Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dinner with the Archbishop

In October, I attended the Dinner with the Archbishop.  This was my first time attending this event, and I was very impressed. It was exciting to be with 350 Catholic middle and high school students along with parents, teachers, youth leaders, men and women religious, deacons, and priests from across the archdiocese. It was also great to reunite with some of my brother seminarians who I hadn't seen since the summer. And, as the name implies, Archbishop Kurtz was there as well, having just returned from his trip to Rome with Cardinal Dolan in which he got to meet with Pope Francis. In his homily during Evening Prayer, Archbishop Kurtz said that Pope Francis specifically asked about seminarians in the United States. It's humbling for me to realize that Pope Francis is thinking about and praying for me and my brother seminarians!

Photo courtesy of The Record (Jessica Able)
After Evening Prayer we moved to the gym where a wonderful dinner was prepared for us. (By the way, our archbishop is a trooper: a day after a transatlantic flight, he didn't even sit down to eat during the dinner, but instead made sure to visit with every table.) There were also tables set up by representatives of various religious communities so they could introduce themselves to students and give out information (and candy!). At the end of the dinner, Bishop Chuck Thompson from Evansville, formerly a priest of the archdiocese, talked about his call to the priesthood and to become a bishop. I was struck throughout his talk by his obvious humility. Several of his former brother priests were in the gym listening to him, and he said that he would never understand why he was chosen from among them to become a bishop.

But that seems to be how it always is with our vocations. Recently my mom told me that the smartest thing she ever did was to marry my dad. Many priests have told me that God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. We often don't understand why we are being led to a particular path. It takes a step of faith to trust that God knows what he is doing with us, even when we don't see any way it could possibly work. For my own part, I remember asking God, "God, are you sure about this? You want ME to consider being a priest? You do know how messed up I am, right, God? I can give you a dozen reasons off the top of my head why I think this is a bad idea that will never work, but you still want me to do it?"

We also see this throughout Scripture whenever God calls someone to a special task: Moses (Exodus 4), Samuel (1 Samuel 3), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6) all questioned God: they all felt unworthy of the role God was asking them to accept. Even Mary asked the angel Gabriel, "How can this be?" (Luke 1). We have to trust that God is fully aware of our inadequacies, but he also knows our strengths, including some we might not even know we have. One of my favorite Scripture verses deals with this: Jesus says in a vision to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God sets a very high bar. He calls every one of us to do more than we could ever do on our own: he calls us to be saints! Thankfully, though, God gives us the grace that enables us to do what seems impossible. By his grace we can bring Christ to others in our families, schools, and workplaces. By his grace we can say yes to his call to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or to generous single life. By his grace we are saved. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

That night, I made sure to remember all of the young people who attended the dinner while I prayed Night Prayer. I prayed that they would take time to seriously ask God what vocation he might be calling them to, and that they would have the courage to respond with trust and faith. Please keep the youth who attended as well as our seminarians, in prayer, as we discern God’s call in our lives.