I have never actually told this story before to anyone but my wife.
In the spring of '09, I studied abroad in Gaming, Austria with 150+ classmates from FUS. One of the big trips of the semester is a ten-day excursion to Rome/Assisi which we went on around March.
As you might know, St. Francis famously received his call to "Rebuild My Church" from Jesus who spoke to him from the Crucifix hanging in the church of San Damiano. That same Crucifix, today, hangs in a side chapel at the Basilica of St. Clare.
On one of our first days, we had a chance to spend some time in prayer before the original San Damiano cross. We were told that it has become a tradition to "flip" in the Bible three times to receive a word from God regarding your mission in His Church. Being a Catholic college student, and classically anxious about my path in life, I decided not to miss the opportunity. I pulled open my small travel bible and flipped it open. The opening pages of John's Gospel fell before me and my eyes were pulled to a verse at the bottom of the page, John 1:23, "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'"
My heart was struck. Following my radical conversion at age 18, I had always wanted to lead people to the life-giving relationship with Jesus that I had discovered as the meaning of all human existence so I was thrilled to receive this confirmation of that from the Lord. Full-hearted, I closed my Bible and flipped again. I checked the chapter at the top of the page, Luke chapter 3. This time my eyes were pulled to two verses, verses 3 and 4, in the middle of the page, "He went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths."
I couldn't believe it. In two different Gospels, I had flipped to basically the same verse. Looking back now, I can't even remember what the third verse I flipped to was because I was so shook by had just transpired. Ever since that moment, I have held in my heart the conviction that God wants me to tell people about Him and help others to do the same.
Here is where the big news comes in. This story has run through my mind over the last month and a half since I told my parish that I would be leaving at the end of December because I will be going full-time to dedicate all of my work energies to running my not-for-profit apostolate L'Alto Catholic Institute while continuing to travel to tell people about Jesus at the same time.
L'Alto was launched January 2017 as a way to focus my energies at reaching out to the Church to help Her take up in a renewed way Her perennial mission given to her by Christ to form disciples. Often, it is sad to say, we have failed to properly live up to that call to help people in and out of our parish communities encounter Jesus in a life-changing way, be nurtured to full Christian spiritual maturity, and be sent on mission to bring others the saving message of the Gospel.
In our wildest prognostications, we did not expect L'Alto to grow as quickly as it has. The demands for L'Alto's Parish Partnership, our nine-month parish culture initiative, as well as our parish missions and School of Prayer formation series have meant that I have spent the past months scrambling to cover all of the evangelistic responsibilities that God has placed in front of me. Discerning in concert with my wife, Maggie, we decided that God was asking us to focus more of our attention and energies on continuing to support and grow the mission of L'Alto and starting January 1, will be "putting out into the deep" once more as a family to follow what He is asking of us.
Every transition comes with its fair share of unknowns so if you felt compelled to support our family through this exciting new adventure, I would humbly present to you these possible avenues to do so.
1) Pray for us! No good work is ever accomplished without much prayer.
2) Share our website (laltocatholic.com) with the decision-makers at your parish and have them get in touch with me about how we can help them create a culture of missionary discipleship at their parish!
3) Like and Share our Facebook page (Facebook.com/laltocatholic)
4) Consider becoming a L'Alto Partner in Mission and signing up to support our apostolate monthly at laltocatholic.com/donate. These benefactors represent the backbone of support for L'Alto being able to continue its mission to make an impact at an affordable cost for parishes.
God bless you all! Know of my prayers for you.