Saturday, October 12, 2013
I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you what the Lord has done in my life and, specifically, to update you on the direction which I’ll be heading as of September 25th (east to France to be specific!) I would like to tell you my “story” in the hopes that, in reading about the ways in which the Lord has moved in my life, you would be moved to keep me in your regular prayers and consider helping me to remove a financial barrier which I cannot move on my own.
I was raised in a Catholic family and had what I think was a typical childhood. I played sports, loved videogames, teased my sisters, obeyed my parents most of the time, and hated doing homework! For the most part I was a good kid. However, that all changed once I got into high school.
My high school years were a rebellious time for me and I really started going down a dangerous path. This was particularly troubling for my mom so she took up praying the Rosary on my behalf and it wasn’t before long that the Blessed Virgin Mary obtained my conversion to a life of faith. On October 9th, 2004 (my senior year of high school) God manifested Himself to me in an undeniable and powerful way while I was driving home that night. I came to know that not only did God exist but that He truly had sent His Son to save the world from sin and that this Son, Jesus Christ, had a Church through which He continued to teach His saving truth to the world. I knew I needed to go back to Confession.
I started learning more about the Catholic faith. Along with this came a deeper understanding of the Eucharist as Christ’s real body and blood. I came to experience that Christ was truly (and not just symbolically) present under the form of bread and wine. This faith in the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist became deeply ingrained in me when I attended Mass during a weekend visit to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. After Mass I had a deep, Eucharistic encounter with Christ. I truly saw with both my mind and my heart that Christ the King was there under the veil of the bread. I have never cried so hard in my life. I realized, “He really IS there!”
I soon began attending Franciscan University and grew a lot in my faith. I was very drawn to spending time in prayer in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel on campus. (This is a type of chapel where people come to pray and to adore Christ in the Eucharist 24/7.) During my Christmas break I spent a month of pilgrimage and prayer in southern France. While there I met a Priest, Fr. Florian Racine, who was founding a new community with a spirituality and mission centered on Eucharistic Adoration. Little did I know that God, in His providence, was setting me up for a future return to the same area of France where I would later find myself discerning with Fr. Florian’s community: the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist.
The 5 ½ years in the meantime were very blessed. After my year at Franciscan I felt the Lord calling me to enter seminary. I was part of a prayer group then which spent time in Eucharistic Adoration. At the time I was angry with God and my prayer was real and raw. I wanted God to show me what the next stop ought to have been in my life. I asked Our Lord in the Eucharist, “What do you want from me??” He surprised because He answered and it was very clear. In my heart I heard words that were not my own, “I want your heart.” I also heard interiorly, “Go to St. John Vianney Seminary.” With that a torrent of joy welled up from inside me and I knew what God wanted. I applied for seminary with my home Diocese of Joliet in Illinois. I was sent to St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
After finishing my studies in Philosophy at “SJV” I soon made my way to begin studying theology at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. These years in seminary formation were a roller coaster! There was typically a busy, disciplined schedule and my family was having tremendous difficulties back home which, understandably, distracted me from seminary life. My mom had been in tremendous physical pain for several years due to an illness called Dystonia and her health continued to deteriorate due to stress caused by other family struggles. In last three years my Uncle Mike, my Uncle Jim, and my Aunt Pam all took their own lives. Another Uncle (Bob) died suddenly of a heart attack, and my grandfather, Andrew, passed away. I also had a close family member with a serious addiction to drugs. With my dad out of work there was a considerable amount of family stress.
Through these difficulties, though, I learned that God wants to draw us closer to Himself through our sufferings. I often would find myself drawn to prayer in Christ’s Eucharistic presence in the seminary chapel or in various Catholic churches. I found tremendous peace praying in front of the Eucharist. Often, it was my only consolation. (over) During my year at Mundelein Seminary a friend of mine told me about a community which he was convinced I was going to join. It was the same community whose founder, Fr. Florian Racine, I had met 5 years previously during my visit to France: The Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist. After realizing the coincidence I knew God was up to something. I was invited to join them for a couple of weeks during the summer and received tremendous graces there; I felt like I was home.
Looking back on my initial “reversion” to Catholicism in 2004 I realize that I have always felt most like myself while praying in front of the Eucharist or while at Mass. I have increasingly felt drawn towards the Eucharist and towards becoming a Catholic Priest. I feel that this is what I was made for. I have come to understand that God wants to use the gifts which He has given to me in order to draw others to encounter the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The community I am joining has as its mission the opening of Perpetual Adoration Chapels. These chapels are sorely needed in our world today because prayer itself is sorely needed. Christ is sorely needed. Christ has left us a profound gift in the Eucharist; Himself. In response to such a profound gift I want to give of myself through prayer and missionary work so that others may come to know this gift, too.
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