I was born April 14, 1999, as the fourth of what is now nine children. My family has always been a source of hope and joy for me even amidst the quarreling and craziness. God can speak to us through others and looking back at the joy and beauty of my life so far, I find that every moment of happiness and beauty was just God speak to me of his beauty and goodness. One of my earliest memories of even considering a vocation to the priesthood was playing “mass” with my brothers and sisters using crackers and grape juice. My brother Chris and I discovered early on how useful our bunk bed was for talking about the mysteries of life late at night. I had the top bunk so I got to lean half my body over the edge of the bed to ask him questions that I had thought up while lying in the darkness pondering with my little 8-year-old mind. He shared my curiosity and love of learning. Together we would zoom through books devouring the stories in them. They were usually fantasy books because we loved to read them. I couldn’t put to words back then what it was in those books that attracted me but I know now that it is real love. It is the true sacrificial love of the characters in these books, as they are thrown by circumstance into this fight of good and evil and yet choose to give of themselves to save those they love and those who could not defend themselves, that captured my imagination and heart. I read these books because they resonated with my desire for “the more”. Deep within each of us is this desire to live for something other than ourselves and even then I was feeling it.
I was raised Catholic and learned a lot in my 13 years of Catholic school but until the summer of my Freshman year of high school, my faith was murky and confusing. I had seen love. I had seen beauty. I had been taught truth but I had not yet seen what was behind these. It was an aimless faith. During Saturday night adoration at a Steubenville Conference in Tuscon that summer, I finally came to understand what “the more” that I desired was. It was there that I first really gazed upon the Eucharist with intention and I suddenly just knew… I knew what we mean when we say the body of Christ. In that moment I realized I was in the presence of God and that he loves me unconditionally. Here was Love, here was Truth, here was Beauty. Here was what my heart burned for. Even more than that, here was a person who loved me so much that He had created me from nothing for no other reason than that he loved me. Existing out of time, He had seen every sin I have committed and will ever commit, and yet He still loves me and created me despite that. He had come down and taken on “the form of a slave” and died on that cross for the whole world but also in that moment he had died specifically for me. As He cried out “Father forgive them!…” he was thinking of me and my sins. You would think that this would be enough, the giving of his very own life but it wasn’t. He wants to give more. At the Last Supper, He gave us his body so that he would always be with us until the end of time. In every Catholic church and chapel around the world, right now, he is waiting for me personally just to see me and to be with me. Here was God Himself. All of this went through my head as I knelt there gazing on Him whom I had just found knowing that he gazed back.
This one moment has defined much of the last 4 years of my life. I have been to mass nearly every day in that time and because of it, my joy and love have only increased. This is getting long so, long story short, as I grew in relationship with my Lord and my time at Bourgade neared its end, I began to ask myself what I wanted to do with my life and an altogether more difficult question: what does He want me to do? I have discovered that there is no easy answer. Marriage is beautiful and so is the priesthood. Both require that total giving of self, that true love. I knew that the love that I have received from Him who calls to me is a love that I cannot keep to myself, no matter what my vocation turns out to be. I am now a seminarian after much prayer and many adoration hours and one more moment of grace. On Bourgade’s Kairos retreat last February, I was serving as one of the retreat leaders and it happened that I was to be the altar server to follow Fr. Kurt around the dark room with a candle as he took the Eucharist in the monstrance from person to person. It was a moment of the Holy Spirit outpouring into that room and I got to see it all. I saw the anguish, gratitude, love and deep contrition upon the faces of my classmates as Christ himself was brought before them. I was watching Christ come to people. I was in my own way bringing Christ to others lighting the way for him. It was in this moment that I lost all my reservations about never having a family of my own or of the difficulty of the work because I saw that and said to myself, “That is what I am called to do. I want to bring Christ to his people in the way only priests can.