Vicar Review, Edition 18: Woven Fidelity In 1989, a week after my confirmation, I received an unexpected letter from my Bishop. Little did I realize that this letter contained a seed that would fall deep into my heart and that would slowly but steadily begin to grow. Seventeen years later, on June 3rd, 2006, that seed finally blossomed as I was ordained a deacon in Rome. *(The author is in this photo; he is in clergy suit, to the left of Fr Onyeabor. He gave us a tour of the Vatican museum, Dec. 2005) Yet seventeen years ago, the priesthood was the farthest thing from my mind… until that letter. Bishop James Griffin wrote me a personal letter asking me to think about the priesthood. Startled, I wondered why on earth he would have done such a thing. “Me? A priest? Impossible! I am going to be a famous artist and besides, I like girls. He must be mistaken. It’s obvious that I am not called to be a priest.” At the same time, however, I could not deny a hidden attraction to this calling. I loved my faith. I love helping people come closer to Christ. The priesthood would be a life full of joy. “No! What am I thinking? I have too much talent to toss aside if I become a priest!” In the letter, Bishop Griffin kindly invited me to a dinner at his rectory. I had never even been to the cathedral, let alone inside the Bishop’s rectory. Deep inside my heart of hearts, a tiny whisper piped up and said, “Go!” but then the storms of fear roared over the little voice and assured me that this was an absurd investment of my time for someone who is obviously not called to the priesthood. “But if I am not called, why am I so scared just to go to dinner?” In the end, I was conquered by my fear and I wrote a reply thanking the Bishop for his invitation but declining. How foolish I was! Perhaps years of running away from my vocation could have been avoided if I would have had just a kernel of courage in that moment. Regardless, I ran. The voice of that letter, however, would endure. Six years I ran from the echo of that letter. The thought would never leave me, though I was really good at distracting myself with lots of fun. When the passions of youth would subside and a moment of silence and recollection would rise up, the idea of the priesthood would echo. I could not escape our Lord’s persistence. During the Easter Vigil Mass of 1995, I finally had the courage that I lacked six years prior. I resolved to give Christ a chance despite the fact that my art career was taking off and I had the girl of my dreams who wanted to marry me. I gave God a tiny window of opportunity to speak and he took it. When I opened my door, Christ burst it and stole away with my heart. Eleven years later, last June 3rd, I would be ordained a deacon in Rome at St Paul’s-outside-the-walls the day before Pentecost. Life as a deacon and future priest of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift I could ever imagine. The joy our Lord grants to his priests and deacons is a slice of heaven upon earth. How much I love the priesthood and how I want to proclaim God’s love to the nations! I have no regrets about my decision and would never change my life for anything. My boats are burned and my heart is branded. My life is Christ. Nothing else will due. On this joyful occasion, gratitude overwhelms my heart. First to my best friend Jesus Christ whose infinite patience and mercy is my constant support and solace. Yet equally so I thank Bishop Griffin. He planted the seed of who I am today. The echo of his shepherd’s voice drew me little by little to the arms of Christ. With heartfelt sincerity, I thank you Bishop Griffin for your time, attention and prayers, despite my fear and running. You have led me to the greatest treasure of time and eternity. How can I ever thank you sufficiently? But how was it the Bishop knew about my vocation? This answer deserves my gratitude as well. The careful eye of my teachers, many of whom were Franciscan Sisters, were the ones who detected my calling even before I could fathom the idea. Being totally dedicated to God’s service, they could spot the signs of a young man called to the same complete gift of self to the Church. Thank you dear Sisters for your fidelity and example. I hope that my life as a priest will radiate the same joy and dedication that I always saw in you. And finally, I thank all my family and friends, both my immediate family and my family of Regnum Christi. I could write volumes declaring the wonders God has worked in my life through each of you. Our Lord has chosen that our lives would touch and that together, through our prayers for each other, we would all persevere in our calling. In a real way, Christ has woven our vocations together; our lives form the threads of a single tapestry. After eleven years of priestly formation, I know that I have remained faithful not due to my own strength, but to yours –your prayers, your love, your support. Your fidelity has been my fidelity. Truly you are a living part of my deaconate ordination. My gratitude to all of you will spill over into eternity. Now, as a deacon, I look back upon my life and see how the finger of God has brought all these threads together to weave, strand by strand, this marvelous vocation. In 1989, the letter from my bishop, just days after receiving the Holy Spirit in confirmation, was the first strand. In 2006, the day before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the strands came together in a decisive phase. The tapestry is not yet complete –I still have priestly ordination and the rest of my life to continue weaving the great plan of God. Who knows what wonders lie ahead? What precious threads will Christ introduce? All I know is that I trust the skillful hands of the most excellent artist, the King of kings and Lord of lords, my greatest friend and love, Jesus Christ. Blessed be God forever.
A "Da Vinci" Nudge to BelieversMeeting at Angelicum Reflects on Fiction-Reality Tie ROME, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A symposium held at a pontifical university called the movie "The Da Vinci Code" a "sign of the times" which challenges all believers to demonstrate their faith.The symposium at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, was held Wednesday, the day in which the film was presented in at the Cannes Film Festival, in France.The "sign of the times" conclusion was voiced by Dominican Father Bruno Esposito, vice rector of the university, at the meeting on "The Da Vinci Code: Reflection on the Fiction-Reality Relationship."In the debate held at the school, Father Esposito, who is also a professor of canon law, said that "man is not against God but against a mistaken idea of God," and that is why it is necessary to address a phenomenon such as "The Da Vinci Code."Such an engagement, he said, is "not in a spirit of defense or confrontation but as an examination of conscience by believers, who must be committed to a new evangelization."Benedetto Ippolito, a professor of the history of medieval philosophy at the "Roma Tre" university, explained the success of Dan Brown's novel in a cultural context dominated by "conspiracies and mysteries."It is "a scene in which God is absent, in which God is not necessarily denied but lived in another dimension," said the scholar.High priceIppolito, who is also a professor at the University of the Holy Cross, explained that today there is a tendency to "consider Christian truth as a theory or even an invention."This vision implies paying a high price, he said. "The loss of the sense of truth implies the loss of the sense of freedom."On addressing the meeting, Joan-Andreu Rocha Scarpetta, a professor at the Regina Apostolorum university, said that "Dan Brown's work is a cultural thermometer that leads to reflection on contemporary religiosity."In particular, Rocha acknowledged that the novel might cause confusion in people who do not have "the tools of discernment necessary to understand what is behind it."Rocha, who directs Regina Apostolorum's master's program on "Church, Ecumenism and Religions," noted that the books of the New Age current are so successful because they emphasize "believing" without "belonging" and "they present reality as false and truth as esoteric and critical of institutions."Bernardo Estrada, a biblicist from the University of the Holy Cross, defined the Gnosticism of a certain apocryphal gospel of the second century -- which Brown makes ample use of in his novel -- as "the greatest threat Christianity had" because this philosophical-religious current professed the rejection of Christ's death on the cross and resurrection.SignsEstrada assailed the novel's gross distortion of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene."It was a relationship in spiritual harmony," he said. "More than that, Jesus made an exceptional gift to Magdalene, the only one charged with announcing the risen Jesus, even before Peter."Father Esposito, the vice rector, concluded by appealing to believers to "give signs … against the relativism and voids that humanity demonstrates.""The challenge," he said, "is directed to us, ourselves, not to those who sell these books and films." ZE06051805 This article was culled from the Zenit Catholic News org.
Holy See to Press for Christians' Rights in Muslim LandsArchbishop Lajolo Urges Reciprocity for Religious Freedom VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See confirmed its intention to mobilize within the international community in the defense of Christians' fundamental rights in predominantly Muslim countries where religious freedom is denied.Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, confirmed this decision when addressing the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers on the topic "Migration and Mobility from and to Countries of Islamic Majority."Speaking on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Lajolo commented on Benedict XVI's appeal on Monday to Muslim countries to practice reciprocity in the recognition of religious freedom.Reciprocity, as understood by the Holy See, means that, if Christian countries recognize Muslims' freedom of worship, then Islamic nations should likewise recognize a similar right for Christians.However, in many Muslim countries this concept seems to be foreign, lamented Archbishop Lajolo. Such countries, he said, invoke "for their citizens abroad the fullness of rights that, on the contrary, they do not recognize for immigrants of other confessions in their own territory."The situation is forcing Christians to abandon countries of Muslim majority, the Vatican official noted.Thus, the archbishop said that the Holy See will make its voice heard in international organizations and conferences to promote respect for the human rights of immigrants and recognition of a juridical situation proper to the dignity of every person.Archbishop Lajolo added that the Holy See will continue to state its opposition to the use of religion to justify terrorism and violence. ZE06051820
For sometime now, indeed since last tax return days, I have been going through some IRS problems. My tax preparer's error of 2001 to 2003 left me in a mess. She had wrongfully listed me as a Religious with the vow of poverty. This is totally wrong. I need all the prayers from friends and well-wishers, to help resolve this issue. I do not want this to linger longer than necessary, as I leave for York Pennsylvania this August for my CPE Residency program. I do understand that IRS problems do not get resolved as quickly as one would expect, however I trust God is in-charge of things that tend to distress us.