At the age of 34, Jaime Maldonado-Aviles was a successful man by any standards. The accomplished neuroscientist was working at Yale University in a post-doctoral position when he received a job offer from a pharmaceutical university in his native Puerto Rico. Initially, the opportunity seemed ideal: great pay, prestige, tenure, and more time spent with family. Maldonado-Aviles knew something wasn’t right, however, when he began having second thoughts.
After much prayer and contemplation, Maldonado-Aviles turned down the job. He is now in his third year of seminary, training to become a Catholic priest. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, the former neuroscientist explained what led him to abandon worldly “success” and use his talents to shed light on eternal truths.
Maldonado-Aviles described a “nagging” sensation he felt prior to his career change that he “was called to serve in a different way.”
“At different times the question would come back: If I see myself 90 years old, close to death, would I say to myself, ‘I should have entered seminary’?”
It was this nagging that prompted Maldonado-Aviles to give up the life he’d begun building for himself and enter six years of intense, theological and philosophical study. Now, at 37, he’s halfway through seminary, and he couldn’t be surer of his decision.
Today, it often seems as though the scientific community and the faith community are at war with one another. But Maldonado-Aviles, who formerly spent his days dissecting mice brains and studying eating disorders, told the Post that his years of studying neurons bolstered his faith in an almighty Creator.
“The complexity and yet the order in which things work in our body and in our brain, it makes you think there’s more than just randomness,” he said.
And while confident in his decision to become a priest, Maldonado-Aviles has had to come to terms with the sacrifices his new life requires. For one, per Catholic doctrine, he is unable to marry or have children. And though he grew up wanting a family of his own, Maldonado-Aviles acknowledges that this path has its own challenges.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m making more sacrifices” than a married man, he told the Post. “If I believe God is calling me to be a priest, I also believe he will give me charisms — gifts — that will help me.”
Maldonado-Aviles hopes his unique background will help him to reconcile the perceived divide between faith and science:
“Theology has to learn from scientific advice. We are informed as to how life works. But science also has to learn from theology.”
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