By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PLEASANT HILL — Sometimes, God’s message is “Hold your horses.”
Seminarian Curt Vogel had surgery on both knees to repair completely shot anterior cruciate ligaments on July 5.
He was still determined to make his Rite of Candidacy for Holy Orders on July 10, in a wheelchair if he had to, with seven of his newly graduated Conception Seminary College classmates.
But when he and his family got into their car for the drive to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, dead battery.
Ditto for the only other family vehicle he could get into, a mini-van.
“Maybe God was trying to tell me something,” Vogel joked as he prepared just five weeks later for his personal Rite of Candidacy at St. Bridget in Pleasant Hill.
The delay was no problem for Bishop Robert W. Finn, but it flabbergasted Vogel when he got the call from Vocations Director Father Richard Rocha that the bishop would be accepting him individually at his home parish.
“That just shows what a great bishop he is, at least in my opinion, that he would do this for me,” Vogel said.
Bishop Finn told the congregation at the Aug. 14 Mass that it was his pleasure.
“I wanted to come to St. Bridget today especially because one of your parishioners has been seeking to follow our Lord faithfully and now he is ready to enter the next phase of his studies,” Bishop Finn said.
Vogel and his classmates who were received on July 10 have four more years of study at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, with ordination to the diocesan priesthood expected in 2015.
“It is meaningful that he can do this in front of his parish,” Bishop Finn said.
“Maybe some other young men will hear God’s call today to priesthood or consecrated life,” he said. “Maybe some young women will know in their hearts that God is calling them to a religious profession.
“I pray Curt’s resolve and God’s good grace will be an inspiration to us all in following Christ in our own vocation,” Bishop Finn said.
“All of us can be renewed in the deep truth that God loves us completely and calls us to a fuller life in him,” he said.
That message was reflected in the Scripture for the day, the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Bishop Finn said.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul told the early Christians that God’s gifts and call are irrevocable.
“God does not call us to holiness then change his mind,” Bishop Finn said. “Despite our weakness and even our sins, over and again, he extends his mercy and renews the signs of his love.”
While God’s mercy cannot be presumed, “he gives us grace, that sharing of his own life in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Finn said. “He grants us all we need to stay close to him and to respond fully and generously to his call.”
Likewise, in the Gospel story of the persistence of the Canaanite woman that is recognized by Jesus who says to her, “O woman, great is your faith,” faith makes the difference, Bishop Finn said.
“This faith must endure through challenges and difficulties,” he said.
“When we decide to respond to Jesus’ call, our vocation, we cannot know what all it might entail,” the bishop said.
“Couples approaching marriage cannot foresee all the particular events that will be part of their life as spouses and parents,” Bishop Finn said.
“Priests, too, and seminarians called to priesthood cannot know ahead of time all that God may ask of us,” he said.
“If we read the Gospel even in a cursory way, we see that again and again Jesus promises that if we would follow him, we will find the cross,” Bishop Finn said.
“This is true of all of us who wish to faithfully give ourselves to Christ,” he said.
Bishop Finn told Vogel that he is not just sending him off to post-graduate studies in theology.
“I am sending you to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” he said. “The center of your life must be the Holy Eucharist which is the font from which flows the priest’s pastoral love.
“Come to learn each day before the Blessed Sacrament,” Bishop Finn said. “Before the Blessed Sacrament, your heart will be readied to receive the knowledge of the truth. There, what you learn in the classroom will resound to greater depths.
Bishop Finn also urged Vogel to stay close to Mary, the mother of God.
“Ask her to take you by the hand as you go before her son,” he said. “St. Joseph, too, will intercede for you so that the virtues of purity, justice and fortitude will not be lacking in you for the good of Christ’s church.”