My Vocation Story by Fr Jason Smith

Holy eucharist


“God our Father, send us holy priests, all for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus all for the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with St Joseph. Amen.”

Prayers don’t get much more Catholic than that one. With its talk of eucharistic and immaculate hearts, it’s enough to confuse the average protestant for days. 

My rosary group prays this particular prayer every time we get together. We also pray by name for all the priests in our archdiocese. We know, as all Catholics do, that our Church is built around the sacrament of Holy Orders. The graces of God rain down on us Catholics in a free and easy way, like a gentle spring shower, when we partake of the sacraments such as the eucharist and confession. 

Jesus instituted the priesthood as a mechanism of transmission of these graces. It is meant to be reliable and available. Freely given, freely received. Priests are conduits of God’s grace.

As such, they are an essential component to living the life in Christ in this difficult and challenging age with its destructive secularism and intolerance of genuine Christianity. 

We need priests. We need holy priests who are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to give their lives in the service of Christ’s Church. 

This is the story of Father Jason Smith’s vocation. Fr Smith blogs at Biltrix. He has given me permission to reproduce his story in full. 

 

My Vocation Story 

Fr Jason Smith

If not for a hockey game, I wouldn’t be a Legionary priest today.As a good Minnesotan, I naturally considered hockey as divinely inspired, a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after the game that took me by surprise and lead me to know my priestly vocation.

During my first year at college, I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends. After one such event —ending in a double overtime victory for the Golden Gophers, and a long celebration— I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon.

Stumbling upstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go”. Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”

It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little people began to filter in. Then an attractive girl sat down a few pews behind me. How is it I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence! I decided the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending it happened all the time.

When I got home I opened the note. It read something like this: “It’s good to see someone young attending daily Mass. You must really love your faith! I want to let you know about a group of young people who pray and study scripture Wednesday evenings. If you would like to come, here is my number.” I decided I could find time in my packed schedule to go.

That’s when it occurred to me I hadn’t seriously looked into my Catholic faith since Confirmation. What would I say? What would I pray? Where was my Rosary? I found it stuffed in the bottom dresser drawer along with a pamphlet of prayers. As to what I would say, I went to my Dad’s study and checked out his library. It had books on music, history, politics —but the largest section was religion. I found one book called, “True Devotion to Mary”. It seemed like a good place to start since it was short.

I never read beyond the introduction, but the book changed my life. It explained how St Louis de Montfort, a priest who tirelessly preached the Gospel and underwent extraordinary trials, spread devotion to Mary throughout France. It was my first encounter with the life of a saint. I marveled how someone could dedicate himself entirely to Christ, even to the point of heroism. It was precisely then that I renewed the resolution I had made a two years earlier to pray and sincerely live my faith.

A few months later I went on a retreat with the youth group. It was the first time the priesthood entered my mind. During the consecration, as I gazed at the elevated host, I thought to myself —in words that were my own, but which carried a resonance I will never forget— if there is one thing I should do it’s that. It was the defining moment of my calling. I was taken entirely by surprise. I knew I had to look into the priesthood, but I didn’t know how or where.

To make a long story short, the same girl who gave me the note in church then gave me a brochure on the Legionaries of Christ. It had testimonies of the young men who entered the year before. I read it and was convinced. I called and asked for an application. A Legionary came to visit. I went to candidacy. I joined. My younger brother followed the next year.

Since then the years have passed by like a whirlwind. There is much more I could write, but the essential is simple: Christ crossed my path, called, and by his grace —definitely not my own strength— I found the courage to drop everything and follow him. I have never looked back. Our Lord’s presence and the needs of the Church have captivated my attention ever since.

Now only a few days away from priestly ordination, in my conversations with Christ, I continually thank him for the many gifts he has given me: my faith, my wonderful parents and brother, my Legionary vocation, and above all, his presence and friendship throughout my life.

I can hardly believe I have arrived at the foot of the altar. It seems almost a dream; that I’ll wake up, finding myself back in Minnesota, late for a hockey game. But it’s true. God’s plans are far beyond, and far better, then my own.

The Dignity of Work and Original Sin

It doesn’t matter what economic system a country uses, the “haves” inevitably accrue power to the disadvantage of the “have-nots.” 

Communist utopianism promised a world where this did not happen. But the actual outcome is that communism, by its very nature, vests so much power in government that the abuse of the people it governs is built into it.

The utopian fantasy of unregulated capitalism is that everyone will have an equal chance to build a heaven of his or her own. What happens in actual practice is that those who get there first accrue so much power for themselves that they can and do pervert government to their ends, destroying their competitors and shutting down opportunity for everyone but themselves.

Democracy’s utopian fantasy is that the people will be able to prevent either of these abuses by their use of their power to replace those who govern through elections. In reality, those who “have” can afford to pay for the vast expenses of modern-day campaigning, thus putting their puppets in office and subverting the power of the people.

The reasons for these failures don’t lie in the economic systems or forms of government themselves so much as in their naive assumptions about human nature. You cannot build a just society without taking into consideration the fallen nature of human beings.

I don’t know of any theory of human interaction that even begins to explain the data of thousands of years of human society except the theory of original sin. It fits our human reality like the proverbial glove.

Pope Francis preached on the dignity of work a few days ago. The occasion was the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. Work is an essential component to a fulfilled and happy life. Work is the way we master the world and advance our civilization. It gives shape to our days and provides us with the goods that are necessary for our survival in this life.

Jesus worked. He was God in human flesh, but He did not disdain to work at the humble craft of carpenter. That imbues work with a dignity that lifts it above the curse of Eden. Work that is shaped by our humanity and that serves our inborn need to create and grow civilization, does far more than sustain our bodily needs. It is the mechanism by which we shape a better us, and a better world.

However work that is placed on people like a yoke on an ox is an assault to their dignity as people made in the image and likeness of the living God. Likewise, avoidance of work to live off others, whether that means idling away the years on the largesse of parents, or living on the government dole — and I include many corporations in this as well as individuals — is also an assault on human dignity that wastes human potential.

Pope Francis spoke about a recent tragedy in which many people were killed because of an employer’s disregard for their safety. Profits, he said, can never be more important than human beings.

That is the Christian viewpoint. It is also one of those points where many stalwart supporters of Church teachings back up and start arguing.

There are fault lines along which contemporary Christians try to bargain with God and get out of obeying what the Gospels make clear they should do. Almost always, these fault lines occur at points where the Church teaches about the dignity of human beings.

Whether the question is gay marriage or abortion; profits that kill or pornography, that answer from those who want to do these things is always the same. I am right and God is wrong; I will do as I want, they proclaim. Many times, the people who are so arrogantly trying to teach morality to God are the same ones who wear out their index fingers pointing out other people’s sins.

Self righteousness is not righteousness.

Every single one of us, me included, needs to be reminded of that on a daily basis.

From the Vatican:

Does Raising Boys to be Manly Christian Men Require Discriminating Against Girls?

Bergoglio foot washing woman

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, washing a woman’s foot on Holy Thursday.

I was jittery before I published Women and the Church yesterday. 

I was afraid that, since I mentioned the presence of homosexual priests in our Church, I would stir up a hornet’s nest of attacks on homosexual priests.

Silly me.

Women are sooo much more the object of discrimination than homosexuals. No group of people on this planet can outrank women on the hated scale.

I was inundated with comments from men (While I know there are women-hating women and lots of them, my commenters yesterday were ALL male) explaining basically two things to me:

053 AltarGirls

1. They are not prejudiced against women. They most certainly are not misogynist. It is the Church that requires them to go on and on and on ranting against any participation by women in the liturgy. If the bishops — and three popes — allow this, they say, then the bishops and three popes are wrong. Their teaching authority is bankrupt. And they’ve got some pet priest somewhere who tells them the bishops and three popes are wrong.

These folks seem to be hung up on the use of the Latin word for “man,” which they claim does not — and I mean does not — mean all of humanity, but rather only people who are genetically and anatomically male. The odd part of this is that they are accidentally making one of the best arguments for something I would guess they see as anathema — using more inclusive language — that I have ever encountered.

If “man” does not mean all of humanity, then many of the Church’s most compelling statements concerning the universal value of all human beings go right in the trash bin. To me, the issue is simple. I won’t belabor this except to ask: Does masculum et feminam creavit eos mean what I’ve always been taught it means or not?

Licht

2. Boys can not survive in a world where girls are allowed to compete. The whole reason for the priest shortage is altar girls. These commenters simply ignored every point I raised in the post and repeated this tired old argument as if no one had challenged them. The gist of their argument was versions of the cliched boys-won’t-be-called-to-the-priesthood-because-of-altar-girls stuff. Then, it took an interesting twist, and one I’m going to talk about here, by broadening it to say that there are so many troubled young men in our society today because girls are competing against them.

This second line of reasoning is the one I want to explore in this post.

Just for the record, I’ve raised boys. Or rather, my only husband, who is their biological father, and I have raised boys. We successfully managed to bring them to productive adulthood as manly men who believe in Jesus, say their prayers, do not shoot people, are not on drugs, and who go out to work, succeed in higher education and respect women.

Based on the interesting logic of some of my commenters, we must have oppressed every girl in the neighborhood to achieve this miracle. We certainly must have refused to let them participate in swim teams where girls might beat them or go to chess tournaments where girls sometimes did beat them. After all, manliness, according to the version I’ve seem in the comboxes these past few hours, is such a fragile flower that it cannot grow unless girls are sidelined and silenced.

Father and son

In truth, my husband (and he was the one who did most of this) taught them to respect women. “Treat them like people,” he advised when they reached adolescence and were agawk at the loveliness of the girls around them. “Just remember that they are people and treat them that way and you won’t have any trouble with girls.”

The message I’m trying to convey here is not what my husband said to our sons, although I think it was, like my husband, both wise and chivalrous. It’s that my husband, their father was on the beat to say it. Young men are different from young girls in a number of ways, all of them, when they are channeled according to Godly manliness, beautiful. They are physically stronger. They are more physical, period. They are bursting with that wonderment of a hormone, testosterone, which gives them beautiful male bodies, energy and a propensity to take action.

They are not inherently violent, cruel or sadistic. All this comes from the harm we do to them in the environment we provide for them and the way we treat them.

We are very cruel to our children in this society. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, we always put them last on our list of musts. Oh, we shower them with toys and things. But we also put their interests last in our lives and our society. We indoctrinate them in nihilism and sexual disorder in our schools. We tear their homes apart with our divorces and adulteries. Mothers disrespect their fathers. Fathers disrespect and bully their mothers.

Then we act surprised that they grow up to be emotionally and socially damaged adults who can not create families of their own and nurture children of their own.

Father and son black

Instead of admitting our own failings, we play the blame game, writ large. That is what this nonsense about boys being unable to thrive unless girls are oppressed is. It’s the blame game, writ large and cruel. Boys need their mothers to teach them about tenderness, love and women. Boys need their fathers to teach them about men. 

I am not talking about a lecture once in a while from dad who’s not there the rest of the time. I’m talking about raising boys the same way that Joseph raised Jesus, by being there, every day, and by interacting with them all the time, in big things and small things.

I’m talking, actually, about being a man like my husband, who is the best man I’ve ever known. I am convinced that if more fathers were like my husband, we would not have violent young men terrorizing our country with random mass murders.

This business of blaming young girls for the failure of a generation of men to be the Dad on the beat for their sons is one of the most blatantly stupid and self-serving examples of prejudice I’ve seen in a quite a while. 

If you sincerely want someone to sacrifice to raise up a generation of manly men, then men, you should start with yourselves. Go home. Love their mother. And spend time with your children. Love your kids. Enjoy them.

My advice to men who want to raise their sons to be manly men is to be men themselves. Then everything, including vocations, will follow.


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