This weekend is “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” It’s a day we set aside to pray specifically for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, deaconate, and religious life. This is also what we call, “Good Shepherd Sunday” as we focus on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who has not only risen from the dead but is present to guide us to eternal life. It’s his voice we listen to above all else, and so we ask God to help us have ears open to hear his voice which speaks of peace and comfort to all.
“Driving Miss Daisy!” Continuing my series on my own vocation story, I want to begin by saying over the years I have listened to many priests and their stories: I know priests who were either engaged to be married or had every intention of getting married, but God had other plans. On the other hand, I know priests who felt called from young on as they played and pretended to be a priest at home with their brothers and sisters while growing up. Priesthood for them became a very natural step. I other know priests who were engineers, doctors, bankers, teachers, accountants, blue collar workers, even semi-pro baseball players who only had to sign a contract with the “major leagues” but turned it all down to enter seminary. I know a priest who, in his previous life, made his first $1 million dollars before he was thirty years old and then asked himself, “Is that it? There has to be more!”
I also know many priests for whom “the call” threw them for a loop and came to them with quite a bit of personal resistance. For me, that is my story.
After graduating from high school, I entered college at SCSU and continued my life of studying hard and playing hard as well. It was an exciting time in my life as I got to make many friends and meet many interesting people. After 5 years I graduated with degree in both Biology and Geology. I especially liked rocks! Not sure why, maybe because they are so ancient and each tells a story. After college graduation it was now time to get a ‘real job’ so I applied to all sorts of oil companies (i.e. Chevron, Mobil, etc.) and other industries in the hopes they would hire me. The oil industry was going through some hard times, so my many applications returned with, “Yes, we like your resume, but at this time we are not hiring.” As in the past as I continued to apply for a career, I took on other various jobs through “Manpower” and rented a small room in a boarding house run by a Mrs. Francis Kampa. One room and one meal a day for $100 dollars/month was not bad!
Francis Kampa was an elderly woman of 84 years who had rooms to spare upstairs for added income. Now this woman was unique! She had taken care of her bed-ridden husband at home for 32 years who died prior to my coming. She got up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to pray her rosaries (plural) go to daily Mass, and then volunteer at a local nursing home. I once kidded her about being old enough to stay there. Her response, “Oh no, I don’t want to be like those oldsters!” Even in the 1980’s Francis did all her cooking on a wood stove. She made the best soup and bread in town! We also had many wonderful conversations at the supper table at night. She was a strong-willed woman, and in my mind a living saint! Is it possible she was praying for me! To help defray some cost of my rent I agreed to chop wood for her stove and chauffeur her around in my car so she could run various errands. It was like “Driving Miss Daisy” as she sat in the back seat giving me advice and commenting on things she viewed out the window. Each Tuesday night there were “Our Mother of Perpetual Help” devotions at St. Mary’s Cathedral. At the time, I wasn’t particularly religious or interested in this, but since I had to drive her there and back anyway, I thought I would just sit in and join in the prayers. I figured it wouldn’t hurt. This was the first time I was exposed to Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.
Applying for jobs in geology was not going well, and with only one room in a boarding house, there is not a lot you can do. At that time, I had no phone, no T.V., no newspaper, no radio and not many people in town to hang around with since all my college friends had graduated and were gone. It was in these quiet moments, these silent times, I was left with a lot of time to think and think I did. I also began to question where my life should really go with no job in sight. Questions like, “Should I live selfishly or unselfishly in my life?” “Should I love or should I hate?” “Should I give or should I take?” came to mind. As a result, for the first time in my life I began to really pray! I also began to read books like St. Augustine’s “Confessions” and “City of God” handed to me by my mother. Not sure why, except to say that at the time, my mother was going through her own spiritual awakening. I began to enjoy my quiet time and intentionally seek silence from the outside world so I had even more time to think. Sound crazy? Maybe, but aren’t there are times in all our lives when we need to step back and sort things out? This is when things strange things really began to unfold in my life, and it was scaring my socks off! Stay tuned for more…if you like.