Thanks to the help of some very friendly FOCUS missionaries, I was convinced to attend the FOCUS conference called SEEK in San Antonio, Texas this past January. I had no idea at the time that I would be leaving a different man than the one who boarded the plane to begin with.
As often as I have looked out the window of a Boeing 737 to view the Earth from thirty thousand feet, I have never failed to ask life’s most important questions: “Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I leave my legacy?” For the last two years, I thought the answer to that question was pursuing a degree in landscape architecture, but somewhere deep down, that never felt quite right. I did not know why.
After I touched down at San Antonio International Airport, other college students, missionaries, priests, and nuns helped to open my heart to ministry. During a talk, a sister shared a quote by St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” That was when I realized that the easiest and surest way to make a difference in the world was to simply be who I was made to be. At that point I asked God, who have you made me to be? Amid the conference, I won $250 to go on a FOCUS mission trip, and I interpreted this as God saying, “Have faith; follow me, and I will show you.”
One evening, I was sitting in my bed in the hotel room, reflecting on the experiences I had so far at the conference. I had just finished praying the seventh or eighth day of a Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux, when an epiphany struck me to change my major to philosophy. Then, I thought looking at the checksheet for the major online wouldn’t hurt. That was when I realized that it would not only save me from having to spend an extra two years at college to complete a bachelor’s degree, but I would be able to study something that I was extremely interested in. My mind was soaring, and the whole idea of changing my major excited me so much that I had a hard time falling asleep the next couple nights at the conference.
The next day, I was walking around the conference center when I asked the Lord to direct my steps toward him. This led to my encounter with a brother from the Legionaries of Christ. Over the course of our conversation, I learned that he had also been in architecture at one point but left to discern the priesthood. I went away from that conversation having felt a huge conviction in my heart. Although I had already been discerning the priesthood, I saw this conversation extremely uplifting for my discernment to a religious vocation.
As I was flying on the plane ride home, there was a pilot sitting next to me. He asked me where I saw myself in five years, I told him earnestly, “I see myself living in divine intimacy of Jesus Christ.” I had found the answer to my original questions: Jesus.
The fire which I discovered within me at SEEK continues to burn brightly this day, for choose to live a life dedicated and inspired to serve Christ and His Church. Next year, I plan to live off campus with a group of friends from our local Catholic Campus Ministry. We like to encourage one another in our walk with the Lord. Many of us are also discerning our vocations. Next semester, I will lead my own bible study, and grow deeper into my relationship in discipleship. As the summer draws near, I prepare to go mission to Spain and make my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago using the money I won from the FOCUS missions raffle.
I definitely agree with the words that Saint Pope John Paul II said and was on the back of the bags everyone received at SEEK: “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure”. Even though I must pick up my cross daily and follow Christ, I am excited to see what God will reveal to me in the years to come. So, whether I end up going to seminary, doing missionary work, or following some other unexpected trajectory, I am happy because I know that Christ will be there with me on every flight along the way.