An Improbable Vocation Story

My vocation like any vocation began in the heart and mind of God long before I was born (cf Jer 1:4). But I became aware of it only in my early college years.

I was not a particularly religious child. I never thought of the priesthood, I hated going to church and things religious held no interest for me. I went to Church because I had to. My mother insisted I must go if I was going to live in her house. My Father too would have none of this “I don’t feel like going!” stuff.

In high school I was made aware of a Church choir that was forming for High School kids. I didn’t like church music, I was a Rock ‘n’ Roll fan only. I couldn’t sing. But I did notice that there were some very pretty girls singing in that High School Church Choir. So, in my sophomore year of High School I joined. This would be a good way to meet those girls and have a chance to date them. And sure enough, I was able to date several of them! (I even learned to sing). Now going to Church was far more interesting. I still didn’t love God all that much but the young ladies were a real draw. And through it all God was preparing me to meet my bride. Not necessarily the bride I expected, but my bride nonetheless.

Through the remainder of my High School years and into college I moved into musical leadership. I became a cantor, an organist, and eventually, in early college became the director of that Choir. Now I was planning music and pondering the spiritual message of the lyrics, learning more of the faith.  I favored the spiritual classics over the modern but I got to know all the genres. One day my pastor said to me, “Charles Pope I think you are called to be a priest!” I laughed and asked if he’d like to meet my girl-friend. But something started that day. A seed was planted. No one had ever said that to me before and it touched a nerve.

At first I was unsettled and alarmed. I was coming to the conclusion of a computer science degree, I was already working for the Army Corps of Engineers, I was dating a girl I thought I’d like to marry. That old priest really rocked my world. How could I be a priest? But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It seemed strangely attractive to me and yet I was also well situated to go the traditional family and career route. “All right,” I said,  “Lord, if you want me to be a priest you’re going to have to give me a pretty clear sign!” Two weeks later my girl-friend announced that we were “over.”  It was my fault. You don’t need the details but God had acted. I was rather depressed for a while but also saw an open door. I knew I had my sign. I walked through and have never turned back. There were a few rocky moments in seminary, a few less than stellar evaluations but in 1989 I was ordained to the priesthood.

So  there it is. I joined the choir to meet the girls and “look for my bride.” Well, God did show me my bride. She is a beautiful bride, demanding, but so beautiful. She is the Church. I am no bachelor. I am a family man and have quite a large family too. Many call me, “Father.”  I love my bride and my family. You never know where you will find your bride or who she will be. But if you’re faithful, God will show you.

Here is a beautiful video on Vocations. Some of the Lyrics are quite moving. Keep searching,  young people. God will show you your spouse. Consider, as I did not that your spouse might be the Church if you are a man, and might be Christ himself if you are a young woman destined for religious life. They are brides of Christ.

5 Replies to “An Improbable Vocation Story”

  1. That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. So moving. I cried half way through it. The images and the song together just really struck me. I was in a Bible Study on Friday morning and one of the women there told us that our children are not ours, they are God’s. And they are here to serve Him just as we are. He has a plan for them. After seeing this video, one can only hope to have a child who lands in a vocation with Christ. What an honor!

      1. Great story. I know many who have answered the call to religious life both Catholics and Protestants, and most stories, also tell of how sin in their lives or others around them also played a part in answering the call.
        Do you find this to be true Msgr. Pope. What’s the rest of your story? Just curious?

  2. Fr. Pope

    I haven’t seen the video yet, I merely wanted to thank you for being so open about your personal story and your gracious, selfless, and sinc ere commitment to your vocation. I am deeply honored.
    I look forward to viewing the video from a pc(using a balckberry right now)

    God Bless You and Thank You again.

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