God’s grace has always been with me. My mother passed away when I was very young, but God was with my family. By the grace of God, my dad got remarried to a wonderful woman.
My stepmother taught me how to pray the rosary, and Catholic prayers. The biggest impact was going to daily Mass with her. Here I learned how to snuff the candles, and through this very small act of service I began to want to serve God.
In grade school and high school, this desire for priesthood faded away. I focused on being liked and successful in this world rather than focusing on my faith life. However, God wasn’t finished with me yet. A few pivotal moments in high school drew me toward the Lord again. The first was going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where I decided to tell the priest all of my sins. When I finished, I was shocked to not hear him talk about my sins, but talk about how and who I was. My sins were really taken away!
Another pivotal moment was working at Camp Sancta Maria in the summer of my junior year. Toward the end of the summer, my two friends laid their hands on me and prayed silently for a few minutes. The room didn’t shake, nor were there visions of heaven, but through this simple act of prayer, the Lord turned my life just enough so I began to notice him in my peripheral vision. Going home, my whole prayer life changed, and I had a new desire to be a youth group leader.
My life started to shift radically after having a cancer scare. Thankfully, there was nothing to be worried about, but God used that period of waiting for me to surrender to him. This surrender continued after my older brother encountered Jesus in a powerful way and felt called to become a priest. I led a retreat called Kairos a few months later and encountered the Holy Spirit while sharing a testimony concerning my mom’s death and my dad remarrying.
After my high school graduation, I was praying a simple prayer of “Jesus, come get me” each night, and he did! I was laying in my bed thinking of my life, with all my joys and sins, when suddenly, I saw it all flash before my eyes. Everything pointed to a memory of me holding a foster sister of my friend and then I was hit with a deep sense of peace. My eyes were closed but it looked like I could read plainly on my ceiling a phrase saying, “Protect my children.”
After this, I was hooked. I gave up habits and tendencies that didn’t reflect Christ or lead me to him. At camp I began to see that my desire for youth ministry was something deeper. I was drawn towards spiritual fatherhood. I wasn’t exactly open or willing to be a priest in high school, but I found myself truly discerning the priesthood that summer. Upon finding the priesthood was my calling, I became afraid of unworthiness, but God has continually given me strength. I once asked him after Mass how I could lift him up (in the Eucharist) with my sin-stained hands. I believe he gently responded it’s about him lifting me up with his nail scarred hands.
For all those who are discerning and afraid, let me tell you God will always be faithful to you. You have nothing of which to be afraid. If you lose yourself to him, you will truly find who you are. And you are beloved.