I’m in the midst of my summer vacation at my parents so I’ll keep this quick, but I have a great announcement that I would like to share with everyone about my ordination: it’s going to happen! Well, that’s not exactly news, but the date and location are set. On June 22, 2019, I will be ordained a priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, NC by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama.

At this point, that’s all I know, but I will certainly keep everyone updated as the process progresses.  For now, I’m enjoying a lazy and quite rainy Monday afternoon watching the Office on Netflix, so… I’m going to get back to that! I’ll be up and running again by the weekend where I’m headed to Raleigh, NC for stop number 8 on the Called Mission Tour! Catch you soon!

I’ve been to Rome and I’ve stayed in Assisi. I’ve stood on the top of the Alps in Austria and swam in the crystal clear ocean of Mexico. I’ve prayed in churches all around the country of many different styles. There are certainly some amazing places in this world where God’s presence is all but tangible. But there is none like this place.

St. Anthony’s Church, Greenville, SC.

No, that’s not a punchline. While it may sound strange to put this small Catholic mission to the African American community in the same category as the other places I’ve listed, I couldn’t be more serious: in all of my life, I have never found a place where God’s presence is easier to see and feel. Really.

For a first-time visitor, someone who has no connection with the place, this might not be the case. Unlike St. Peter’s Basilica or the hills of Assisi, there is very little about this place that takes your breath away with its beauty. The church is old and in need of repairs, the grounds are fairly humble, and outside of a new elementary school, most everything is rather small and ordinary.

But what makes this place so holy is not the transcendent views or mind-blowing architecture, it is the people. Here, more than any place I have ever been, you will find a community that understands its call to the be a part of the mission of Jesus Christ. They are in tune with the needs around them and never hesitate to act in building up the kingdom. Whether it be repairing homes in their neighborhood for low-income housing, running a food pantry, educating underprivileged youth, praying for vocations, supporting college students, bringing in speakers for adult faith formation, or helping pregnant women, St. Anthony’s just leads the charge. Despite being a relatively small parish, they raise more money, engage in more ministries, show up to more events during the week, and pack a church better than congregations double their size.

To me, this is what holiness looks like.

When people come to St. Anthony’s, they can’t help but feel the energy of something special. It’s absolutely contagious. In my travels, I have seen many churches in this country, and it sort of goes without saying that congregations are a mix between the super-faithful and those “fulfilling an obligation.” I could be completely wrong, but I never sense a single person in the latter category at St. Anthony’s. No, in watching how people receive communion, seeing their faces during the homily, feeling the fullness of voice in their songs and the joy in their conversations, people come to St. Anthony’s because they have seen the power of the Holy Spirit at work and want to be a part of the mission. People just want to be there.

Which is why I go back. Every year, at least once. It is the place of my college education and where I found my vocation to the Franciscans, but it’s also the place where I am renewed. I go to remember the past, yes, but more importantly to rejuvenate myself for the future. In this community, I get a taste of the kingdom of heaven and am reminded of what is possible throughout the world. Oh how I wish the rest of the world were as on fire as this place! What a world it would be.

And so I share just a snippet of my trip, just a taste of my experience. While it may seem strange to the outsider, and this video may honestly not capture it at all, I truly believe that I was on pilgrimage last week.

Okay, okay! I’m sorry! I’m just one man! I know this video is super late, but in my defense… I just forgot to do it.

Yeah, not a great defense. But better late than never, right? As I prepare to leave Greenville, SC tomorrow, take a moment to catch up on my last stop, Cincinnati, OH, and see how the trip is progressing. I find that even halfway through the trip and having covered more than 6600 miles… things are still seem pretty new! Be sure to check out why this video and be sure to check YouTube on Friday (because there’ no guarantee I’m going to be on time here on the blog!) for the next video!

There are few things that I’ve done in this world that I think are all that unique. While, yes, being a part of a religious order is rare in today’s world, it is a 1400 year tradition that has seen hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) join. Not all that special. I’ve been to college. Ho hum. Spent a summer in a foreign country to learn another language. Yup, so do thousands of others every year. And, sure, I wrote a book, which is cool. But when there are an estimated 130,000,000 books in the world… it’s not quite as unique.

This past weekend, I feel like I actually did something that very few people have ever done. And for good reason. It was kind of foolish and I don’t recommend it! That thing, you ask? Well, since it’s the title of the post you can probably already see, but I was in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago—in that order—in less than 24 hours. I mean, I’m sure people have gone from east to west or west to east, but how many people can honestly say that they have gone from Los Angeles, flying over Chicago to get to New York, and then 12 hours later turn around and go back to Chicago?

The better question, really, is WHY?

I hope you enjoy this week’s vlog! Look for a more reflective piece coming up next week as I get back on the road and settled into my routine on the road!

Well, the tour rolls on, and what a stop this last week was! Despite getting to see much of the country over the past 7 years with the friars, one of the places that I have always wanted to go—and had yet to visit—was the Pacific Northwest. Northern California. Oregon. Washington.

Well, not any longer.

Making my second stop of the Called Mission Tour, I spent the week in the Portland, OR area and loved every second of it. What an interesting place! From the beautiful natural areas to the eclectic downtime vibe, Portland was truly a place unlike anything I had ever experienced!

Oh, and I guess I was there to do some work, too… The mission has been going really well. As the title of this week’s video indicates, I misjudged the amount of books that people would buy and ran out just after the last mass. This was great news until I realized that the next parish (where I am as I currently write this post) has about five times the number of families but was ordered the same number of books! Oops! I rush-ordered another shipment that more than doubled the original… and I sit here on Monday morning realizing that it wasn’t enough: we ran out even before the last mass. Man… people are great. And I’m terrible at estimating.

Oh well! Moral of the story is that things are going well and I’m enjoying my travels. I’m currently in Huntington Beach, CA where I will be until Friday. I hope to have another video for you soon enough!