By Fr. Aubuchon
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Advent is a time of encountering Jesus in three ways: in the past in history, in the present through His Church and Sacraments, and in the future when He comes again in all of His glory. It is also about us coming out to meet Him as well; Advent is a duel encounter — Jesus coming to us and we to Him.
As we continue in this holy Season of Advent, celebrating today the Second Sunday and thinking about how God has worked in our personal history to make us who we are, I would like to continue sharing with you about my life as I tell you how I came to discern my calling to the Holy Priesthood.
The pivotal year for the beginning of my discernment to a possible vocation to the priesthood was my junior year of high school. Three very important things happened to me that had a huge impact on the beginning of my vocational discernment. The first of those gifts from God was being introduced to Eucharistic Adoration and to powerfully experiencing the Holy Mass in a new way than ever before. I began attending a weeknight Adoration followed by Holy Mass every Tuesday evening at this little parish in the small town of Berger, Missouri. I had been introduced to Eucharistic Adoration growing up at St. George Catholic Grade School in Hermann. However, it wasn’t until I started attending this Tuesday evening Adoration when that time with Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament came alive for me in my heart. I also began to experience the Mass in a new and more impactful way than ever before. The pastor there, Fr. Deken, celebrated the Holy Mass and presided over Exposition and Benediction so reverently and with such love for our Faith that I was deeply moved by his example. I began to go every Tuesday to spend this time with Jesus in Adoration and to receive Him in His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. I was also drawn back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this time as it was offered by Fr. Deken during Adoration. I was hesitant at first to return to this Sacrament because I had been away for some years and had several sins that needed to be confessed. During that time in Adoration, Jesus gave me the courage to return to that Sacrament. Fr. Deken was a tremendous instrument of God’s Divine Mercy for me in that Sacrament. I haven’t stopped receiving at least monthly since.
The second very important gift that I received was spending three days in University Hospital’s ICU with my family gathered in the presence of my dying grandmother. When my pastor at the time, Fr. Bill Debo, came to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, he brought great comfort as a priest of Jesus Christ to me and my family. I also saw important reconciliation happening between some of my family members who hadn’t been getting along or really even speaking to each other for years. I experienced such a loving presence of Jesus in those three days and of His Church through her Sacraments that I was moved to consider if Jesus might be asking me to discern a call to the priesthood. I was so moved interiorly that I felt Jesus ask me in my heart three times in those days in the hospital, with my grandmother dying and surrounded by my family, if I would be willing to be an instrument of His mercy and love to those families who are experiencing grief and loss like I was experiencing. In those three questions in my heart from our Blessed Lord, I was inspired to say “yes” all three times. I have been so blessed to have already experienced in four years of ordination the gift of being with many families in this kind of situation of grieving and suffering, being Jesus’ presence of love with them.
The third significant gift of my junior year of high school was receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of Bishop Gaydos, the same hands who would later Ordain me to the Holy Priesthood on June 7, 2014. In Bishop Gaydos’ homily at my Confirmation Mass, he spoke about vocations and the importance of asking Jesus what it was that He was calling us to do with our lives in following Him in this life so as to receive the gift of the Eternal Life through our vocation one day, which is the ultimate goal of a vocation. When the Bishop was preaching about vocations in his homily, particularly the priesthood, I felt as though he was speaking directly to me and that there was no one else in the church with me; it was a deeply revealing moment of our Blessed Lord speaking right to my heart. This was an awesome, joyful, and overwhelming experience all at the same time. I look back at that memory and cannot help but give thanks to God as well as smile because now Jesus has asked me through Bishop McKnight to be the Vocation Director for our Diocese of Jefferson City.
Finally, the last and in some ways the most important piece of my initial discernment to the Holy Priesthood was my experiences within the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was in this Sacrament on a few occasions during high school, after I had come back to Confession, that I experienced our Blessed Lord ask me in my heart if I would be willing to be His instrument of mercy for others in Confession as His priest, as I had received from Him at the hands of His priests. This, along with the questions in my heart during that time with my grandmother dying, were the pivotal moments that I could not escape and are ultimately what brought me to the threshold of the seminary to begin my discernment process. It is my absolute privilege and gift to be that priestly instrument of God’s Divine Mercy in the Confessional on numerous occasions. Blessed be God forever!
May we, therefore, each take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this holy Season of Advent as one of the best ways to prepare for His coming to us and we to Him, as we joyfully anticipate the gift of Christmas received in our midst.