As the summer days fly by, I’ve been preparing for my entrance into Novitiate. Only 19 days away now 🙂
As a part of the vocations effort at my home parish of Our Lady of Lourdes and with August being the month for the Seminarian Collection in the Diocese, Fr. Tim asked me to give a reflection on my own journey to religious life. This weekend I gave my reflection and was pleasantly surprised with so much positive feedback! Thank you!
After the 10:15 Mass on Sunday, three men came up to me. I had never seen them before and I soon learned why. Two of them were from Salt Lake City, Utah, and the third, a nephew was from Phoenix, Arizona. The eldest of the three thanked me for my reflection and revealed to me that his nephew is currently discerning the priesthood! WOW! Talk about seeing the Hand of God in everything we do, huh?? For whatever reason, these men came to OLOL for Mass and the nephew felt affirmed in his discernment because of words I said? Praise God!!! It is beautiful to see God at work in our lives isn’t it. Please join me in praying for this young man that he may continue to see God in his life and follow wherever the Lord may be leading him.
Now, without further ado, here is the reflection that I gave this weekend as a thank you to the wonderful people at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family:
When Fr. Tim asked me to speak to you today, I immediately said yes. I knew that I would love to get up in front of my parish family and express my joy and excitement about the path that God has called me to follow. The problem, however, began when I sat down and thought about what I was going to say. Trust me, I’m not short of words, I just didn’t know how to begin. But, that’s when it dawned on me. I just needed to listen.
I know it may sound cliché, but the fact of the matter is, we, and I mean all of us, don’t take the time to listen. As I’m sure you have heard many times before, God does not speak in thunder or hold up brightly colored, neon-lit signs for us to know what He is telling us. Rather, He speaks among the whisper and the silence of our hearts or in my experience, at least, Christ has spoken to me through you!
When we are younger, every single one of us had romanticized dreams of ‘what-we-are-going-to-be-when-we-grow-up’. On my list was an astronaut, (because I’m a huge trekkie) a teacher (which I did go to school for) and a school bus driver (those red lights that stopped traffic are pretty neat). Then somewhere among those noisy childhood years, around second grade to be exact, I answered that all too familiar question with “I want to be a priest”. I’m sure my family didn’t think too much of it since I was still playing with that toy school bus in the sand box everyday. But then something happened. I began to listen.
Even at a young age, I recall people, from among this very congregation, telling me that I would be a good priest. Some, asked me (even then) if I would consider becoming a priest. What were they thinking? Asking an 11 year old if they would consider living their life for Christ in such a public and bold way? Well, to this day I’m thankful for that.
I’m most thankful because despite the intense whisper in my heart, and the encouragement from this faith community, there came a time when I didn’t want to be a priest anymore. I didn’t want to be called to serve people in such an intimate and responsible way. I turned my back to the Church and tried to walk away. But it seemed like the more I tried to run away, the more it happened. The more I kept hearing God’s voice through everyday people tell me I should be a priest. In the supermarket, at work, over the phone, and even a woman handing me an admission ticket to the Titanic Exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum…
That is when I stopped fighting. That is when I knew that when you are called to something, it is for a reason. I started reflecting on how many times in my life I was guided in the direction I’m going now. And the majority of people who have helped guide my path is you!
Especially in this uncertain time in the Church, you may wonder why someone like me wants to be a priest. Trust me, I have asked myself that question many times too. And, at times it may seem like the Church is constantly encouraging us to “Pray for vocations, Pray for vocations” That’s all good, but it can seem like such a daunting task. But let me tell you that the reason I was so excited about coming and speaking to you today is to let you know what you are doing right that is making a difference in my life, and that is just the dialogue and support that you have already given me! Coming to church and knowing that I am a part of a community that is on the faith journey together and willing to support each other on that journey is what gives me encouragement. I feed off of your faith, and see your love of Jesus. When I am standing over there on the cantor stand and we’re singing together or when I see all of you prayerfully approach Jesus to receive Him in the Eucharist, that is when I know I am called to bring the love that you have for Christ to others!
So, thank you for your continuing support and encouragement, even if you were unaware that you were giving it. It is what ‘saved’ my vocation, if you will, and what has kept me on this very unsure but exciting path towards religious life. You, the people of Lourdes have a very special place in my heart! You are the people that have watched me grow up, that have supported the school I was formed in, and that I look forward to praying with every week. When I think of congregations that I may lead someday, I hope they are as welcoming, as faithful, and as supportive as you have been.
A few final thoughts: A hidden ‘hobby’ I have (I guess ALL of you will be the first to know) is every Sunday, I go online and look up parish websites and read their bulletins. (You can learn a lot about a parish by their bulletin.) Anyway, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, in their July 18 bulletin published a blurb that read:
“A study commissioned by the Knights of Columbus revealed that 75% of Catholic young people who had seriously considered religious life felt they were never encouraged to pursue that goal. Do you know someone who would make a good priest or sister? Your encouragement may be all he or she needs.”
I don’t think it was a coincidence that I read that blurb the night I sat down to gather my thoughts. But I can’t tell you how true it is…had you not been there for me, I don’t know if I would be here for you!
Finally, this will be my last weekend here at Lourdes for a while. I leave town on vacation this next Saturday and then on August 19, I report to St. Norbert Abbey for a week long retreat, and then on August 27, I will be vested in the white Norbertine habit and begin my journey as a Frater, or Novice. That being said, religious life is much different than seminary life for diocesan seminarians. So, to keep you all informed, if you are interested, I have started a blog, or an online journal, to document my time in Novitiate. I will be giving the blog address to the Parish Office to include in future bulletins. Please check it out so you can find out what being a Norbertine Novice is all about.
Thank you for your attention, and keep encouraging priesthood and religious life among the youth (and perhaps the not-so-young) of our wonderful Parish Family…we do listen!!!!!