I first heard the call to the priesthood shortly after graduating college. At that time, I taught sixth grade English and Social Studies at Clarke Middle School in Lexington, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching, I coached soccer, basketball, and baseball.
On a beautiful June day in 2016, I was on my way to coach a baseball game. As I was struggling to herd my middle school team onto the school bus, one of my colleagues came up to me crying hysterically. A bit concerned and uncomfortable by her tears, I managed to ask her what was wrong. Though I did not know it at the time, her response to my question would change my life forever.
Crying and gasping for breath, she struggled to say, “Peter, my brother in California got into a terrible accident. My mom and I are getting on a plane in an hour because the doctors said he will not make it through the night. Will you pray for him because he has no one to pray for him? My brother is going to die!”
The pain in her voice was piercing. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of urgency to offer prayers. As she walked away, I thought about the utter desperation she must be feeling. In this unspeakable suffering, she felt like there was no way for her to reach God. Why did she feel the need to tell me this? What could I even do about it? Would God even hear my prayers for this dying man? All these thoughts were racing through my head. I found it difficult to coach the baseball game. All I could think about was the pain in her voice.
After the game, I decided to drive to the closest Catholic church. Expecting it to be locked, I shook the door handle. To my surprise, the church was open, so I went in to offer a prayer. I knelt in the front row and I begged God to help my friend and her brother. I told Him that if my friend’s brother made it through the night, I would come back again tomorrow. By the grace of God, my friend’s brother survived the first night. Sure to stay true to my word, I returned to the church the next day and made the same prayer. This pattern continued for two weeks.
Throughout those two weeks, I discovered an important truth about prayer. In the words of Saint Augustine, “prayer never changes God, it changes us.” In other words, through these prayers, God was drawing me into a relationship with Him. I started to see that God loved me and He created me for a specific reason. More specifically, I started to realize that what I was doing was the job of the priest. Stated plainly, the priest exists to offer prayer and sacrifice for the world, especially for those who feel they have no one to pray for them. The priest helps those who feel forgotten reach God. God calls a man to the priesthood so he can make other friends with God.
This realization gave a new vigor and purpose to my day. Through the grace of God, I started to see everything that happened to me as a way to commune with God. As I knelt in that empty church, begging God to help my friend and her brother, I felt so close to Him. Everything in my life, even the bad things, started to make sense. I could see how He was preparing me to go on a great quest to save souls. It was so mysterious, but when I looked at the tabernacle, I had a strong sense that He wanted to use me, that I mattered to Him. I could sense that He was inviting me to pursue something big. I could not explain everything about this, but I trusted Jesus.
Three weeks to the day after the accident, my friend’s brother passed away. Though he was a lapsed Catholic, before he died, he was anointed by a priest. I believe that God used my prayers to ensure that he was visited by a priest before he went before God. This was yet another sign to me that priests are essential in God’s plan for salvation.
To all the young men reading this blog, never forget that supernatural life begins and ends in the hands of the priest. God entrusts His people into the hands of ordinary men like you and me. Priests exist to introduce Jesus to every human person. It really is that simple. Slowly but surely, God convinced me of this truth in the summer of 2016. He used a tragedy to begin this process. For this reason, I love Saint Paul’s words when he says, “All things work for the good, for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
On May 20th, while I am lying prostrate on the Cathedral floor, minutes before I will be ordained a priest, I will think back to that beautiful June day. God used the tragic news I received that day to bring about my priestly vocation. As only God can, He brought about good from evil. I look forward to dedicating my life of prayer to those who feel like they have “no one to pray for them.” Young men, you too should consider joining me in this great mission. This is absolutely what our Church and our world needs.
Peter grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts with his two sisters and three brothers. In his free time, He enjoy playing and watching sports. he also enjoys hiking, skiing, and reading. He first heard the call to the priesthood shortly after graduating college and was ordained a Transitional Deacon for the Archdiocese of Boston on June 4th. God willing, He was ordained a priest on May 20th.