Hoofprints of the Stag

Hoofprints of the Stag

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Seed Planted Finally Begins to Grow

As I wrap up my week of orientation here at Mt. Angel Seminary, many thoughts are running around through my head, but one sticks out.  Having worked through the application process for the last several months and after discerning for many years, I have been really thinking about my journey of discernment, and my mind rests upon those moments which one might characterize as 'turning points.'  This story is of one such turning point.  In fact, it is the very first 'turning point' in the journey that led to all the others.

Recently, an old priest acquaintance of mine passed away.  Though I hadn't seen him for years, he had been at the forefront of my mind the past several months.  This priest was Msgr. Francis Campbell of the Archdiocese of Portland, and I was privileged enough to altar serve for his funeral Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.  When my vocation director emailed us asking for volunteers to serve the Mass, I jumped at the chance because it was Msgr. Campbell was the very first priest (and first person in general) to put the idea into my head that I may actually be called by God to be a priest.

Msgr. Campbell
It was my sophomore year of high school at Valley Catholic in Beaverton, OR, and Msgr. Campbell was presiding at one of our all school Masses.  I recognized him because, though he was retired, he helped at my home parish of St. Cecilia's occasionally since it was such a large parish.  Msgr. Campbell was always talking about the 'priest shortage,' and on this particular day, when we got to the Prayers of the Faithful, he added one on to the end.  He said, "And we pray that one young man in here," (and he kind of looked around at all of us), "may one day become a priest," or something to that effect.  I looked around and thought, "Uh-oh, what if it's me?  What if I am the answer to that prayer?"

Then at Sunday Mass at St. Cecilia's that very weekend, Msgr. Campbell happened to be saying Mass and he did the same exact prayer again! "That one young man in here will one day become a priest."  "Uh-oh," I thought, "It seems more likely now that it would be me, because if I go, then I can fulfill both prayers in one shot."  I even remember going to confession with him one time on a retreat.  After the confession, he asked me up front if I would consider the priesthood.  The idea that I might be called to the priesthood stayed with me ever after.

Of course, it sure took me a long time to discern this call and finally enter, but here I am.  What was really interesting, though, as I prepared to serve Msgr. Campbell's funeral Mass just one week before I was to enter Mt. Angel, is that I remembered one thing he used to say all the time to me when I'd see him at school or at church.  He would 'badger' me about the priesthood, and he would say something to the effect of, "Somebody's got to replace me when I'm gone."  And here I was, a new seminarian for the Archdiocese of Portland, serving at the funeral Mass of this great priest.  It seemed to me like God's providence was at work, not just some mere coincidence.  It reaffirmed the confidence and hope I had in my vocation.

Just before the Mass, as we waited in the sacristy, I told my Archbishop this story (albeit much more briefly).  He was so taken with it apparently, that he proceeded to tell my story to the whole congregation at the end of Mass.  I am sure that I blushed, and I even got a little bit choked up (which surprised me).  "I guess there's no backing out now," I chuckled to myself.

I am very thankful for Msgr. Campbell for planting the original seed of my vocation in my mind.  I am sure that he is now praying for me in the Communion of Saints.  Obviously, there were many other moments along the way that helped me discern God's will for my life, but it was this priest from the days of my youth that tilled the soil to allow God's grace to help the seed of my vocation grow into what it is.

Please pray for me and for all seminarians, and know that you are all in my prayers as well.

Mt. Angel Abbey

1 comment:

  1. This was some nice insight. It seems in my own experience and observation that the notion of the priesthood is not often set before us in such a direct way, even though we see the priest all the time. Often, young men never even ponder the possibility I've seen; it is good to remember this especially since we have been influenced by people telling us up front about priesthood. We can't be shy about it.