May 2023 Making a gift of myself: From the introspection of formation to offering the…
Meeting Jesus Changes Everything
By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations
Several weeks ago, the middle schoolers at my parish had their winter retreat. It is very common during these retreats for there to be an opportunity for eucharistic adoration. During this evening of prayer, I was able to sit in the back of the church as the teens prayed. After a few minutes, I watched as some of the teens went up close to the altar to kneel before Jesus. It was a moving experience as I watched these young people draw closer to Jesus. I prayed, “Lord, may they all experience your love concretely this weekend.”
Then, something else caught my attention. Accompanying these middle school retreatants were the high school leaders. I watched as the high schoolers made their way to middle schoolers and, one by one, offered to pray over them. It was powerful. My priestly heart burst with pride for these kids.
On Sunday, the parents of one of the young men who made the retreat spoke to me about their son’s experience. Their eyes began to water as they shared, “Our son’s favorite part of the retreat was adoration and confession.” Their son met the Lord that weekend. He had a life-changing experience of God’s love.
Experiences of God change everything. The prophet Isaiah “saw the Lord” (Is 6:1) and had an angel press an ember to his lips when he received his vocation to be God’s prophet. St. Paul saw the risen Jesus (1 Cor 15:8) on his way to Damascus and, from that moment on, preached the love of Christ crucified to the Gentiles. St. Peter met Jesus in a boat after a night that he failed to catch any fish and Christ miraculously helped him catch enough to fill two boats. (Lk 5:3,6) Isaiah, Paul and Peter met the Lord, experienced God and everything changed. Their whole lives became about evangelization; sharing the Good News.
Will that young man from my parish become a priest? I have no idea. But what I do know is that he had a real experience of God in his life. That is the first step. Our young people can only hear and listen to God’s voice if they first have an experience that has convinced them that God is present in their lives. Then, when he calls, they can say, just like Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me!” (Is 6:8)