Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fr. Sam Dropped His Net as a Concert Pianist


Sam was picked to be a concert pianist.  His whole life’s ambition was to play the piano.  He had all the potential to become one of the greats.  He also felt another call… He felt deep down the call to the priesthood.  In his last year of high school he had to choose.  He was accepted to a prestigious school of music and would receive a full ride.  He also applied to the seminary.  He couldn’t do both. 

It was the most difficult decision he has ever had to make.  After some time in prayer and even against his parent’s advice, he chose to enter the seminary. 

I got to know Fr. Sam about seven years ago.  At the time he was running a home for those struggling with drug and alcohol dependence.  For over his 40 plus years of priesthood he has helped thousands of men, women, and families heal.  He has literally saved lives and pulled people out of the hell that they were living in. 

He talked with great nostalgia to me about his dream of being a concert pianist, but not once has he regretted his decision follow the Lord in his call to priesthood.  He, like all of us, has his struggles, but he has found such meaning in his life by being a priest for those in need. 

There is no doubt in my mind that God is calling an abundance of young men to the priesthood.  I witnessed the same choices they have had to make… A mother might say: “Go to college first and be successful.  If you can’t make it, then think about the priesthood.”  I know a senior who is looking at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, the most prestigious schools.  I know another senior right now who loves playing basketball.  He’s being offered scholarships to play basketball at Ohio State University – his lifelong dream! 

What if God has a bigger dream? 

You see when Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  They abandoned their nets and followed him. 

They abandoned their nets and followed him. 

When Jesus calls men to the priesthood, often times it is very similar to this.  It is a call to abandon their life’s ambitions.  It may be to abandon the hopes of a career, to abandon the idea of having a family of your own, to abandon the notion of ever having a wife, to abandon old friends, for James and John it even meant abandoning their father.  Notice that their father lets them go.  He probably even had to let go of his dreams of handing on his family business to his sons. 

Any real calling requires letting go and abandoning dreams, even dreams that seem very good. 

What if God could dream bigger? 

The first disciples of Jesus abandoned their nets and followed him.  They would go on to heal the sick, exorcise demons, free those imprisoned and begin the Catholic Church that we know today.  Fr. Sam answered that same call when he abandoned his dreams of being a concert pianist.  However, that dream seems so simple to him now, so small compared to what God has done in and through him as a priest.  Though his fingers rarely ever “tickle the ivory,” they have over and over again touched the Body of Christ.  His hands have been used to bless and anoint, to absolve people of their sins, to touch people in their final moments and commend them into the hands of God.  His hands have been used to hold and bless and reconcile people who have lost their dreams long ago.  His fingers have helped to draw them new dreams of a life of freedom from addiction. 

For the first disciples, for Fr. Sam, and for these young men at the cusp of answering God’s call, each one in giving up their own dreams discovers that God can and does dream bigger.  If God calls and we “drop our nets” we will discover a life beyond anything we could have ever imagined.  In a special way he does this in the call to priesthood. 

Is he calling you?  Remember that God can dream bigger.  Is he calling someone you know?  Remember that God’s hopes and dreams for them are even greater than yours. 

If you are blessed enough in your life to experience the great call to “abandon your nets,” follow him and it will be the greatest decision that you will ever make.  





4 comments:

  1. You sermon today was a topic of discussion between my son Kevin and myself. I think your point is well made but perhaps the message was a bit off point. I was always taught to serarch for what gifts God gave you and use those gifts in a way pleasing to God. If that is the gift of playing the piano, running a small business, being a parent, a teacher, a fireman...or of course, called to a life of service in the priesthood, then answer that call and devote your life to it as your gift back to God. I belive that your sermon was meant to convey that message, but it actually came off sounding like we are not capable of hearing God's calling and making the right choice for ourselves. That we should forget our dreams and our passions and consider the priesthood as the only correct choice. My son, Kevin felt the same way so we had a talk about it. The good news is that your words sparked conversation on the subject and that is always a good thing. I was able to witness, first hand, a young man who recieved the call to the priesthood. I shared a bedroom with him growing up and as my brother we talked about it oftern and I saw just how strong that message can be from God. There was no mistaking that his calling was to serve God. I also know that messages are not always as clear as that particular one. Anyway, I enjoyed your mass today and want to thank you for your hard work. Rick Hobson

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  2. thanks Rick, yeah I thought about it a lot. We should use and develop the gifts that God has given to us, but always at the service of our vocation. That probably should be developed first. We are first called to a vocation of holiness in baptism, from there a primary call to a vocation of Priest, Religious, Single or married. From there a particular vocation within that vocation.

    In no way do I think that everyone is called to the priesthood and should consider that, but for those who are called they must be willing to drop everything for that call.

    How did it come off as we are not capable of hearing God's call?

    What I meant was if someone was called to priesthood, and as your brother experienced it is a deep and profound call, then we should drop our nets and follow that call.

    thanks for your feedback. Fr. Michael

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  3. Father Denk, you have my utmost respect both as a person and as a priest. You have made me return to the church on a regular basis as to be to perfectly honest, it is nice to see some "young blood" in the Catholic Church. As I am 50 something (ha ha) I grew up with much older priests I could not at times relate to. I felt dictated to and not spoken to. Please don't leave St. Joseph's (although I do have a fondness for Father Martello). You are going a good job of inspiring me. I am jobless and looking everyday. Sometimes I am so down I have nothing but my faith to keep me going. I do realize this is temporary and this too shall pass. God Bless You, and me and keep up the fantastic job.

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  4. Thank you Kitty!

    I can only imagine how delighted the Lord is to have you with Him every Sunday. Keep trusting in Him... "the world as we know it is passing away" as we heard in the second reading. "This too shall pass". Trust in Him and keep searching... if you need help or are "down" too much - I'm here for you... there's a lot of good supportive people in the church too - reach out to them.

    Thank you for your kind words and affirmation, Fr. Michael

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