On August 30th I returned to Mizzou to celebrate the student Mass at the Newman Center. Here’s the homily I prepared for that special occasion.
Sr. Sarah Graves
(Br.) Benjamin Keller
(Br. ) Joseph Albin
(Sr.) Elizabeth Doyle
(Deacon) Josh Duncan
Ashley Viola – Sr. Caterina
Fr. Geoffrey Brooke
For those of you who, like me, aren’t math majors, that was 10. 10 names I read. 10 young men and women who have entered religious life or the seminary in the last 6 years. Which one of you is next? I know most of you are saying, it can’t be me, I’m nothing like those people. You know what all of those people have in common, we all went to Mizzou. Oh yeah, but father, Mizzou is really big, there’s lots of students and those students were never in my situation. Oh yeah. Here’s something else you have in common with those 10 people, you’re sitting in their same seats. I sat over there, Sr. Elizabeth over there, JP over there, Sarah over there, Br. Joseph over here, Deacon Josh, where did you sit?
Not only did we sit in the same physical seats as you all, we too went through the same experiences that have had and will have during your time at Mizzou. From the joys of living on campus with a stranger you’ve never met, er, I mean, roommate. the difficulty of making new friendships and finding your way in a seeming sea of students with so many activities and things to choose from, for me, outside of the Newman Center, I was on the Mizzou BBQ team, I bet you a bunch of you didn’t even know we have a BBQ team. The difficulty and frustrations with school work. Tailgating and going to sporting events, homecoming, the list goes on and on. College is a busy and exciting time when you’re being pulled in many directions, that was true for all of us 10 as well.
Maybe you’re still thinking, ok father, so maybe you’re right, you all did go through the same stuff as us, but, I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’ve got too many problems, to many faults. There’s no way God could be calling me. Guess what? You’re right! None of the 10 of us were or are or ever will be “worthy.” It’s God who makes us worthy. He gives us the strength and grace to be able to respond and do whatever we have to do as priests and nuns. So get over yourself and your weaknesses. Let God take control.
So ok fine, you’ll accept that God can make you worthy, but how do you know? The only way for you to know is if you are willing to cultivate a relationship with Christ. That’s where you are very lucky here at Mizzou, because you already have a whole host of people here at the Newman center who want to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. Meet Angelle and JoAnn, as well as the interns focus missionaries and the Dominican Priests. They work tirelessly to organize many events and programs throughout the year all to help you grow in that relationship with Christ, which will help you to learn if you are called to the priesthood or religious life.
Let me tell you about one of those activities that had a major impact on my vocation. Raise your hands if you’ve heard about the small group bible studies? Ok great. Now I want you all to raise your hands because you’ve all heard about them now.
Well you see when I was here as a student, and I’m not that old, remember it was just 6 years ago that I was in those seats. There weren’t small group bible studies, there was just small group bible study. My first year I was the pretty much the lone freshman along with a bunch of upperclassmen. A group by the way which included Sarah Graves, who just entered the Religious Sisters of Alma Michigan last month, and Br. Joseph Albin a member of the Dominicans. So my second year, Angelle asked me to take on leadership of the group. The first month or so we had a small group, but for whatever reason, scheduling etc., that group suddenly dwindled down to two, myself, a sophomore and a freshman girl.
Then one day she walked in and said, “Geoff, Geoff, I’ve got something to tell you, last night I had this experience during Mass, and I think I might be called to be a nun!” I was in shock, because two weeks prior, I had my own experience in prayer which led me to think about the priesthood, and so I replied to her, “well to be honest this morning I just asked for the seminary application.” So then, while the bible study continued the rest of the year, few people ever came, but the two of us would get together and support each other in our process of discernment. Fast forward to this summer, on June 27th I was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and just 5 weeks later on August 1st, Sr. Elizabeth professed her first vows with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Ok yeah, get the awws out, because as awesome as that story is, it’s not why I share it with you tonight. You see, think about it, Angelle and JoAnn, they could have seen that bible study as a flop, only 2 of us going, one sophomore, one freshman. They could have easily decided to cancel that bible study, decide to come up with something different. Instead they saw the bigger picture, and let the bible study continue that year and beyond, the bigger picture is 200 students participating in small group bible studies last year! Think about that, from 2 to 200.So when I said that Angelle, JoAnn, and the whole staff here will support you in getting to grow in a relationship with Christ, I mean it! How many will sign up this year? 250? 300? These small groups will help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and to discern your vocation. No, I’m not saying that if you sign up for bible study you will become a priest or a nun, although 2 for 2 was pretty good that year. What I am saying is that the small groups will help you grow in your relationship with Christ.
There’s another reason I tell you about my small group bible study. Remember when I said how blessed you were to be at Mizzou because you have this great staff that’s so willing to help you grow in a relationship with Christ. Now I want you to look at the person next to you, in front of you and behind you. You all have your fellow students to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. In the small groups you will be able to help support each other and build a strong sense of community.