The unusual vocation story, from The Leaven newspaper of Kansas City:
The vocation stories of many priests begin with their families, where they were nurtured in the faith and early on considered that they, too, might stand at the altar someday.
Not Deacon Nathan Haverland.
“I never thought about being a priest while I was growing up,” he said. “I didn’t know what a priest was.”
Both his mother and stepfather had been raised Catholic, but fell away from the faith early, so Deacon Haverland and his older sister didn’t have any religious upbringing. Sunday was just another day of the weekend.
Ah, but God cannot be denied.
French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Deacon Haverland was not immune to the pull of that vacuum.
“Everybody has that natural desire to know God, so I think I had that as well,” he said. “I remember asking and thinking questions about stuff like that, but I never had a means to learn.”
His path took a fateful turn when he decided to enroll in a small Catholic college in Atchison — Benedictine.
“They had a nice little physics and astronomy department, which is what I wanted to study,” said Deacon Haverland. “There are only two places in Kansas where you can study physics and astronomy. One was the University of Kansas, and the other was Benedictine.”
“I didn’t know anything about Benedictine, but I had a nice campus visit,” he continued. “I really liked their small department. It was a beautiful place, with beautiful people”
Deacon Haverland enrolled. But in the process of reaching for the stars, he discovered something better: theology. Theology courses were a required part of the college curriculum.
Thanks to great teachers, he said, he began to learn about the Scriptures and Christ. It all made sense. Gradually, his knowledge began to change him. He underwent a slow conversion of mind and heart.
“It was more of a gradual process, more than anything,” he said. “It wasn’t until after my sophomore year that I was having a conversation with someone, and I had to admit I wasn’t Catholic, and I was just kind of sad about it. That was the beginning of me starting to join the church.”