PJ’s Witness

This is PJ. PJ is 19 years old and from the state of Indiana. I had the pleasure to sit down with him in my college’s J.C. Williams center. PJ’s interview was definitely the most in depth interview I had so far and it was such a blessing to be able to get to know him more through his faith. This is how God has worked in PJ’s life.

All glory to God.

What was your faith life like growing up?:

“Growing up for me, I was raised in a catholic family. I am one of four siblings. I guess you cam call me a cradle catholic growing up. We went to mass on Sunday and it wasn’t really an issue of if we were going to mass, but more of when we were going to mass. So, we went to mass every Sunday and had prayers before meals, but we didn’t really pray together as a family. The main imagery that I remember the most was that we prayed rosaries in the car. My dad would always shut the radio off and say, “How about some LRA?” I would say what is LRA? and he was like, “A little rosary action.” My dad would always use these weird acronyms, but that was a main one that I recall. I grew to be really fond of the rosary. That was the main part of prayer that helped me grow in my faith life, but overall, we were catholic by name and not exactly living it out. I went to Catholic school throughout my whole life, still am. I guess I always had the knowledge of being a Catholic and knowing what it entails, but never really put it into practice. Especially in high school, it was a pretty rough time. In high school, I grew pretty arrogant of the faith especially my senior year. I felt like the church could not tell me anymore than I already knew. I was very prideful. Then this past summer I kind of had this crisis because I was freaking out about whether or not I should transfer schools. I didn’t even make the decision to come to Franciscan until July, so it was really crunch time. I was like, “What’s going on? Am I really going to transfer?” The last place I thought I would be is Franciscan because I already went through 12 years of Catholic school. Knowing that the church has so much more to offer than I think it does, has given me a lot to learn and that’s so cool to be able to do that here at Franciscan. So, I guess I went through a tough time in order to know that there’s a lot more out there to learn. God works in mysterious ways like that. And that’s where I am at now. I have grown exponentially and I am discerning about entering into the Priestly Discernment Program next semester.”

Was there a time that you chose your faith?:

“Not really because the faith was born into me since I was raised Catholic. I guess we know of the age of reason in the church, But a time I had to choose the faith had to be the summer going into my freshman year of college at Ohio Northern. I really had to get up and make the decision to go to mass or to go and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There was no one there to say, “Are you praying?” since I was attending a Methodist school. It was Christian in name, but you wouldn’t know it was Methodist if you stepped on the campus. I really chose it when I started discerning priesthood at Ohio Northern. I started meeting with a spiritual director who gave me so much advice. He really regimented daily prayer which was something I struggled with. So, I guess if you want a date that I chose the faith and chose to truly live it out daily, I would say August of 2016. In regards to being Catholic, actually living it out took about 18 years.”

Who is God to you?:

“God is really mysterious to me because when I first started praying, I was elated with the very sense that God is actually out there. My parents and everyone else told me that God loves me and God exist, but I never really knew that in my heart because I never took the time to pray or to build a relationship with him. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever, just sitting in front of an empty chair not being able to hear anything visible. The fact that the loudest voice can only be heard inaudibly is the most important to me. Recognizing that God is real and that He loves me was manifested over the summer during Eucharistic adoration. I know, that as a human race, we will never fully understand God and I don’t think anyone ever will, but to know that He is a father, He is in the trinity, and that He infinitely loves me and everyone individually, uniquely, and knows each of us to our very core, very fiber of our being still blows my mind. Today, this especially blows my mind because I came to know God through the book of Job where there is a lot of suffering. But at the end, Job is so angry and he says, “Why am I suffering, why are you making me suffer?” God has a response and reveals to him everything of the universe and the premise of that is: He can do that with everything on earth including you and me. That is how He knows you and I specifically and wants the very best for us. It just takes our cooperation and our “YES.” He is merciful, all powerful, all knowing, Almighty, and all loving.”

How has God worked in your life?:

“God has worked through people in my life. He has worked through numerous and several interactions that I’ve had with prayer. For some reason God always works with me through others. Let’s say priesthood, for example, it took maybe a dozen or so people to say “You’d be a good priest,” to get it through my head and believe it. At first, I was thinking, “I am not worthy of this,” but no priest really is worthy of that. Let alone, I didn’t know that lay people, ourselves, are part of the royal common priesthood, so we are priests. I am discerning this calling to possibly be a priest of Jesus Christ, a ministerial priest, is mind boggling to me. In a sense, I see God working in my life through other people, whether that be me reaching out to them or God working through them to get what He needs across to me because I am a very stubborn and very thick headed person. I don’t notice subtle signs very well and God usually has to smack me in the face with a Divine 2×4, if you will, to get what He wants known across to me.”

Favorite Saint, Why?:

“My favorite Saint, by far, is Saint Therese of Lisieux. I say this because she has been very influential in my call to priesthood and in my discernment so far. I guess this goes back to how God works in my life. He also works through the saints and very explicit signs. I love her novena with the roses. I think that it is phenomenal because for me, that is a very clear sign of “you should be doing this.” This past December I did a novena to her specifically asking her if I should enter seminary after college. The day I finished the novena I was in the parishes Blessed Sacrament Chapel. I come out 10 minutes after I finished the novena and right in the middle of this beautiful vestibule there is a light shining down from a circular window and a beautiful bouquet of red and white roses. I was really kinda scared actually because I didn’t think God was that real and that He listened. HE DOES, just so you know. So, I walked up to the roses and the hair was standing up on the back of my neck. I was getting goosebumps. Tears just started welling up in my eyes and I was like “this is crazy, this is so surreal, but it is real. It’s happening right now.” There was a van outside that says Canterbury Flower Company and it was Christmas season, so I thought they might be coming to pickup flowers. This was eerie because the van’s door was open and it was running but no one was inside the van. I thought maybe that they forgot these flowers, but I look down at the bouquet for maybe 10 seconds and I look back up and the van was gone. That day, I just came to the sense that, “okay, fine,” I know I need to start discerning priesthood and how thankful I was for the knock over the head to do so. St. Therese has been phenomenal. My spiritual director calls her his big sister in Heaven and I was like, “okay, same here, bro. Same here.” She is known for her little way and also for her suffering. She has suffered a lot and my dad calls her “a bad-ass,” and I completely agree because she was very in her monastery. She was a Carmelite. She was cold near the end of life and the description of her bed was just wood, solid, very cold, and no pillow. She had to get up for liturgy of the hours at midnight to complete the canonical hours, so she suffered a lot and I can relate to that a lot because who doesn’t have suffering in their life. When I feel like I’m suffering, which is quite often, I look to her and Jesus, of course, but I look to her especially because I think she knows what I’m going through. She can relate and I can relate to her. Every time I look to her I think, “there’s no way I suffered as much as you have.” So, she’s a model of inspiration, not only for suffering, but also to find joy in the suffering. She reminds me that there is something at the end of this tunnel that God is trying to show me through the suffering. Why that is, I don’t really know, but it’s worked. If we have to suffer through suffering, so be it. In Heaven there is no suffering and in Heaven there is just eternal praise, glory, and love. And I can’t get over that it’s eternal.”

Favorite person from the bible, NOT Jesus. And why?:

“My favorite person would be King David because he showed that man is not perfect. David lusts after Bathsheba, who is the beautiful women bathing on the roof. He immediately goes and has relations with her. He see’s another dudes wife, goes and has sex with her and then murders her husband. The people that we think of in the bible, I sometimes think, they are some foreign people that we have no idea how they lived or what they did, but they were people just like you and I. Sure, they lived in a different time period and era, but they’re humans just like us. They sin and experience life, but David, for me, is very important because it says that he is a man after God’s own heart. That appeals so much to me because masculine spirituality has become so misconstrued with immediate gratification, contraception, pornography, and all these other forms of “being what a real man is,” but that isn’t true. Then Solomon on his death bed says to David,  “I’m about to go the way of all mankind,” meaning he’s gonna die. David responds basically saying, “Take courage and be a man.” So, it took root in me that I need to start living as an authentic man of Christ, which is hard. It means speaking the truth with love. When speaking the truth not everyone will always like you, but that’s what I love about David, he spoke the truth with love. People didn’t always like him, but so what? So what, if people aren’t gonna like you. They usually come to grips later on and that occurred throughout my life. David, in the Bible, is a great source of masculinity that I have been looking for. My dad, of course, is a true blessing. To have a man like him in my life is a blessing because he shows me how to actually be a man. David exemplifies that even more for me because it’s the Word of God. Not trying to hate on my dad or anything, but my dad can only teach me so much and the Word of God teaches me even more.”

What are ways that you live out your faith daily?:

“I would say in short form, through prayer. Especially with going into this priestly discernment program, living the faith through the prayers they’re required to do. Morning and evening prayer, a holy hour, Marian consecration, daily mass. I think prayer is the foundation for me so I can be the man, the student, the son, the brother, the athlete that I need to be. Yeah, prayer sets the foundation of my daily life, and it’s not optional. And that’s what I get strung up with, and stressed out with sometimes, because when I miss prayer, and I do because we’re all human, I feel really bad and I let that guilt trip me up. It’s humbling to think that I’m not perfect, and no one is besides the heavenly Father. But through prayer flows all the graces necessary that I need to live out in my daily life. Such as talking to someone about my faith, bringing the word of God to them, or the message of salvation. I guess its in the small ways that I encounter living my faith in my daily life, rather than the in the large aspect. But prayer is at the foundation of it. ”

Is there something you wish everyone knew about God?:

“I wish that everyone would know more about God, the Holy Spirit. God, the power of the Holy Spirit, because I was even like this before I went on the Born of the Spirit retreat we both went on here at Franciscan. I think He is the neglected part of the Trinity. It wasn’t that well expanded upon in high school. There was mainly God, the Father and of course, Jesus, because it is centered around Christ, but they each have a distinct character. The Holy Spirit has been very influential, since being on that retreat, in helping me pray and encounter others in my daily life that I need to bring my faith into. There are days that I don’t feel like praying or doing homework, or writing a letter to someone who needs it. So, the Holy Spirit empowers me to live out my faith in ways I didn’t know was possible and He also empowered me to love more. So, I would say I wish people knew more about the power of the Holy Spirit. He does get a bad rap because the Holy Spirit is very charismatic in and of Himself and I think people look at that and say, “Wow, that’s really weird and strange,” and then, they don’t want to surrender themselves to the Holy Spirit. But once you lose yourself for His sake you will gain so much more.”

Can you close in prayer?:

“Most high and glorious God, may You enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us right faith, certain hope, perfect charity, sense, and understanding Lord that we may carry out Your Holy and True commandment. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.”

 

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