Love is possible. I was raised with a few important lessons at the forefront of life. The first is that real love is possible, and that it’s a choice. I’ve fleshed out the definition of love through the years but even as a kid my dad would remind me by word and action that we need to will the good of others around us.
Clean up your own yard before you worry about the neighborhood.
My mom often pointed out how easy it is to judge or degrade others, without taking the time to reflect on how broken we are first. This wasn’t a harsh or condemning lesson, but instead an invitation to conversion.
Each of us have a unique story with beautiful moments, and painful moments, and I think these moments are worth sharing. In the midst of real life, we can encounter the God who loves us.
I was the youngest of three kids, and attended the local Catholic School. I remember when I was in 5th grade my mom was going back to work and so I was going to have to go to ‘after-care’ but instead I talked my mom into letting me go to the chapel next to the school. I wasn’t a pious kid, but I knew I wouldn’t have to be watched if I were in the chapel. It was there that I met Jesus. I remember after a long and difficult day I would sigh to Jesus, “It’s been a hard day” and I would almost hear Him respond, “I know, but we get to try again tomorrow.” On a good day, I would relate it to Jesus and He would respond, “I know! And we get to do it again tomorrow.” He was so faithful in love each time I entered that chapel.
Fast forward to 7th grade—I was kneeling in front of the altar as an altar server. The priest said the words I’d heard countless times before. TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT. FOR THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU. It clicked. The priest raised the host and I believed it was actually truly Jesus, and if the Eucharist is Jesus, I knew my life needed to change. In that moment I heard a familiar voice speak, “Be my priest.” To some degree the rest is history. I told my mom that I thought I needed to be a priest, and she said she had known that was probably going to be the case. We didn’t speak about it again for a long time though. I went to Catholic High School and wrestled with the call—splitting my time between sports and youth ministry. The Lord continued to reveal to me that I was built to be a priest, with a desire to share the consistent love of Jesus with every soul I met.
Right after high school I began my 8 year journey of seminary where learning about Jesus met getting to know the person of Jesus. There are countless stories throughout those years where I learned more about my heart and the Church who I’ve fallen in love with, but I will just name my current place to show the fruit of that time of discernment. I’m closing in on my second year as a priest. I’ve heard countless confessions, celebrated hundreds of masses, anointed the sick at all hours of the day or night. Moments. Moments still happening each day, beautiful and painful moments, that are continuing to make my stony heart fleshy. The yes to love, and the yes to attending to my own yard have allowed me to enter into the mystery of giving my entire life to Christ.
With all that being said, your story matters. Where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going matter. Do not be afraid to share your moments.