Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Free Agency: Revisited

I wanted to give Tom the perfect gift for his ordination to the priesthood. A card with a check was now out of the question. He already had a fair share of religious art, a lifetime supply of journals and considering his future studies, another book on spirituality was a near insult. After some careful deliberation, I went with a framed picture featuring our mutual friends and a fitting passage from scripture:
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all…. --Colossians1:3-4
I thought these words said it best, until I saw what his college buddies were oh so proud to present. Tom held high a pewter flask, engraved with the words, Poverty + Obedience + Chastity; reminding Tom of his vows to the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Let's raise one to religious life!

Spend some time with anyone vowed to the priesthood or religious life and they will let you in on a secret. Of the vows they take to their community, most concede the most challenging vow does not involve the one you might think. None are easy, but obedience can be particularly difficult. In fact, one friend refused to consider a call to religious life because she “wanted to be a free agent.” Her desire to serve the Lord was real, but not in such a way that she was willing to allow a religious community to determine how and where she would do that. Bearing that in mind, I found ESPN.com’s report Top A’s Prospect Enters Priesthood, inspiring yet riddled with irony. Grant Desme, a 23-year old outfielder is leaving baseball—a sport defined by free agency, to pursue his vocation to the priesthood.

The play on words is too much; vocation stems from the Latin, “to call.” MVP of the Arizona Fall League, ESPN reports that Desme would have likely “gotten the call every minor leaguer wants this spring,” a call to the “Bigs.” It seems however, he received another call, and he will begin what he says is “about a 10-year process.”

When Desme informed the A’s General Manager, Billy Beane of his aspiration to “higher things” Desme said that although Beane was “understanding and supportive,” the decision “sort of knocked him off his horse.” I wondered if Desme used those words intentionally, for St. Paul’s conversion began when he was knocked off his horse and blinded by the power of grace. Yet the fact that Saul—a man who had persecuted Christians became Paul—an apostle, a saint, a missionary, was shocking news during his day as well.

Grant Desme had an opportunity to play a sport our country reveres at the highest level. At some point during his days off “which gave him time to…read and study the Bible” he must have come across From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. –Luke 12:48
I know my friend Tom knew this passage; he thanked his mother for echoing Luke's Gospel at his ordination. Tom was student body president at Notre Dame, he had walked on the football team and left a successful business career to become a Holy Cross priest and now serves as VP for student affairs. It’s tough to say, but perhaps Grant Desme’s choice will lead others with whom much has been given to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Good luck with obedience.


  1. Special thanks to Patrick Cody, Mike Purcell and Marc Rarden for passing this article along!

  2. Thanks for yet another fascinating (for lack of a more specific adjective) blog entry - great parallels. Your blog is one of my "favorites" tabs.