YOU ARE MADE FOR A PURPOSE
You are unique! There is only one of you. There has never been anybody the same as you before and there never will be anybody the same as you again. You are a complete oneoff, created by God in his image and likeness. And God did not create you just to make up the numbers. He didn’t create you randomly or accidentally. No, he made you because he loves you and therefore you are planned and absolutely necessary to God. He tells us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). I like to imagine God smiling, ‘knowing’ us before we are even born. Smiling at the beautiful plan he has for each of our lives. The story I want to share with you is how I discovered God’s beautiful plan for my life. “God has a plan for my life?” you may ask yourself. Yes he does; a beautiful plan. And just as you are unique, so the plan that God has for your life is also unique. He wants you to be joyful, happy and full of love.
I WAS RESTLESS
But before I begin my story, I want you to imagine for a moment what it must feel like to live without ever knowing God’s plan for your life, without ever becoming the beautiful person God created you to be. It must be so sad. You would never quite feel happy, never quite feel fulfilled, and never quite feel yourself. Something deep inside of you would always be restless. Well this is just how I felt as I graduated from university and entered my twenties. When I was younger, I never once asked God what his plan was for my life. It never even occurred to me that God might have a plan for my life. And even if he did, I had my own plans and what could be better than my plans for my life? My plans would make me happy; they would make me successful, and perhaps even rich! What could be better than this? And so I followed my own plans and to some extent they did begin to make me successful and wealthy, but they certainly did not make me happy.
I LANDED A DREAM JOB
After leaving university I applied for a job as a trainee Chartered Accountant. I’d heard that the salary doubled within three years provided you passed all the exams and this was my motivation for becoming an Accountant. Well I passed the exams and after three years qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Then I landed a dream job in the finance department of a dynamic and growing company and after a couple of years I was promoted to Finance Director, all by the age of 28. This meant that I was responsible for all the financial decisions of the company. Initially I thrived on this. I worked in London and flew regularly to Hong Kong for business meetings (and parties). I played the role and lived the lifestyle of a young executive.
IT WAS NOT REALLY ME
But over time, I began to realise that despite the generous salary, the lifestyle and the sense of status and success, I felt unhappy. I sometimes felt lonely and was often quiet and sad when I was alone or with my family. I felt like I was wearing a mask, that I’d adopted a lifestyle and personality that was not really me. But for all of this, I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy. After all I had everything, or so I told myself. I had plenty of money, success and status, but none of these things made me happy. It was around this time that I went on my first ever pilgrimage. I’d been brought up in the Catholic faith and always went to Mass, but I’d never really connected with my faith. Church was just somewhere I went for an hour on a Sunday morning but the rest of the week it had little relevance to my life. So how the Lord managed to get me onto a pilgrimage is something of a mystery. I think the prayers and example of my parents played a large part, but however it happened, in 2006 I ended up on a pilgrimage to a place called Medjugorje, in Bosnia Herzegovina.
A SHORT AND SIMPLE PRAYER
I remember vividly the bus journey from the airport. It was dark, cold and wet. I felt anxious and nervous, but also excited. I didn’t know it at the time but this was to be a very significant bus journey, because it was on this bus that I first opened my heart to Jesus and began to discover his plan for my life. The way it began to unfold was by no means dramatic though, I simply started to pray! I can still remember the words that I prayed. My prayer was to Our Lady and I simply said: “Please Mary, help me to open my heart to your Son”. That was it, this was my prayer, it was short and simple but it was one of the most important prayers I’ve ever prayed because it came straight from my heart.
I FELT PEACEFUL
I was amazed at how this prayer was answered. Within a few days I felt joyful, peaceful and happy. I couldn’t remember feeling this happy and at peace before. The mask I had put on started to slip and I began to discover my true self and God’s beautiful plan for my life. It’s difficult to describe how it happened, it just seemed to dawn on me, somehow I realised that God might want me to be a Priest! It felt like a new thought, a new idea, but also that it had always been there, something I’d always known. It seemed to rise up inside my heart from somewhere deep within me and yet it also seemed to come from elsewhere, from God. You want me to be a Priest? … Me? … A Priest?! I must confess I was terrified by the prospect. Why on earth would I want to be a Priest? How does one become a Priest? What would people think? I’d have to give up my career! Everyone would think I’m crazy!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Wisdom 3:5-6
I LET GO OF MY PLANS
God seemed to be asking so much of me and holding out so little in return. How wrong I was! God was actually revealing his beautiful plan for my life. He was showing me how to be joyful, how to be happy and how to love. I was afraid because I was not yet in a position where I could trust in God and his plan for my life. At first, I struggled to let go of my plans and to allow God to make me happy. When I returned to work after the pilgrimage something had changed deep within me. At first I tried to ignore any thought of the priesthood, but it kept coming back to me until eventually I began to think seriously about it. Could I really be a priest? Could I live the life? Could I be happy as a Priest? Is that why God created me? These were the sort of questions I was asking and the answer to each one was YES!
THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE
About a year later I finally said yes to God’s beautiful plan for my life and left my home, career, lifestyle and all my plans behind and entered seminary, where men train to be priests. I was finally ordained as a Catholic Priest on 13 July 2013. This was the happiest day of my life! I can honestly say that I have never once regretted giving up my plans and following the Lord. It wasn’t that my plans were bad; I have friends who are Accountants and love their jobs. But the problem was that it wasn’t God’s plan for me. It wasn’t why God created me.
BE WHO YOU ARE MEANT TO BE
God created each of us for a very specific purpose. Saint Catherine of Sienna once said “Be who you are meant to be and you will set the whole world ablaze!” God wants you to set the world ablaze by your life, by your love. I now know that God wants me to do this by being a Priest. The question is: what is God’s beautiful plan for your life?
Written by Lee Marshall