Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Called to something greater"

A St. Andrew’s parishioner sent me the following online article (espn.go.com) about a young, professional soccer player who recently retired in order to enter the seminary this Fall. Cool and inspiring stuff! Another parishioner suggested we ask him to speak to our kids at some point– good idea!

When he was playing professional soccer in Chile, Chase Hilgenbrinck would seek comfort in the churches to satisfy his spiritual needs and remind him of childhood Sundays spent at Holy Trinity in his hometown of Bloomington, Ill.

Even after moving back to the United States last Christmas to play Major League Soccer -- a dream of his, but just one of them -- Hilgenbrinck felt the pull of his religion.

"I felt called to something greater," Hilgenbrinck said. "At one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else.
"I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by."

Hilgenbrinck accepted the calling on Monday when he left the New England Revolution and retired from professional soccer to enter a seminary, where he will spend the next six years studying theology and philosophy so he can be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

"It's not that I'm ready to leave soccer. I still have a great passion for the game," he said in a telephone interview. "I wouldn't leave the game for just any other job. I'm moving on for the Lord. I want to do the will of the Lord, I want to do what he wants for me, not what I want to do for myself."

A 26-year-old defender who was the captain of the Revolution's reserve team, Hilgenbrinck will attend Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. After finishing his studies, he will report to his home parish in Peoria, Ill., for assignment.

"He said it was time for him, that he had been thinking long and hard," New England vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said. "Purely from a Revs standpoint, it's too bad. But a lot of players leave the game not on their own terms. He's clearly left on his own terms, which is great for him."

Raised in a Catholic family of regular churchgoers, Hilgenbrinck played soccer at Clemson and hooked on with the Chilean first division after he went unpicked in the 2004 MLS draft.
Far from home, he began to seek out familiar surroundings.

"I fell back on what I knew, and that was the Catholic Church," he said. "I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools. It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.

"I looked to strengthen my personal relationship with Christ. And when my personal life started to flourish, I couldn't turn my back on that relationship."

Hilgenbrinck was signed and cut by the Colorado Rapids before he landed with the Revolution. He played in four MLS games for New England and started in both of the Revolution's U.S. Open Cup matches this month.

Although he has felt the calling for some time, Hilgenbrinck also knew it would be easier to continue playing soccer. He tried to convince himself that he was not ready, not deserving, or not in a hurry.

"I was putting up a bunch of barriers, saying I'm not worthy to be called to something like that," he said. "But, one by one, the barriers started to come down."

With a short window in which he will be able to play professional sports, he considered postponing the priesthood until after his career was over. But he decided with the same certainty that he could not allow himself to wait.

"Trust me, I thought of that," said Hilgenbrinck, who in his studies came across the saying, "Delayed obedience is disobedience."

"We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."

Hilgenbrinck had his initial interview for the seminary last July, followed by a rigorous application process. There were written tests, personality screenings, background checks, fingerprinting and meetings with three different psychiatrists to make sure he had the right temperament to be a priest.

At first, he told no one, lest they influence him one way or the other: "I really wanted it to be a decision between me and God," he said.

There were more tests in January, and in March Hilgenbrinck learned he had been accepted to the seminary. A few weeks ago, he met with Burns and Revolution coach Steve Nicol.

"We weren't exactly sure what he was going to say, because it's not what you usually hear," Burns said. "When he said it, I was glad. I was glad for him. This is something that he clearly wants to do, and we wish him all the best."


At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

www.ojoachin@gmail.com offers a reflection on each day’s Sacred Scripture. The reflections are short, yet leave me with something to think about for the day. I couldn’t help but see a parallel between today’s post and today’s Saint.

A reflection on today's Sacred Scripture:

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning. . . .

There are so many different ways to look at this passage, but one that I have seen rarely mentioned is the nature of this privileged position of Mary Magdalene. Why Mary Magdalene of all people? Why not Peter, or the Blessed Virgin, or John, the beloved disciple? Why Mary Magdalene?

We may only know the answer when we get to heaven. However, one way to think about it is this—we never know whom God will select to carry out His particular mission. While we sit back in the pews and expect our priests, bishops, and missionaries to fulfill this role (and often they do), it may be the least expected—you, the person sitting next to you, the person with the wailing baby three rows back. God selects for a purpose that we might not know during our time on Earth, but He knows.

Why, then, Mary Magdalene?

Perhaps it was because she was unexpected. She was the least of "these little ones." She was a woman in a society that did not necessarily appreciate women. She is each one of us—the unknown, the small, the unlikely. And she was chosen to proclaim the great good news of the resurrection. As are we. And she was largely ignored or thought to be mad—as we might be. But this particular mission fell to her because she was ready to do it. Her love for the Lord had her up early and at the tomb.

If we are prepared, if we too love the Lord enough to go out of our way for Him, to break the routine and to look for Him in unlikely places, we too can be a sign to those around us. We can proclaim His glorious resurrection without saying a word—for the love we show, the devotion we carry, will speak louder and longer than we could ever do.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Grandmother used to say (I think it was paraphrased from St. Jerome) that you may be the only Bible another ever reads, so be thoughtful of how you live. It’s true- we never know how our words and actions may reach another and change them.

This has nothing to do with Mary Magdalene, but it’s about a group of women. They recently caught my attention, and likely have/will set an example for some- the women who were “ordained” recently in Boston. I don’t agree with their ideas, but I think it’s actually a good thing to hear them expressed. What I don’t understand is how they believe there is validity to their actions. Beyond the obvious, their gender, they break with the church on many issues. I read that one of the “priests” supports DignityUSA, a pro-homosexual rights group. They didn’t take vows of chastity or obedience. They were ordained in a Protestant Church. Furthermore, what was their preparation for the “priesthood?” I guess what I don’t understand is, if they believe they are Catholic priests, what does it mean to them to be Catholic? Obviously they have already interpreted scripture to meet their own agendas, so why claim to be Catholic and not some other religion that closer fits the bill?

My other question regards excommunication. If they are excommunicated, what are the consequences for their congregants?

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People can believe whatever they want to believe. They can believe they are Catholic priests but the bottom line is that they are not.

From www.zenit.org
Church in Boston: Women-Priest Group Not Catholic

BOSTON, JULY 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Archdiocese of Boston has reiterated the teaching of the Church on women and the priesthood after a group "ordained" three women priests.

The organization calling itself "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" held a conference in Boston over the weekend at a Presbyterian church. They had an ordination ceremony today with three women.

"Roman Catholic Womenpriests is not an entity of the Roman Catholic Church," the archdiocese stated.

"For 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has served to carry on the ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church is made up of women and men, equal in rights and diverse in gifts and ministries. Following our devotion to Mary, the Church is committed to, and sustained by the many important contributions of women each and every day," the statement said.

It added: "As members of our religious communities, lay members in leadership roles within the Church, educators, canon lawyers, and as pastoral and social service providers across many other critical areas, women are helping to shape the course of our Church in following the will of God.

"The ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the unalterable Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his apostles."

The archdiocesan statement recalled that "Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the Church."

At 3:12 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

When my grandmother was born, women did not have the right to vote.

When my mother graduated from high school, women's career options were limited relatively low-status and low-paying jobs.

When I started kindergarten, many school systems considered girls' sports and other activities to be unworthy of more than minimal funding.

The battle to end these and other inequities was hard-fought. Many women take for granted the opportunities they have in today's society.

I can understand why some find it difficult to accept that any role should be proscribed based on one's gender. They've been steeped in the message that one can be anything one wants. They think that as the rest of society goes, so should go the Catholic Church.

Well, just because one wants something doesn't mean that one can have it. And if the Catholic Church moved with the whims of society...then it wouldn't be the Catholic Church.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one is excommunicated, they are barred from receiving communion, right? But how exactly is that different from any other who is not in a state of grace?

Also, if a priest is excommunicated, what exactly does that mean? A priest is a priest for life, so excommunication wouldn't change that. I would assume they are prohibited from participating in things of the church. So, if a an excommunicated member of the clergy did say Mass and offer the sacraments, would they be valid?

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comments of the first anon. First, what you wrote is really beautiful. On the subject of callings, I guess that for most of us, who do not sense a specific calling, our job is to live a humble, good life and appreciate that. Does anyone else ever feel envy of people like the soccer player and priests who describe a clear calling? It would bring such tremendous meaning to one's life to know that you are following a specific call from God. I know that a common human experience is to feel like an insignificant speck in the world. It can be a struggle to overcome that and believe that even our seemingly unnotable lives are important, just like the lives of the people like the soccer player who got singled out.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks anon @ 11:43. I wish I could, but I can't take any credit for the beautifully written comment! It looks like I forgot quotation marks indicating that the reflection came from www.ojoachin@gmail.com, a website that offers a short, brief reflection on the day's readings.


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