God Is With Us

During the Advent and Christmas season, we often hear the word ‘Emmanuel’ when speaking about Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew quotes Isaiah about the coming of the Savior: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). Beyond being an Old Testament reference, the word ‘Emmanuel’ sums up what His Incarnation means for us. He became man simply to be with us—to experience what we experience and to lift us out of our fallen existence. He even took on our death and He opened the possibility for us to rise to new life with Him. As St. Athanasius so succinctly said, “He became what we are that we might become what he is.” Ever since His Resurrection and Ascension, the Church has taken on the role of announcing to all the world that God is with us. It is the life work of a priest to participate in this task. The priest announces that God is with us in Jesus and that we can find Him in the Scriptures, in each other, and most of all, in the sacraments.

In the first half of my pastoral year, I have seen how a priest accompanies people with the simple but powerful message that God is with us. A priest reminds a couple coming for marriage that, as they embark on this life-long journey, God is with them and will sustain them
with His grace. He teaches children in preparation for sacraments, in the school, and in religious education that God is with them and he prays that no matter where life will take them, they will always remember that God is with them. A priest sits in the confessional so that penitents can know that God has not abandoned them and will always take them back. He visits the sick and dying to remind them that even now God has not forgotten them and remains with them. He consoles those who have lost a loved one with the hope that God is with us and has come to raise up all the dead to new life in Him. Most of all, the priest celebrates Mass each day so that God becomes present to His people in the Eucharist—the surest pledge of them all that God is with us.


But the priest is most effective at this not by doing something, but simply by being something. And even though I am only a seminarian, I can already see how important presence is in ministry. Sometimes, I find myself being present by taking communion to someone who is homebound. Other times, it’s in teaching the 5th graders and listening and responding to their questions—whether serious or silly. And still other times, it’s as simple as helping a parishioner call an Uber so he can get home from Mass. I am discovering more each day that this vocation is really about allowing God to be present to His people through me and there really is no limit to the different ways He can ask that. I just have to be open to where the Spirit leads. God has promised to remain with His people. What a joyous message that is for us! And what a joy for me to be a seminarian and, hopefully, one day a priest called to announce that message to the world simply by being who I am.

Zachary Watson is in his Pastoral Year at St. Joseph’s in Cockeyville. Zachary normally studies Saint Mary’s Seminary and
University in Baltimore. His home parish is St. Mark’s in Fallston. Lord-willing, Zachary will be ordained a transitional
deacon in May of 2023 and a priest in Summer 2024. Please pray for Zachary!

Burning for Souls

“Hey, have you talked to any seminarians today?” This is how many of the conversations started during the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary evangelization mission trip to West Virginia University. Over thirty seminarians took a few days out of their fall break this October to go talk to college students about Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and their faith. Some of the students that we talked to on campus were atheists, some were agnostics, many were protestant Christians, and there were even some Catholics who had fallen away from the Church. When answering the question “What specific thing makes my heart burn as I am going through my Seminary Formation?” the easiest answer for me is talking to people about their faith. I love hearing what people believe and their reasons for believing it. Often times, these college students have never heard the Gospel spoken to them and unfortunately know very little about the Catholic Church. People almost always have a desire for the truth, but have only found it in subjects such as math, science, and history. When conversations start approaching topics such as philosophy and theology, I find that people think that reaching truth in these topics is simply impossible. What I love about evangelizing and having these conversations is watching a person go from thinking God is not real, to minutes later believing that He is real and that he actually desires to have a relationship with that person through prayer. Talking with the students about the Bible and the Traditions of the Catholic Church has this amazing effect of actually giving them hope of finding the truth. Not just a relative truth, but something that is objectively true for all people at every time, and in every place.

When I was an undergrad at Towson University I remember being challenged in my faith. Because I studied psychology and philosophy, it was typical for everything to be analyzed from a materialistic perspective, or for God to be completely ignored. However, for each philosopher we covered who rejected the existence of God, the incarnation, or the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, it renewed within me a desire for the truth, and an answer for how to respond to that philosopher’s ideas. Over time, with the help of God’s grace, holy priests, knowledgeable friends, and the rich tradition of the Catholic Church, I was able to see the weaknesses and errors of philosophers such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Sartre. Although they were brilliant in their own way, those philosophers could not match the intellect of the great doctors, philosophers, and theologians of the Church such as St. Thomas Aquinas.


To conclude, let me tell you about one of the conversations that my brother seminarian Connor and I had with one of the students, who we will call Sarah for the sake of her privacy. Connor and I had just finished talking to a student inside of a coffee shop on campus. That
student got up and left for class, when Sarah almost immediately walked over and took the seat that the previous student was sitting at! Connor and I looked at each other in amazement and, with a smile, asked the standard question “have you talked to any seminarians today?” She said no, but was willing to talk to us. After explaining what we were doing on campus, I asked her “are you Catholic?” No. “Are you Christian?” She wasn’t sure, and hadn’t thought about it in a long time. “Do you believe in God?” Yeah, she believed in some type of higher power. So we started with the person of Jesus Christ. The “image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15) Using C.S. Lewis’s famous “Trilemma” we walked through the three options of Jesus either being a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. After really thinking about it, she said “well, I don’t think he was crazy, or lying… so… I guess I do believe that he is the Lord! I haven’t thought or talked about this in a really long time!” We then explained that if that is the case, Jesus founded a Church, and that He desires for her to be apart of it. We gave her the information to the local parish, and thanked her for talking with us. This was just one of many conversations that we had, but with each conversation my heart burned within me. Just as Christ’s heart first burned with love for Hisdisciples.

Luke Koski is in Third Theology at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Luke’s home parish is Immaculate
Conception in Towson, Maryland. Lord-willing, Luke will be ordained a transitional deacon in this coming May and a priest in
Summer 2023. Please pray for Luke!