Do not be afraid of your love for the people of God

We recently had an evening of recollection at St. Mary’s Seminary & University, led by Fr. Carter Griffin, the rector of the St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C. These evenings and days of recollection in the seminary are great opportunities to retreat with Jesus into the wilderness to pray and commune with our Heavenly Father. I especially enjoy these days because they are another chance for me to intentionally enter into deeper prayer and recharge my spiritual batteries, drawing from the source of life and love Himself.

On this occasion, a phrase that Fr. Griffin offered us to reflect upon stuck with me. He said, “Brothers, do not be afraid of your love for the people of God.” This was a reminder that what we are doing in the seminary (studying theology and being formed into good and holy men in ministry) is important work, but there are people for whom this formation is geared toward: service to and love for God and His Church.

Reflecting on this powerful line from our evening of recollection, I couldn’t help but think back on the many moments in which my love for God and His people has grown. One of the first moments that came to mind was from an experience over my pastoral year at St. Joseph Parish in Cockeysville.

I was asked by the pastor to bring the Eucharist to a couple who were homebound during the pandemic. This couple was unable to come back to church because the wife had been diagnosed with late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By the time I met this couple, the wife was already bedbound, but she still had some mobility from the neck up and could still speak. She was overcome with joy and excitement every time I came to visit, and especially when preparing to receive our Lord in the Eucharist.

Over my months of visiting, I witnessed this woman deteriorate so quickly that my visits changed from conversations to simply being present with her and her husband. I learned soon enough that I was not just ministering to her but to her family as well. In all of this, I was moved by her husband in a powerful way. For all those months, I observed how he took such careful and tender care of his wife, from repositioning her for a comfortable view out the window and holding her hand as he read the Scriptures of the day to her. And he stayed so very strong for her. Every move he made and every word he spoke had a tenderness that can only have come from his profound love for her. She persevered until she was called home by the Lord in April 2021. To this day, I continue to keep in touch with the husband, and I continue to be amazed by his faith in God.

My visits with this couple awoke a desire deep within me for this same kind of love for God’s people. I have a profound yearning to give of myself for the sake of my future bride, the Church. Fr. Griffin’s words during that evening of recollection could not ring truer: “Do not be afraid of your love for the people of God.” They will teach you in so many countless ways.

Javier preaching.

Javier Fuentes is in 3rd Theology at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD and, please God, will be ordained a deacon
on May 21, 2022. Javier’s home parish is St.John’s in Frederick. Please pray for Javier!