Today as I prepared for work at the Poker Room, I let my mind wonder free about thoughts of the Capuchins, what it will be like to be a Postulant, and even what my life will be like after ordination. I thought about something my boss always tells me: "I would feel more comfortable talking to someone like you as a priest than someone who went into seminary at the age of 14. You've lived life, Vito. You have something unique that you bring to the table that other priests may not."
My mind drifted from this conversation to my "gifts," and eventually to the idea of being in front of a parish administering Mass. One of my naughty little pipe-dreams is to take something from the Gospel and begin an Homily as if completely unplanned. I allow this thought to take over, imaging myself giving witness to a host of people. It doesn't have the true feeling of standing in front of a crowd of people, yet it gives me the change to speak what's on my mind. It's how my priest's sermons always sounded like. I take the time to imagine what I would say that could inspire or touch the lives of others.
It puts me in a better state of mind, being able to reflect on the Gospel in this way. But it also gives me a sense of purpose, knowing that the enjoyment I receive of contemplating the Word is part of what brought me this far in my journey.
Since these are always off the cuff, I'm not sure what kind of blog this will turn into. However I've thought about what it would be like to give my first Homily after being ordained, and what it would sound like. Perhaps it would be something like this:
About ten minutes before Mass started, as I was in the sacristy, it finally struck me that this would be the first time I stood up in front of a parish and actually delivered the Homily. I can remember being a boy sitting over there (pointing to where the alter servers were) and listening to my priest. He'd walk in front of the alter, he'd never stand behind the podium, and he liked to talk with his hands. He didn't read from a notecard or a prepared speech; he spoke to us...much like I'm speaking to you now.
And over the years, as my faith grew, I realized that being able to see him in that way, more as a person telling me about his life and his understanding of the day's Gospel reading, he was relating himself as a human being. He made the Gospel not as a lofty goal that we could never reach, but as the means by which we should live, and how we could incorporate it into our daily lives.
Today's reading from Matthew is a familiar one: the story of Jesus summoning his disciples. He tells them: "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men."
"...fishers of men."
The part of the story that I always found fascinating, and something that stayed with me the entire time I considered this idea of becoming a Capuchin was how Peter and Andrew react.
"They immediately abandoned their nets."
Now you can look at almost any translation, and that adverb is still there: "Right away, At once, Straightaway they abandoned their nets and followed Him."
Right away. At once. Immediately.
The thought of that confuses me. Some 10 years ago, when I first heard that call to God, I didn't do anything immediately! When I first felt that pull towards the priesthood, I was scared. I was almost horrified! Here I was, content in my job, living the American Dream (air quotes); by my standards I was a success already. Why did I need to become a priest? Why did I have to give up all of this?
For me, it took years to truly understand what it meant to understand this calling. I had doubts, feelings of unworthiness, even the idea that I was trying to impress someone by becoming a priest. There was nothing I could do immediately, because I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to do.
And as I learned more and more about myself, I realized that I wasn't happy at that job. My life wasn't as fulfilling as I pretended it was. My gauge for success was this small scale of material items. And I would begin to wonder that maybe Peter and Andrew weren't too happy with where their lives were. Maybe the life of a fisherman was not who they were meant to be. Perhaps God had given them the desire, the wisdom, and the courage to do more with their lives...they needed simply to wait until they were called to do so. And immediately, they left their nets to follow Him.
Perhaps we're not so different from the Apostles. We all have in our hearts the desire to do something wonderful with our lives. We want to make people smile, we want to right that what is wrong...sometimes we just don't know how. Sometimes we just don't want to commit ourselves to doing too much. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that we as Catholic Christians should make ourselves aware of that Calling that God has for each of us, and make ourselves available to do what is asked.
I'm not advocating that you should all give up your jobs and sell everything you own after you leave church. In fact some of you have already followed your call: being married, being a father, being an employer.
What I want you to understand is that we're all called to do more. Maybe not change the world, but to open our hearts to God and to those around us. I became a Capuchin because this is where God wants me. I'm not sure what I do next; God didn't give me timeline for the rest of my life. However these years later, I'm standing in front of all of you wonderful people, much like my parish priest stood in front of my parish, hoping that I was put here to affect the life of another as my parish priest touched mine.
eh, perhaps I'm not the greatest ad-lib speaker, but I like being able to let my mind wander and think.