By the end of my Senior year of high school, I started to contemplate whether or not I should pursue a religious vocation, namely, become a Catholic priest. I don’t remember telling people that I was thinking about this, but apparently others either read it in me or had the same idea for me. I remember sitting and having a chat with one of the teachers at my high school who happened to be a priest. He asked me if it was correct that I was thinking of joining the Jesuit order. How he know that I will never know, particularly since I am not really sure how I came to lean to that particular order in the first place. The extent of what I knew of the Society of Jesus (more commonly called the Jesuits) was that they were well-known as educators. Many of the famous Catholic universities are run by Jesuits. I guess that appealed to me. Many years later I would find out that their approach to theology and spirituality was close to mine. Maybe that’s what drew me and that is what Fr. Greg saw in me, I don’t know.
I went off to college and mostly forgot about the priesthood. My extracurricular time was mostly taken up by my fraternity, Kappa Sigma. A few things did bolster my faith while I was there, however. Right away I became a relatively active member in the parish that catered mainly to students, St. Thomas Aquainas. STA had three amazing priests on staff, Pastor Fr. Ev Hemann, Associate Pastor Fr. John Seda, and Pastor Emeritus Monsignor James “James from Ames” Supple. Each of these priests had unique qualities that complemented each other. Fr. Ev was a very humble and spiritual leader. Even though I haven’t seen him in years, he still continues to teach me. Fr. John seemed to have a knack for connecting with the students. Monsignor Supple had an avuncular manner, and was a font of humor and wisdom, which were often times inseparable from each other.
During my Sophomore year, our choir had the privilege of performing Mozart’s Requiem with the Warsaw Philharmonic. Singing in what I consider a world-class venue (ISU’s C. Y. Stephens Auditorium) with a world-class symphony, what I consider to be perhaps the greatest work of Classical music–well I couldn’t help but be awed by it all. Perhaps that was why the Rex Tremendae in particular touched me.
My Junior year I was once again feeling the pull towards a possible priestly vocation. I got in contact via email with one of my old teachers and friends (and my confirmation sponsor, incidentally) from High School, Sr. Maribeth. She seemed excited about the possibility and gave me a lot of advice, but the most important advice that she gave me was to pray. And I did. A lot.
After awhile, I was able to discern that I was not being called to the priesthood. Perhaps inexplicably, I felt a sense of loss. The best analogy that I was able to come up with was that it was like breaking up with a girlfriend.
But this was just the beginning of the ups and downs in my faith.
Coming in Part 3: Il Papa, doubt, a divine encounter.