Saturday, October 4, 2008

The memorial of St. Francis

Greetings to you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ. My name is Kevin, an unworthy sinner who was accepted as a seminarian by the Diocese of Sacramento by the grace of God. This is my first post and by way of introduction, I will relate some of my own conversion story.

I was born on December 22, 1980, the only child of Larry and Karen. This means I never learned how to share my toys or get along well with others (just kidding.) I don't come from any particular faith background. At the time my parents were both believing Christians in the sense that they believed in God and that Jesus Christ was His only Son who died for our sins. Other than that, it never really affected any of our lives very much then. For kindergarten and first grade I attended a private, non-denominational Christian school. It closed due to lack of funds at the end of my first grade year, so from that point on I attended public schools in a little town outside of Sacramento called Cameron Park. For those of you who know the area, you'll pass through it if you're driving east on US 50 towards Lake Tahoe.

After I graduated from high school in 1999 I enlisted in the US Army. During basic training at Fort Benning, GA, I suffered a heat stroke. While I was in the hospital and connected to the EKG, the doctor discovered I have a heart disorder that I had not known about before. So the Army decided to medically discharge me and send me home. At the time I was sorely disappointed, but looking back on it now I believe God was acting in my life. Clearly He did not mean for me to be that kind of soldier. If I had not been discharged when I was, I would be in Iraq or Afghanistan right now, and knowing me, I would have surely been injured or killed through some foolish mistake.

All through those years I never lost my faith in God completely, though at times it was especially dim. While I was in the hospital, thinking about what I could possibly do with my life, the only book I had to read was the Gideons Bible inside my bedside stand. At the time I didn't think much of it, but I took it up and began to read whatever random chapters and verses were there when I opened it. I think God was reaching out to me then because when I came back home, dejected at my apparent failure, a thought occurred to me: I really ought to resume the practice of the faith. At the time I was thinkig more about myself, and finding a direction for my life, but God can work with us even if our motives are not solely based on the love of Him.

I enrolled at my local community college with a mind towards transferring to a four year university later on. History has always been my favorite subject so my goal, at first, was to acquire graduate degrees in history so I could teach at the university level myself. I took whatever jobs I could find to help pay my way: as a clerk in the college bookstore, and as a reporter for my local newspaper. All the while I was studying whatever I could find about Christianity. Open the phone book and look under "church" and you'll appreciate my problem. There are so many different denominations - which one was the "right" one? Were they all essentially the same? Did God care which one you joined? This was in early 2002, right around the time the horrible scandals in Boston were first coming to light.

Everyone around me started saying things like, "Well what do you expect when the Church expects celibacy from grown men? Only perverts or weirdos could do that, etc. etc." It occurred to me then that all of my life I had heard this sort of casual anti-Catholicism. I knew from my history studies that for a long time, Americans thought of the Church as being weird or too foreign. I started wondering what it was the Church said and did that inspired such things. So I picked up an encyclopedia of Catholic doctrine.

I was enthralled. At first I just looked up the usual subjects: Papal supremacy, devotion to the saints, moral theology. Then I found myself compelled to read on other subjects too. Before long I had read the entire book and I wanted more. Grace builds on nature, so I think God worked through my love of history. I was especially fascinated by the lives of the saints and how everything we believe was worked out at various councils. Through the grace of God, I came to accept the truth of Catholicism. I realized that it was the Church founded by Christ Himself, whose leadership He entrusted to St. Peter and his successors. So I drove to the closest parish, Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills, and said, "Let me in!" This was in the summer of 2004. I was enrolled in the RCIA program and on Easter Vigil, March 26, 2005, I was baptized, confirmed, and received my first Holy Communion.

That is my conversion story. Some day I will share my vocation story as well. I've been at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, CA for a little over a month now and I love it here. Midterms are rapidly approaching (where does the time go?!) Until next time my dear brothers and sisters, may almighty God bless you all. St. Francis, pray for us.

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