As a Pastor’s son, I spent countless hours of my childhood playing around protestant churches before and after worship services. Faith was the center of our family’s culture, and it became more personalized through years of Christian summer camp, mission trips, and playing drums in the church band. My college years in ministry were filled with moments of peace and joy that sparked a greater desire to shepherd and point others to Jesus Christ. I acquired a BA in cross-cultural ministry to increase my ability to minister, which only fostered my desire to study theology. Two years in a protestant Master of Divinity program led to more questions than satisfactory answers. Theological topics and viewpoints I once claimed no longer sat well with me. I eventually realized how much my worldview was filled with secular ideas about God, the church, and what it means to be human, so I searched for the Truth.
While I was stepping away from my former beliefs, my dad was also wrestling with concerns about biblical interpretation and church authority structures. Our frustrations and questions led us to explore the history of Christianity outside of the seminary curriculum. We did not waver in our love for Christ, but we referenced this period as our “crisis of church.” My dad watched hours of Bishop Barron’s videos daily, and he would occasionally send them to me. We stumbled upon other Catholic voices online like Fr. Mike Schmitz and Pints with Aquinas. My curiosity grew enough to accept my dad’s invitation to attend a catechism study group at a local parish with him. I had never heard of the Catechism before and was amazed with its clear articulation of the Christian faith. After arriving home, I immediately bought the Kindle version online and read it deeply into the night. I was not ready to accept all of the Church’s teachings, but I wanted to listen to more Catholics.
A few months later, I visited Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri with my dad and brother, Jesse, for my birthday. Jesse and I had never seen monks in person before, and I was compelled by their willingness to sacrifice so much for the Lord. While in Abbey’s basilica, my dad directed my attention to the red candle suspended above the entrance to a side room. My dad reminded me of the Church’s teaching of Christ’s Substantial Presence in Holy Communion. After Mass, I walked into that side room and stared at the Tabernacle. I thought, “God is this where you are? Is this who you are?” – this began my journey of visiting Mass at various parishes around Kansas City for the next several months. My curiosity grew into a deep love for the Goodness, Beauty, and Truth of the Catholic Church. I felt called to be a pastor before I learned that Christ is with us in the Holy Eucharist. Accepting this revelation of Christ’s intimate gift of self in the Mass has only strengthened my desire to shepherd others with love, as a priest.