Can There Be Such a Thing as an Impetuous Practicality?

Fr. Robert Spitzer seems to embody it here in an interview with my friend Tom Hoopes:

OSV: …When did you realize you were called?

Father Spitzer: It happened on a strange day on my way to work. I really liked my work. I was well paid and I was working for an accountant. But I was going to work this day and I was asking myself, “Why am I doing this?”

I was about halfway there, halfway between Gonzaga and my office, and this huge rainstorm just hit, with the thunder and lightning and pouring rain.

I found a little eave, under a building. I couldn’t budge from it, so I stood there, thinking. Should I pursue a religious vocation? Or should I just pursue accounting and law? It occurred to me that I’m pursuing accounting and law because my dad has a law firm and because I’m good at math and good at arguing. But it’s not my heart’s desire. What really caught my heart on fire was teaching and helping the Church and serving the kingdom of God.

So I’m sitting there and it’s pouring rain, and don’t ask me why I did this. It was a very juvenile sort of thing to do. But I said: “OK Lord, I am stuck here. If it keeps raining like this I’m going to be just drenched. I won’t be able to go to work. I’m going to have to go back to campus anyway, but I’ll tell you what …”

I said, “If it stops raining in the next three minutes I will go to Father O’Leary’s office at Gonzaga, and I will apply for the Jesuits. If it keeps on raining, I’ll go back to the house and change my clothes and drive to work.”

Three minutes later, the rain just stopped. I kid you not.

I generally don’t discern things like that anymore. But boy, I have to tell you, I looked right up at the sky and said, “Are you kidding?” After changing, I went right to Father O’Leary’s office.

OSV: Did he sign you up?

Father Spitzer: O’Leary says to me, “Well, how long have you been thinking of this?” I said “a few weeks.” He just laughed. He gave me all these book recommendations and he said, “Do you even know what the vows are?” I said, “There’s one about chastity and something about poverty and maybe another one?” I didn’t know anything. He caught me up.

But one of the books he gave me was the autobiography of St. Ignatius. I read it and it stunned me. Stunned me. I was very captivated by it.

OSV: What did you see in him?

Father Spitzer: I always had an entrepreneurial gene inside me. I always wanted to build things. Build programs, do new things. I was captivated by that very quality in St. Ignatius. He said, “Why not do this?” and he did it. He said, “Why not start this?” And he started it. That’s what moved me to this very idea of building the kingdom.


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