The first time I went to New York City I was in my mid-twenties, and my best friend, Jeremy, called me and proposed an adventure, “let’s go to New York for a weekend!” I’m not a very spontaneous person, but I loved the idea!
Every single step to make this weekend happen was a feat! It was as if this trip to New York began immediately when the idea was spoken into the world. And in looking back on this moment it was the planning that was half the fun! Days upon days of dreaming and imaging the journey into fruition: locating cheap flights, booking an inexpensive hotel, requesting time off from work, securing tickets to Broadway musicals…and saving money! Everything in life, from the birth of the idea to its realization, was focused on this long weekend in New York.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always like planning a fun, impromptu weekend away. In fact, much of life requires more than just logistical forethought. And yet, life is always a journey from concept to concert. And then suddenly, or so it seems, that moment comes where the journey reaches its pinnacle. For me it was on September 25th when I was ordained a deacon.
It was a moment of grace processing down the aisle when the ordination mass began. It was an experience of gratitude seeing family and friends present to witness this occasion. It was an understanding of love and humility as I declared my intentions of accepting the office of deacon to the people of God. And then I felt myself lying prostrate on the ground, with six other men from around the world, as a Litany of Saints was prayed all around us. For ten years I’ve been a Jesuit in formation, and instantly the sun is dawning from on high, it is the penultimate horizon before priesthood, it was almost dreamlike.
And isn’t that the case, when choices are made that include such preparation, we somehow have a surreal experience in the middle of its consummation? I remember feeling a similar kind of realization as I walked across the commencement stage in May 2001 at Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas. At that moment I became the first in my family to graduate college.
It wasn’t only a four-year preparation for a bachelor’s degree to be conferred upon me, it was a whole academic lifetime of challenge and struggle that followed me up on that stage. Encountering prejudice and discrimination in the classroom, being diagnosed with learning disabilities, intensive tutoring, bullying from teachers and students, witnessing my parents work multiple jobs to pay for my Catholic education.
Earning one degree was a mountain! I recall teachers telling me I would never achieve anything beyond a high school diploma because, as one educator said, “you do not have the brains for academic success,” words forever branded into my mind. So hearing my name announced to receive my undergraduate degree was a crossing that took a lot and everything from everyone involved in my life. And when all is said and done, by the time I’m ordained a priest in June, I will have four degrees to my name! (If that educator could see me now!)
Traveling through life is quite the experience, is it not?! A friend of mine, who was told she would never be able to have a child, now holds twins in her arms. A cousin, who raised beautiful children and created a comfortable and sustaining home for her family, was told she would never be a capable mother…all these stories are an odyssey! And all these stories, mine included, had its ups and downs and obstacles. And it’s all been formational, even the instances when it seemed like the best thing to do was throw in the towel.
Persistence and perseverance, patience and faith, keys, gifts, and graces from Christ Jesus. Not to over spiritualize life’s peregrination, but as a believer I know I could not travel this pilgrimage alone. The Holy Spirit is there to remind me of the people in my life who encircle me with love and support, to remind me of my gifts and talents, to remind me, even though I may be badly bruised, I know how to heal.
And the trek isn’t over! Today, the expedition has brought me to ordained ministry as a deacon. Whether it’s for a chance to get away to The Big Apple or taking the long road towards a life change, journey’s are always beginning and journey’s are constantly ending. And now I find myself on a new voyage!
As I reflect on my deacon journey you might find something familiar that resonates with your own life! Let’s be prayer partners! Share your story with me by sending me an email at [email protected].
Header photo by Minh Le, SJ.