As a young man, Fr. Jason Smith loved watching sport. He considered ice hockey to be divinely inspired. He thought that it was a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after one particular game that took him by surprise and led him to realise that God was calling him to become a priest.
I Missed Sunday Mass
During my first year at college I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends to watch the Ice Hockey games. One Saturday after a great win for my team and a long celebration, I returned home in the small hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon. Stumbling downstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go”. Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”
An Attractive Girl passed Me a Note
It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little, people began to filter in. Then I noticed an attractive girl sitting a few pews behind me. Seeing her I thought, “How is it that I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence!” I decided that the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending that it happened all the time.
Invited to a Prayer Group
When I got home I took the note out of my pocket and opened it wondering what she had written. It read something like this: “It’s good to see someone young attending daily Mass. You must really love your faith! I want to let you know about a group of young people who pray and study scripture on Wednesday evenings. If you would like to come, here is my number.” I decided I could find time in my packed schedule to go.
True Devotion to Mary
That’s when it occurred to me that I hadn’t seriously looked into my Catholic faith since my Confirmation. What would I say? What would I pray? Where was my Rosary? I found it stuffed in the bottom dresser drawer along with a pamphlet of prayers. As to what I would say, I went to my Dad’s study and checked out his library. It had books on music, history, politics but the largest section was on religion. I found one book called, “True Devotion to Mary”. It seemed like a good place to start since it was short.
My first Encounter with a Saint
I never read beyond the introduction, but the book changed my life. It explained how St Louis de Montfort, a priest who tirelessly preached the Gospel and underwent extraordinary trials, spread devotion to Mary throughout France. It was my first encounter with the life of a saint. I marvelled how someone could dedicate himself entirely to Christ, even to the point of heroism. It was then that I renewed the resolution I had made two years earlier to pray and sincerely live my faith.
The Priesthood Entered my Mind
A few months later I went on a retreat with the youth group. It was the first time the priesthood entered my mind. At a Mass, during the consecration, as I gazed at the elevated host, I thought to myself —in words that were my own, but which carried a resonance I will never forget— ‘if there is one thing I should do, it’s that’. It was the defining moment of my calling. I was taken entirely by surprise. I knew I had to look into the priesthood, but I didn’t know how or where to start.
To cut a long story short, the same girl who gave me the note in church then gave me a brochure on the Legionaries of Christ. It had testimonies of the young men who had entered the year before. I read it and was convinced. I called and asked for an application and shortly afterwards I went to the Seminary and started training for the priesthood. My younger brother followed the next year
Called by His Grace
Since my ordination the years have passed by like a whirlwind. There is much more I could write, but the essential is simple: Christ crossed my path, called, and by his grace — definitely not my own strength— I found the courage to drop everything and follow him. I have never looked back.
I can hardly believe I have arrived at the foot of the altar. It seems almost a dream; that I’ll wake up, finding myself back in college, late for a hockey game. But it’s true. God’s plans are far beyond, and far better, than our own.
Written by Fr. Jason Smith