Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Mk 10:29-30
One of the things that every newly ordained priest must face is the fact that he has in a very literal way, laid down his life for Christ. That means giving up a family, a stable home life, even a career. It also means living and ministering in places he possibly never thought he would. Being a priest means having one foot in the created world and the other in the spiritual world. He directs the people he ministers to an encounter with Christ and points everyone to their ultimate destiny, eternal life in heaven where we will all see God face to face.
In the concrete reality of my situation, I am doing just that. I have given up a family, a stable home life, and a career in Computer Science. I have gone off to minister in a place I did not expect, St. Stephens Indian Mission. Now it is not without struggles and challenges (the same is true for all new parish assignments everywhere), but the Lord has been so good to me and has been revealing to me that, even when I doubt His plan, He is the one who knows my needs and provides for them. I gave up a family and the Lord has given me one even greater! Right away in my priestly life, I trekked off to World Youth Day and realized my identity as a Spiritual Father. I gained a greater family and get to walk with my kids as they finish out their high school career (and even hopefully get to a football game this fall). The Lord has also sent me Deacon Bryce, a classmate and close friend of mine, to minister with me here at St. Stephens (for the moment). He gave me a brother to help me in my transition (as I’m helping him in his too). We even have plans of restoring a sleigh together and providing sleigh rides this winter. Here at the parish, I’m am connecting to the parishioners and the youth and am slowly living out of my identity as Spiritual Father. Even when I don’t feel I can do it, the Lord is showing me abundantly that He is giving me the grace to do it. I have given up everything to follow Him and He is showing me how He is already giving me a portion of the hundredfold promised to those that leave everything to follow Him.
This past week I was able to get down to Denver for spiritual direction and a bit of refreshment by visiting some of my friends in the area. I also got to assist His Eminence, Cardinal Stafford, in blessing the display cases for the St. John’s Bible now on display at the Cardinal Stafford Library at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary (my dad built the display cases). This trip was full of God’s grace for me because it was in spiritual direction that the profound truths I have just shared above became apparent to me. It also re-affirmed in me the desire to be full of gratitude for all things. As St. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Gratitude has been on my heart in these recent weeks and I know that recognizing all the many ways in which I ought to be thankful, will help me to stay in a spiritual place where I can see the Lord working in my life. St. Ignatius goes further and says, “It seems to me, in the light of the divine Goodness, though others may think differently, that ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation before our Creator and Lord, and before all creatures capable of his divine and everlasting glory, out of all the evils and sins which can be imagined. For it is a failure to recognize the good things, the graces, and the gifts received. As such, it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins. On the contrary, recognition and gratitude for the good things and gifts received is greatly loved and esteemed both in heaven and on earth.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola (as quoted in “The Examen Prayer” by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, 59).
That being said, I hope to post more regularly on my website sharing particular graces that the Lord has given me during my ongoing priestly life. It will be a way for me to be accountable in recognizing how the Lord is giving me grace and to share that with others. As Jesus also says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew5:14-16). Sharing how the Lord is giving me grace in my life will be a way to put my light on a stand for all to see.
May God bless you all!