I would like to wish all those moms out there a Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day! May is the Month of Mary, the Mother of God, and so we look to Mary to provide a great example for all wives and mothers on how to live their vocation of love. In watching her child Jesus grow in wisdom and grace before God, Scripture says, “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.” (Lk. 2,19) Mary can help all of us to reflect upon our lives in order to better understand how God is at work in us. Mary can also help us remain a people of prayer who treasure our family and remain connected. God bless our mothers for reflecting the heart of Christ!
“Unless a grain a wheat… ((Jn 12:24) With some regret, later that summer and early that Fall, I quit my job with the U.S.G.S, moved back to Minnesota to begin the process of applying for seminary. This would take some time so I also went back to “Miss Daisy,” renting a room in her boarding house again. We resumed our old routine of me driving her on errands, spending time at the supper table with her in conversation, working odd jobs and finally spending much time in reading, going to Mass, and in prayer for the next several months again. It was like picking up just where we had left off!
With my application accepted, I would be entering seminary the following Fall. Now seminary or “cemetery,” as we affectionately call it, is a place of further discernment. It’s a place to learn, to grow, and to be stretched way out of your comfort zone. It is also a place where the bishop, vocation director, and seminary staff decide if, in fact, you have a genuine call. I was not looking forward to spending another 6 years in graduate school as I felt a bit burnt out from my previous 5 years as an undergraduate in Biology and Geology, but I learned to live in the moment and not worry about any end or goal. I tried to simply let the process unfold. I made some great friends in seminary and I had a real sense of communion with the other seminarians who also had their stories to tell and were discerning their call. All were committed to doing what God asked and serving the Lord. They came from all walks of life and from different dispositions. The academics were challenging, but I seemed to weather it well. Daily prayer and the rhythm of each day fit well for me.
At the end of 4 years, it was time for the staff to make a final decision and recommendation to the bishop if I was ready for the deaconate. After much discussion, they decided, “NO,” that I was too unsettled and not ready yet, if at all!” Now, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I said to myself, “Look God, I am giving up a lot of things here. I just spent 4 years studying and praying and thinking and now they say, ‘No!’” I was devastated, but probably for the wrong reasons. This said, I had to do even more soul-searching as I slowly realized that “the call” as we say was not just “my call” rather it really requires other people’s input and discernment as well. At a certain point, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is really Mother Church’s final call! For me, it meant a further letting go, of dying to self, as apparently I was still hanging onto too much of me. As it turned out, the staff would recommend I do a “pastoral year” in a parish to get a better feel for what parish life was all about. I decided they were right. Something inside me was still unsettled, and so I agreed to take that year off. Those next 12 months turned out to be the best thing that ever happened as I was assigned to a great priest and a great parish for that year to help out. I made some wonderful friends, and I really got a sense that priesthood, although very busy, could be a very fulfilling vocation after all. I felt peace and calm. When that year ended, I was accepted back, ordained a deacon and finished my final year. The seminary staff also noticed a change in me, so they gave me the go-ahead to be ordained, with Bishop Hanus’ permission of course!
Soon preparations were being made and invitations sent out. My mother (Clara) was beside herself, although she tried to stay calm. Dad (William) was more skeptical, but supportive as well. I don’t blame him. No one was more surprised by what has transpired over the past several years than myself! Mother was busied about making preparations at home. Cleaning out the garage at home meant something really big was going on! That’s where the final reception would take place. Everything was going as planned, until something very unexpected happened. On the day before my ordination, mom had a heart attack! At only 57 years old, this didn’t make sense, but there I was in the hospital at mom’s bedside and yet trying to make final plans for my ordination. She was eventually rushed from Paynesville to the St. Cloud hospital by ambulance for more tests. It’s a wonder what mothers go through for their children and the mystery of what unfolds in their lives, things we don’t always anticipate or know ourselves. With all the excitement and hard work, it seems she overdid herself. That Saturday, the family decided that despite this, the ordination had to go on, even without mom. That morning I visited her in I.C.U. with dad for a short time and then it was off to St. Mary’s Cathedral for the ceremony. In part of the ordination rite the young man being ordained has to lay flat on his face on the floor while the Litany of Saints is prayed over him. At that moment you can bet I began to relive all that led me to this place, wondered what it all meant, and questioned if mom would ever live to see it! Immediately after the ordination, my father was pulled out of the pew by a nurse and rushed to the hospital to sign papers for an emergency procedure for mom as she had another episode/heart attack that morning. Stay tuned for the final conclusion of this long series and as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story…”