How did having divorced parents impact your faith?
It sounds cliché, but the truth is that it’s the grace of God and if we open ourselves up to what God is going to do, he does it. I think sometimes we take that for granted; if you go through something terrible it hurts to hear but God does crazy things when you let him. My whole life, the idea that I’m a Catholic at all, let alone a Catholic priest, it’s truly the grace of God working through the most peculiar circumstances.
Most of your family aren’t practicing Catholics; what’s it like being a priest among them?
All of my family are loving, and initially that’s where they were. They desired for me to have a happy life, and they realized that this was what was going to make me happy and bring me fullness; so they were OK with it. There are days when they’re still figuring out what this means. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a challenge for them. I don’t interact with them in the same way as my sister, who lives closer to them and has a husband and a child but it’s a learning curve.
How do you go about showing them Christ and the beauty of the Catholic Church?
I think the one thing that is most important is kindness and prayer. I try not to be overwhelming to them and preach that they should be Catholic. I’m kind to them, I pray for them and when I have the opportunity to introduce them to things, I invite them in. I try as much as I can to spend time with them and trust God to do the rest.
How have you handled all of the curveballs its thrown in your first year as a priest?
Well COVID-19 aside, a couple weeks after we shut down, my pastor had a heart attack and was out of commission for a month and a half; so my first Holy Week was me all alone. I had to plan it all for three parishes and it was a wild thing. Luckily, we have great staff at all three parishes; so it was really them. We just had to figure out how to put it on YouTube and figure out all the logistics. Amazingly, when you come together and trust God, he makes it happen.
Did you have a moment where you asked God what he was trying to teach you in this?
Daily. I had a daily Holy Hour and I’d sit back, and I’d sit in front of the Lord and sometimes just ask him, “What? What are we going to do today?” Recently, I looked back in my journal and realized that I asked the Lord some strange questions back then like, “How are we going to figure out Holy Week.” You do realize that your first inclination should really be to trust in the Lord and his plan because he works it out. It doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s challenging and I’m sure we made many errors, but it was a call to be faithful and trust that he’s going to always get us through it.
Personally, what was the most uniquely challenging hurdle you had to get over because of COVID-19?
I just wanted to see people my age, and have other young people to talk to, that human interaction that I’d have normally. I couldn’t visit my family. Things that we were all dealing with, it was hard. Two weeks before the shutdown happened, my sister had her first child and I didn’t get to hold her until July. The social dimension was for sure the hardest.
What have you learned about yourself this first year as a priest?
That people are so much better to me than I deserve. It’s like God’s goodness. I don’t deserve the goodness that God gives to me, but he does it anyway. People at my parishes are like that – they’re wonderful, so generous and kind and I don’t deserve it. I think that the need to be grateful is what I’ve learned the most so far in the first year of priesthood.
What’s your favorite thing to preach on?
The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I joke with a friend that I give a homily on the Real Presence. I have this cheesy line I say: “You can get better bread elsewhere.” Because if the Eucharist isn’t actually Jesus, then you guys are all wasting your time trying to get not very good bread. I love to preach about that. It changes everything.
What do you wish more people knew about Catholicism?
That it’s true. But also, I think that one of the common misconceptions is that Catholicism is all about rules, but really it’s about how the Love of God is made real in real people and real things, and real things that happen in the world that we can see. We can see God’s work in each other, in Catholicism.
What book would you recommend to Catholics that want to grow in their faith?
Bishop Barron’s “Catholicism” book is wonderful. My favorite book is a little more technical, but Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narrative;” it’s a short book that’s perfect for Advent.