Thursday, October 31, 2013
An Unexpected Journey
Not very long ago, I could not imagine that I would ever write those words. I was born in South Carolina, but moved to Louisville with my parents and younger brother when I was seven years old. My parents are Southern Baptist, and that is the faith in which I and my brother were raised. I was baptized shortly after we moved, and I began to take my relationship with Jesus seriously as a result of summer camps I attended with my youth group in middle and high school.
I attended the University of Kentucky pursuing a degree in mathematics. After a period of doubt and struggling with my faith during my freshman year, something happened which, although not evident at the time, began to change the direction of my life in a radical way. I turned on the TV, and saw on the news that Pope John Paul II was dying. For a reason I could not explain, I found myself greatly moved by the events that played out in Rome during April 2005: the crowds keeping vigil outside the dying pope's window, then lining up for miles to pay their respects; the shouts of "Saint now!" during his funeral; and the conclave to elect his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Seeing those historic events created a longing in my heart for something: it was longing to be united to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, although I didn't yet know that. To make a very long story short, five years later I was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 2010 during the Easter Vigil at St. Louis Bertrand Church in Louisville.
Even before I became Catholic, though, I began to feel a call to the priesthood. I had resolved to enter the Church and begin RCIA in the fall, when one night the thought of priesthood popped into my head. Try as I might to dismiss it or ignore it, it just kept coming back. I've never been one to rush into things, though. After teaching high school math for two years and returning to UK to get a master's degree in math, the thought of priesthood still hadn't gone away, and in fact was sometimes more of a desire or longing. So at the beginning of this year I contacted the vocations director for the archdiocese, Fr. Jeff Shooner. And now, here I am, studying first philosophy at Saint Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana, at the beginning of a journey that, if it is God's will, will lead to my ordination as a priest.
It's amazing to look back over my life and see all the people, places, events, and circumstances that God has used to bring me to where I am today. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. As Frodo Baggins is beginning a long journey, he recalls the advice of his wise uncle Bilbo: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." I feel like the Holy Spirit is like that. If we let him, God will sweep us off our feet and carry us to places we would never have thought to go. It can be very hard for us to let go of our own plans for our life, but God's plans for us are far greater than our own. He wants to sweep us off to heights we could never reach on our own. So open yourself up to the Holy Spirit's promptings, and be willing to let God sweep you off your feet! As now-Blessed John Paul II, the man who started my own unexpected journey, proclaimed so many times: Do not be afraid!
I'm excited to have this opportunity to share with you some of my seminary experiences through this blog, and I hope that it will be helpful to whoever is out there in Internet-land reading this. I'd also love to hear any comments, questions, or suggestions for future posts. Please pray for me and my brother seminarians that we will always remain open and obedient to the will of God for our lives.