiving a gift that I would never be able to fully give back. I have a strong desire to give all that I can to God and his Church through the priesthood."
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