“Behold I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”
Jesus promised that He would never abandon His people; He promised that He would remain until the end of time. Jesus walked the earth over 2000 years ago, yet He is still present and active in the lives of His people. He is with them. However, recognizing God’s presence in our world today takes a ‘trained eye’ and an act of faith. Jesus can most readily be recognized through the witness of Christian people, people who acknowledge and testify to the power and presence of God in their lives. The ‘Encounter with Christ’ stories help to highlight how God is working in the lives of the people in the parish of St. Magdalen’s Church. These stories are meant to help those who read them to more easily recognize God’s presence in their own lives. God wants to be known by you and to work in your life—invite Him to do so.
Dear Parish Family:
As I write this reflection on my upcoming 25th Anniversary to the priesthood, I am profoundly aware of how good and kind God is to me. Growing up a boy in Nebraska I would never have imagined the journey that has opened up before me as a result of saying “yes” to a stirring in my heart that I wanted to become a priest.
Many people have recently asked; “How did you know God was calling you to the priesthood?” You would not think so, but it always startles me. I feel like I have to reflect on it again and ask myself; “yes, just how did I know?” It is sometimes said that every vocation is a mystery. Not in the sense of figuring out a puzzle, but rather for the eyes of faith, an ever-emerging reality that becomes clearer over time. What I said “yes” to when I felt the first stirrings in my heart was not a call explicitly to the priesthood, but rather a desire to do something for God, because I felt love for Him, when I walked into a Church as a small boy. Then, one day while sitting in my 7th grade Friday religion class with the associate pastor, I began to daydream and all of the sudden I thought “I want to do what he does!” It just looked so attractive; but I didn’t know exactly why.
When I became an Altar boy, I felt so at home sitting with the priests at mass and I loved to arrive early and set up for the mass. One day, my pastor asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. I shyly told him “yes, I had, but I did not think it was possible, since my parents were divorced and we did not regularly practice the faith.” He cleared up my doubts and insisted he saw qualities in me, that I needed to pray daily and ask Mary to show me God’s will for my life. The summer between 7th and 8th grade I began to pray a rosary every night before bed; asking Mary to help me know what God wanted of me.
I really think from that moment on Mary indeed became a mother for me and has since guided my journey to the priesthood.
When I graduated from college seminary I was confused as to weather I should continue in my studies for the priesthood. I felt conflicted that I needed to work out a number of problems and questions that perhaps would best be done by serving God as a lay person. However, in the midst of my discernment I had the privilege to visit Lourdes, France. It was there in an unsuspecting way that at the Grotto of Mary’s apparition that I offered a sincere prayer asking for help in my discernment. The atmosphere of healing surrounding the story and events of Lourdes caused me to beg Mary for healing so I could freely do whatever God wanted of me. I did indeed experience a profound sense of peace and a renewed confidence that God was calling me and would provide for me the necessary guides and help to be prepared to say yes to serve Him as a priest. I am so grateful for those guides she provided me!
Today I look back in awe at all the Lord has done to bring me to the priesthood and the many graces that He has continued to pour out upon me throughout these past 25 years. This moment seems almost surreal because I still feel like I am newly ordained! It still seems so fresh and new. Although the challenges and obstacles have certainly been many, I can honestly say that His grace has been greater than any of my challenges, weakness, sins and shortcomings. It is He who has sustained me and continues to call me just as radically today as the day I sat in my religion class in 7th grade.
I am so aware of how much help is needed to respond to God’s call. I feel a great deal of gratitude for all the people along the way who, through their prayers and support, have made the journey not only possible, but also a joy.
At this time I re-commit myself to following Christ the High Priest more faithfully; and I give my heart to Mary the Mother of God. Please pray for me and please pray that many young men from our parish will hear and respond to becoming a priest.