By Father Andrew Thomas
Editor’s note: This essay was originally published in the May 24 issue of The Message, as then-Deacon Thomas began his priestly service.
As the days of my ordination quickly approach, I have been asking myself how I got to this point. I went through two distinct phases in my time discerning the priesthood. First, I fell in love. Second, I learned what I needed to keep that love alive. As I tell this story, I think I need to be clear; none of my story is possible without grace. Every story you hear me tell or read from these pages, know that grace is always present. With that in mind, here we go.
I grew up with a longing to help people. I don’t give myself credit for that. I give that credit to my parents. I think I discovered this longing from my parents. It might have come from seeing my mother pour out her love for me and my siblings. Maybe it was the numerous times that my family walked up and down our street collecting trash and cans. At the time I thought it was so we could get the cans and turn them in for money. Looking back, I think the cans were simply an added bonus. Maybe this longing came from all the times we got to church early and served at Mass, or the times we walked into Mass right on time and still had to serve. Whatever it was, I longed to help.
One week I attended Catholic Heart Work Camp. It was a great week. Finally, I realized the longing to serve in the context of the Catholic faith. I fell in love that week. I fell in love with the Church and her love for the world.
Love is only the beginning of any vocation. I then had to learn how to keep that love alive. I want to say it is enough to say I fell in love with the Church, but it isn’t. The Church in all her beauty and goodness has one mission. Her one mission is to lead everyone to Christ. Christ is the only reason I want to be a priest. After years of wanting to be an accountant, a helping profession if there ever was one, I found that the source of my love was from God.
I began to think about my desire to serve people. After many months of prayer, I found that the world was not short of people who wanted to do good. The world is full of people seeking good. What the world needed was someone to bring God. What kept me in seminary all these years was that I felt the world needed God. I, as simple as I am, can bring God into the world. That is what the priesthood is. A priest is a man God has chosen to bring his presence into the world. The priest does this by the Sacraments.
That spark of divinity that each priest brings in the sacraments is the spark of unity. Each moment a sacrament is offered, our ability to serve our neighbor is strengthened. Each time a sacrament is offered, the source of love in the world is made real. I want to be a priest because the thing that unites us isn’t our common humanity, but God — God the source; God the summit. It is God. God kept that love alive for eight years.