It’s hard to believe that my first year of seminary is wrapping up. But here it is, May. The Spirituality Year will be over in a matter of days, and the culmination of what the Spirituality Year prepares men for is upon us. On May 16, my 21 SY Brothers and I will travel to Broomtree Retreat Center in Irene, SD to embark on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a 30-day Silent Retreat that revolves around Ignatian contemplation and silence.
If I were to tell you that the year was not full of difficulties, I would be lying. Similarly, though, if I were to tel you that this year was horrible, I’d be lying even more. Even with the burdens that this year has carried, like the Media and Commerce Fasts, it had been the best of year of my life. I wish that every Christian man would be able to participate in this year. The graces that the Lord has poured out upon me have been incredible. There is honestly no way that I could describe all the things that the Lord has revealed to me this year. So, I’m only going to describe a few experiences.
1). It’s the Lord who does all the work.
Part of the Spirituality Year consists of a 30-day Immersion with the Poor. I worked with homeless and near-homeless people doing what is known as friendship evangelization. Often, this consisted in taking our “friends” to get food, go shopping, get healthcare, find jobs or housing, and so forth.
We also had an apostolate, or pastoral assignment. My apostolate was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School here in Denver. Every week, we would go to our apostolate and hang out with the kids. I was assigned to Mrs. Mary Donelson’s Third Grade Class. We would be in our respective classrooms for an hour then go help out in Extended Care for an hour and a half or so.
Anyway, back to the grace. I felt like I did very little at my apostolate. Sure, I had fun and the kids did too, but did I really have an impact? The answer is YES! How? It is the Lord who does the work through you! If you open yourselves up to God and his Divine Will, you allow God to work through you. By just being me, the Lord worked through me. It is unbelievably hard to even think of this being possible until you see it.
This grace has also been awesome for me to contemplate over the past several months. In short, if the Lord is doing the work through me, then I really cannot take “credit” for the work. I can thank God for working through me and for the things he has done to others, but I cannot say “Look at all the great things I’VE done.” As a priest, he cannot praise himself for many of the things that he does. It’s only through the Lord that it happens.
2). The Lord loves you more than you can imagine, no matter what you may have done in the past. It’s Satan who will try to degrade you.
In addition to the upcoming 30-day silent retreat, we did a 3-day in the Fall and a 5-day in March. In one of my meditations, the Lord revealed to me Satan’s tactics. Satan, often times, is made out to be powerful, valiant, and cunning. However, this really isn’t the case. Sure, he can be cunning. But most of the time, his tactics are extremely sad and even comical. Satan will attack you where you are weakest. He will attack you in your past, saying how horrible or sinful of a person you are. He will rub salt in the wounds of your past, making you question your worthiness. But the truth is, Satan is pitiful. He has NO control over you once you turn your life to the Lord. He will try to attack you where you are weak because where you are strong, he would be struck down swiftly. Once you realize that Satan is weak and has no control over you, the quicker you can be free of anxiety and doubt and grow to recognize God’s love even more.
3). I’m where the Lord is calling me to be.
Even with the ups and downs of this year, my bad days still seem to be better than many of my good days were in the past. True happiness comes from following God’s Will and I feel that I have found true happiness. During spiritual direction recently, I described some of my current feelings about my life and my vocation. My spiritual director then said that it seems that these were signs that I had a pretty solid call to the priesthood. I responded and asked “So I shouldn’t leave the seminary?” He laughed and said “That would be absurd.”
I ask for your prayers for my brothers and I as we prepare to head off to do our 30-day Silent Retreat. Following the 30-day, I have been assigned to spend the summer at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Oklahoma City. I will be there for several weeks before preparing to head back to Denver on August 20th. My posts will probably be more frequent following the 30-day Spiritual Exercises (we were asked not to blog during the year).