Father, why did you decide to become a priest?
Now and then I supply quick, easy answers to that question: God called me, the Church needs more Jesuits, or I look really handsome in black. Whatever. But deeper reasons why are more subtle: God had been planting in me seeds that slowly grew over time.
When I was young, my Dad (a doctor) used to take me with him on Sunday mornings as he did his “rounds” at Mercy Hospital. When it was my turn to go with him, I loved seeing him at work, and he would introduce me to all the hospital workers, “This is my son, Patrick.” And they’d holler back, “What number are you?” Telling folks I am 7 of 14 never left them with dull expressions. But the best part of hanging out with Dad early Sunday mornings was going with him beforehand to a super-early Mass at a church other than our home parish. St. Mary’s had an early Sunday Eucharist (a quickie Mass), and Dad would take me with him at 9am or something: long before everyone else was up!
St. Mary’s was an older parish, and it had huge stained glass windows depicting the saints: in living color. At least on one occasion, Dad and I walked into church and he pointed up to my right and said, “There’s your patron saint.” I looked up to the last window on the north wall and beheld “my window.” St. Patrick, complete with mitre, snakes and shamrock. How cool was that! Not only did I have my own patron, but there he was in color and larger than life: St. Patrick! Hmm.
Upon reflection, it wasn’t the window so much. I think I was illuminated more so by the fact that I was able to share a unique moment with my father (no small experience for one of ten boys), and a holy one at that. He had named me Patrick and had a window to illustrate what was behind that name. Hmm.
Why did I become a priest? I guess I chose to follow that early Illumination when love and destiny blended in the context of prayer. Thanks Dad. Good vocations are nurtured by good Parents.