A friend of mine has just announced that he has answered the call to the Priesthood, and been accepted into the seminary!
He doesn’t know about this blog (none of my close friends do save one), so I won’t mention his name. But I will tell you a bit about him so you can understand why I’m thrilled.
First is the slight sense of slight unreality about it all. Mark, as we’ll call him, and I are not close friends, but we’re definitely more than acquaintances. Mark, in fact, was the star of the first show I ever got a significant role in; he was El Gallo in my high school’s production of “The Fantasticks” (the one who sings “Try to Remember”). The show only had an eight person cast, so everybody became fairly close with each other, and we actually had a couple of scenes of direct face to face dialogue. So I knew Mark well and definitely consider him a friend.
It’s hard to describe Mark to people who never met him, and I don’t want to get too detailed either. He was a tall guy with a deep voice. He probably could have been intimidating if he wanted to be, but he wasn’t. I only remember him raising his voice once, when our cast was fooling around some way or another. I don’t remember what he said, but whatever it is we all felt immediately guilty and got back to our places without further distraction. He had that effect on you.
I mentioned a long time ago that I had one friend who I was always intensely jealous of; that friend is not Mark, though it well could have been. At graduation, he must have gotten the equivalent of five free rides to college. Everybody loved him, and I mean everybody; I literally can’t even think of a reason somebody would have to dislike him. He was even friends with the teachers, and this somehow improved rather than lessened his social standing. He was just that kind of guy
But I feel like I’m not doing this right; like I’m describing an idol, not a person. Perhaps two stories will help hit home why everybody loved him and, at the same time, why this all feels slightly unreal.
Both stories take place backstage during the school production of “The Wizard of Oz” (he was the Tin Man; I was the Wizard). At one point, a group of us were fooling around some way or another the way high schoolers tend to, when this exchange occurred:
Girl Number 1: Oh my God! I just aborted a hypothetical baby!
(Mark walks in while she says this)
Mark: Go with God.
And then he walked out and left us all in stitches.
The second time, Mark was having a conversation with a group of people – whether I was included or just witnessed it, I can’t recall. His younger brother, also in the cast, was something of a ladies man, in some ways the opposite of him (and in others extremely similar). In the background his brother – let us say John – took out his phone and got a photo of himself with his arms around two giggling girls.
Mid-conversation he runs up to Mark. The exchange went like this:
(Mark is currently speaking. John runs up.)
John: DUDE DUDE DUDE
(Mark stops talking, and John shoves the photo of him with the giggling girls in his face)
(Goes back to his previous conversation as if nothing had happened)
This was the Mark I knew. He had a dry, sardonic wit, and if you talked to him you learned quickly that he was hilarious.
He was also not, shall we say, entirely Priest-like. He certainly went to the school prom, and if I remember correctly with a girl he considered more than a friend. What else happened, I cannot say and don’t want to know.
Perhaps most importantly – Mark was and is incredibly devoted to Catholicism. He was a member of the Columbian Squires, the teenage branch of the Knights of Columbus (as was I), and its leader. He went to the March for Life every year, went each Easter season to go to a Mass at a local eastern Catholic Church, and was practically personal friends with our theology teacher (a brilliant man who along with Dr. Feser instilled in me a love for theology and the logical side of faith). I know that today he often volunteers with the Sisters of Charity, and have seen him occasionally championing their various legal causes (generally relating to Obamacare forcing them to fund contraception).
With a Church in crisis and modernism arrayed against us on all sides, men like Mark are exactly who we need in the priesthood. We should be so blessed that everyone who joins is like him.
One last thing: I had a conversation recently with a friend about this. Paraphrased, this is how it went:
Me: Did you hear that Mark is becoming a Priest? That’s fantastic news!
Friend: Wow! Yes it is. I’m kind of surprised.
Me: Well, of all the people we knew, he was probably the most likely one.
Friend: Yeah, I guess. Him and you, actually.
Words for me to think about…