Let me tell you about a young man that had all the faith in the world that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. That he could quench all his cravings for food, hunger, companionship, and success just by working hard and having confidence in himself.
That man received a bachelor’s degree with honors from his state’s flagship university. That man got a job, his own apartment, and within a few months was enrolled into a graduate school program.
That man accomplished anything and everything he set his mind to. Only, what he hadn’t realized was that it wasn’t he who had set his own mind. He did what he felt he was “supposed to do” and was happy knowing he was working toward a goal. He continued to be happy throughout the months leading up to his first day as a graduate student. But something happened in those months that would change his course, change his plans, and change his definition of happiness.
This happy bachelor was awake and alone after midnight and was craving something fun on a Saturday night in July. He wanted to experience something extraordinary. So he got dressed and made his way out towards the popular late night bars. Since he was walking after dark he opted against turning left out of his apartment and walking down the quickest path, but rather turned right out of his apartment and walked up a hill toward the longer path.
The difference between the two paths were that the LEFT path was at the bottom of the hill, followed along a busy street, was not well lit, and ran under a bridge. This is the path that was most common. The RIGHT path was on top of the same hill, followed a street lined with university buildings, residential properties, and campus ministry houses, and was well lit. The RIGHT path was just a little bit longer, but long enough to make the LEFT path more favorable.
Walking on the LEFT path is quick, easy, and short, and usually no thought was put into it. But at that moment, standing in front of his apartment, it was as if he was making a life or death decision. Should I go LEFT or go RIGHT? Should I go up the hill, or down the hill? Ultimately, he chose LIGHT over DARKNESS, turned right and began walking up the hill, following the RIGHT path.
“Wow,” he thought,”I’ve been living here as a graduate now for six weeks, and this is the first time I’ve walked by a church.” He took notice to the Catholic Center and its adjacent chapel, the first of the four ministry houses that would line the path. With each ministry he would pass, thoughts of Jesus, thoughts of God, thoughts of his family crossed his mind. He began to pray, unsure why, but he began to pray a prayer that brought a sense of warmth and comfort that flowed from his heart, and throughout his body.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
With each word he walked further away from his apartment, walked away from the houses of worship, and toward the late night bars. He continued to speak the words of the Lord’s prayer,
“Give us this day our daily bread…”
At this moment, his hand was in his pocket and he was grasping the crumbled bills, enough he calculated for the two Rum and Cokes he would drink that evening. The words he memorized as a child continued off his tongue,
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
He walked pass figures in the night walking to and from the same bars he was headed towards. He walked cautiously around others, and to distract himself thought about friends he might see, and the new friends he might make later that night.
“Lead us not into temptation…”
He never got a chance to finish the prayer or even Amen, as without warning a freight-train wailed on its horn, and beat him to an intersection by about 20 feet. On the other side of the tracks were the bars, the parties, the drinks, the favors, and the companionship he had desired. On this side of the tracks, he had the last words out of his mouth, and the walk past the campus ministry houses to his apartment.
He stood for a moment, as close as he could to the moving train to try and see how long the train was and guess how long he would have to wait before the train left and he could continue with his intentions. But he couldn’t escape the words that repeated throughout his body, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Okay, he thought. He was rooted. But almost as strong as his desire was to reach the bars just 20 minutes earlier in the evening, he had an even stronger desire to head home. So, one step at a time, he walked the way he came – away from the bars, the parties, the drinks, and the companionship. But his mind was racing. “Did God send that train? Was that his way of leading me away from temptation? Was he delivering me from evil? Surely two Rum and Cokes aren’t evil. Surely all my friends that I would encounter aren’t evil.”
As he walked he continued to ponder that night’s encounter, and was interrupted by a train horn that blared louder and longer than the others. He turned around and saw the train had left, the path to the bars again clear. When the sound had stopped, he saw that he was standing just a few feet from the campus ministry buildings. One building in particular had a chapel attached, and a list of Sunday services. He checked the time on his phone, then the times on the display board, “It’s only 1 o’clock? I can make it back up here for a 9 a.m. Mass!” he thought to himself.
Eight hours later, he had rolled out of bed, still wearing what he had planned to wear out, and walked into the chapel. He wasn’t sure why it had taken him so long to not only walk by a church, but walk inside one. He lived less than a block away for six weeks. That number didn’t hold any significance to him until the offering plate came around half-way through mass. He removed the contents in his pockets: His ID, a debit card, and two crumpled bills with featuring presidents by the name of Abraham and George. So, instead of buying two rum and cokes, he felt solace donating that money to the parish, knowing he was thanking God for the previous night’s encounter, and for introducing him to a new community that was rooted in faith.
He didn’t realize it then, but he was inspired to participate in the companionship of the Lord. And the Lord provided friends, the Lord provided parties, and the Lord provided happiness that was unparalleled to what he had been feeling before. The Lord provided guidance through Scripture, through prayer, and through spiritual direction that helped this young man see that he hadn’t accomplished what HE set his mind to do, but he had accomplished what OTHERS had set his mind to do.
Where would that man be now, how happy would he be now if he knew he could achieve not just what he wanted, not just what society wanted, not even what family wanted, but if he knew he could achieve what God wanted him to achieve?
This young man is now on a quest to discern God’s will, and to accomplish God’s will for him. He recently withdrew from his graduate school, left his job, subleased his apartment, and moved in with family. He has found that young adult ministry is a vital component in his life, and that perhaps, a sense of community is as vital to his life as prayer and the sacraments. He is preparing to take a next step in his adventure as soon as he finishes writing this article.
Stay tuned and God Bless.
Jesus said to the disciples, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.