Getting to Know Fr. Steven – Part 5

My dear friends,

To get to know each other better, I will continue from where I left off in last week’s bulletin, sharing with you more of the journey of my life: part 5 of the song I sing to God’s merciful love.

I find it quite amazing how radically God can change our hearts. If my high school classmates would have taken a vote on who would be least likely to become a priest, I’m sure I would have been toward the top of their list and I would have cast my vote along with theirs. But in Christ we truly become new creations; our minds and hearts convert to a whole new way of thinking, living, and seeing. After entrusting my life to Jesus, my former desires to become a rich and famous rock star, or simply a great (and probably obnoxious) macho man faded and disappeared. My dominant desire changed: I wanted to be like Christ. I no longer wanted to live for myself. I wanted to live generously for God and for others.

Two years after becoming Catholic I started to date one of the women in our small Christian community and we became engaged a year later. With my longing for companionship and desire for children, I felt fairly confident that marriage was my path and vocation in life. My dream was to raise a good size family on a hobby farm in the country, living off the land like a pioneer. But all this was soon to change.

There are times in our life when we want something too much, to the point that it blinds us to what is truly wise and good for us, and this can lead to bad decisions. Our willfulness makes it difficult to be open to God’s will. This was the case with our engagement. We both wanted to get married, but we were unwilling to face and deal honestly with certain concerns arising between us. We were good friends, thank God, but if we had married it would have been a disaster waiting to happen. God was very merciful toward us. As we continued to bring our lives to prayer each day there was a moment of mutual awakening; like a bucket of cold water poured over our heads. We both realized it was not a good idea to marry. And so, with strength from God, we called off the engagement.

What a painful moment this was for both of us! And it just so happened to coincide with the beginning of Lent. I had a heavy, emotional cross to carry that Lent, but the pain was good, because it brought me to God many times a day. Eventually my heart healed and I felt stable again, and started reconsidering the possibility of marriage, thinking perhaps that there was someone else God had planned for me to marry.

The biggest surprise in my life began to unfold about a year and a half after my fiancé and I broke off our engagement. I was somewhat of a restless soul, going from one activity to another, somewhat like a butterfly moving from flower to flower. I was always filling my free time after work with the usual stuff: playing guitar, listening to classical music, getting together with family and friends, touring garage sales and antique shops and various other things. But one evening God’s voice broke into my restless cycle: “Why do you keep me waiting? . . . why are you running from me?” I did not hear these words audibly, but they were very clear within my heart. The moment I heard them I knew exactly what God meant. I immediately sat down in my Lazy Boy recliner and said “OK God, I’m ready, please help me.”  From this moment on God started drawing my heart to be with Him in silence. As I followed these interior impulses, going against my urges to “do something,” I began to experience God’s love for me in an even more intimate and personal way. I did not know that God’s love was so beautiful! Everything I had lived and experienced before then seemed like a grain of sand in comparison to this new intimacy God was inviting me to share with Him.

After several months of this experience, I found my heart no longer desiring marriage, but wanting rather to live for God alone. The desire grew to the point that one day I knew I would never marry: a grace I realized later to be the gift of celibacy. What I find so amazing is that I was not looking for this gift, rather the gift seemed to find me. What was God up to? Where was all this leading? Well, a year after this, at the age of 27, I started to feel desires and attractions to the priesthood. I will share more about this in the next bulletin.

God love you,

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