The title of this article is a familiar phrase although few people realize just how much spiritual implication it really has. It certainly characterizes the beginning of my religious vocation to Holy Cross.
I went to a high school in New York City conducted by the Congregation of Holy Cross. For more than 3 years, I got average grades and was not at all thinking about religious life. In my senior year, I applied to and was accepted by the State University of New York, and I really felt that I was on my way to a career in education. I was enjoying my senior year, spending a lot of time with friends and working on some social projects that were interesting.
Then suddenly I started to get these “strange thoughts.” I had a sense that God wanted something different for me than I had planned. Some might respond to this by spending more time in prayer in order to understand this new experience. Instead, I went to more parties to try to drive these ideas out of my head. However, it’s hard to outrun God. I remember feeling exhausted one night, and turning the light out, I thought that this just wasn’t working. I had to try to deal with these thoughts in a different way.
So I spoke to two different Holy Cross religious about what was happening to me. They encouraged me to apply to the Congregation of Holy Cross. I figured that when I applied, I would probably be rejected and then I would find peace once again. Within 2 weeks of my applying, I was accepted. Then my dilemma started all over again. Continue reading
Up until I was a freshman in high school, I had not seriously thought about what I should do with my life. As far as my faith was concerned, I had a strong belief in God, prayed regularly, and had a relationship with Jesus, but I was not yet a Catholic. In my early high school years, two major themes started happening in my life. First, I began to strongly consider a career as an Army officer; second, I was questioning aspects of my faith and was searching for the right church.
My interest in the military started when I began living with my stepfather, an Army officer. He gave me a glimpse of the Army culture. Along with that, I was also in Marine Corps JROTC and was fueled by a demand of physical and mental discipline, leadership opportunities, and other challenges. I came to believe that the gifts God gave me would be best suited to enact the greatest good as an officer in the military.
I was simultaneously undergoing a spiritual transformation. I realized more and more that my faith had to be an essential component of my life. Not yet a Catholic and questioning the beliefs I grew up with, I started visiting various churches to see which one I should attend. It wasn’t until I began attending Mass at a Catholic Church that I knew where God was calling me. I initially attending Mass as my sophomore year I was at a Catholic school where I absolutely loved everything I learned about the Catholic faith. Between a love for the faith and the newfound love of the order and spiritual depth of the Mass, I knew God was drawing me into the Catholic Church. It was this year that I entered RCIA and became Catholic. Continue reading
Recently, I was reading a collection of vocation stories written by priests from our diocese. It made me think about my own vocation to religious life. As I reflected, I realized: Christ “proposed” to me when I was five. He invited me to be His bride at that tender age.
Of course, at the time, those are not the words that I would have put around it. What I experienced back then was simply a strong desire to be a Sister like my first-grade teacher — not because I wanted to be a teacher like her or dress like her. There was something about her and that something — or more accurately, that Someone — was drawing me. My heart was being drawn by Christ, to give myself totally to Him.
That desire stayed with me all through grade school. At the time, it was a common practice in Catholic elementary schools for any visiting priests or religious to ask any class they were visiting if anyone was interested in entering religious life. In first grade, we all raised our hands in response! But by my last year of grade school, I was the only one still raising my hand. The next year found me entering the order that taught at our school, as an aspirant (one who is looking to join). Continue reading
If not for a hockey game, I wouldn’t be a Legionary priest today. As a good Minnesotan, I naturally considered hockey as divinely inspired, a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after the game that took me by surprise and lead me to know my priestly vocation.
During my first year at college, I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends. After one such event —ending in a double overtime victory for the Golden Gophers, and a long celebration— I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon.
Stumbling upstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go.” Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”
It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little people began to filter in. Then an attractive girl sat down a few pews behind me. How is it I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence! I decided the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending it happened all the time. Continue reading