Much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus were not expecting to meet Jesus, I was not at all expecting to meet Jesus when I began working on the Student Government Senate at Catholic University of America this past Fall. As a seminarian on the senate, I knew that I would have some opportunities for ministering to my fellow students, even if it was just a ministry of presence and witnessing to Christ through my actions—but it turns out Christ had something greater planned.
The first part of the semester went about as I expected; the senate debated issues in which I did my best to defend the Catholic values of the University and the interests of my brother seminarians and my fellow students of the School of Philosophy. The final meeting of the fall semester, however, had a much different feel.
The last resolution we debated had to do with how Christ was depicted in a certain piece of art displayed on the campus—an issue deeply dividing our campus and tapping into some of our country’s socio-political crises. Adding my voice to the debate seemed pointless; I figured I would only be repeating what others had said, so I decided to remain silent. But my heart was disturbed; there was a building conviction to say something… I just didn’t know what. As the debate wore on into its second hour, I realized it wasn’t really me who wanted to say something; it was Jesus asking me to say something.
Normally, the senate would meet in the student center, but that night we had moved to Caldwell Hall, part of which is home to a beautiful chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It struck me how providential it was that we were in a building with Jesus Himself
while we debated art depicting Him. As the debate went on, I felt Jesus stirring my heart to action in the form of prayer for my fellow senators and the university so that He could enter into the hurt at the heart of the issue and begin to heal it. More than that, He was asking me to invite my fellow senators to pray as well – and that scared me! I didn’t want to come off as holier-than-thou or glib in the face of such division, and I didn’t want people mad at me for taking up more time when the clock was already quickly approaching midnight.
As the period for open floor approached, I was wrestling internally with myself—but the Lord had set my heart afire with the desire to pray for all the senators and to have them pray as well. So, I stopped fighting, and asked Jesus for the courage to do what He asked. He answered generously. He gave me the ability to invite all present to pray for our university so that this wound of division might be healed. And because He is too good to me, Jesus allowed me to see some of the fruit of my call to prayer: a fellow senator mentioned that it moved him greatly.
This experience changed my entire perspective about my role in the senate. I no longer saw my primary duty as legislative, but as spiritual. In that moment, Jesus made it clear that I was in the student government not only to pray for my fellow senators, but to step out of my comfort zone so that they might pray as well and be brought into a closer relationship with Him. Looking back, I realize that it was Christ the Shepherd I met during that meeting who set my heart afire, asking me to pray and to call others to prayer—and who reminded me that even where I least expect it, there will always be members of His flock to whom I can minister.
Michael is in 1st Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. Hailing from Kansas, Michael’s home parish is St. John the Evangelist in Frederick. Please pray for Michael!