It had been 18 years since I stepped into a church for something that wasn't a funeral service or a wedding. 18 years. To this day I am still unsure why I stopped going to mass. The "I was busy" excuse doesn't really fly with me so I don't think I'll use that one. Truth be told I really don't know the reason. I've thought about it long and hard over the past few months and nothing comes to me. One thing I do know that it coincides with my senior year in high school in which I felt a deep calling to the priesthood and thought that was where I was headed after I graduated.
Not a day has gone by in 18 years that I haven't thought about answering that call. But perhaps I just wasn't ready? A few months ago that daily reminder became a fairly large roar in my mind and more importantly in my heart. I began to think about what I've been doing the past 18 years and whether or not this was actually the path I am supposed to be on.
To answer some of these questions I felt like I needed heavier guidance in my life. Enter some close friends and God. I started by reaching out to a couple friends of mine that I consider highly spiritual beings that I can trust to think on a completely different level with me and give me different perspectives. One religious and one was not (although used to be). This was important to me as I wanted to make sure I was getting more than one view of my thoughts. The funny thing was we all came to the same conclusion: I'm probably going to be taking a different path soon, while the path I'm on right now might have felt like the right one for a long time in reality it probably wasn't. I'm a big fan of "everything happens for a reason" so I'll chalk the past 18 years up to that. The other thing that I discerned was that I needed to go back to church. This was a big step for me (remember it's been 18 years). I began by reaching out to my old chaplain (Father Mike) at my high school and had the most wonderful conversation with him about coming back to the church, going to confession, etc.
Going back to church has done wonders for me spiritually and as a person. It's also helped me move along on this path of discernment that I am now on. I spent the weekend down in McLean Virginia with Father Mike and his community of Youth Apostles. The community was great and gave me a lot of time to still my racing mind, pray, goto confession (felt great!) and smile a bit more than I have in a long time. Father Mike also let me ask a lot of questions about being a priest, becoming a priest, etc. I owe him a lot and appreciate the friendship we have.
The past few months have been a whirlwind of thoughts, renewals, questions and affirmations. One thing I know for sure is that I'm 36 and I'd very much like to spend the rest of my time here on this earth giving back, putting me last, God first, people, community and family next.