When I was in 10th Grade my hair was long, down on my shoulders, I listened to hard rock, doubted that God existed, and had devilish “blacklight posters” on my wall that frightened my mother. Today I am a priest.
I have no doubt that I emerged from my agnostic, hippie, rebellious stage as the result of prayer. I know my mother prayed for me. I know my Grandmother prayed for me. They are in the 1963 photo at the right in the front row. My mother lived to see my ordination and enjoy the fruits of her prayer. My grandmother lived to see it to but I don’t know how much she understood by then, her dementia was advancing. I remember standing before her shortly after my ordination and she turned to my mother and said, “Nancy, why is Charlie wearing those black clothes?” She did not seem to understand that the fruit of her prayer was standing before her. But that’s OK, she does now. Both she and my mother have long since died and I have often reminded God of their prayers for me and requested their happy repose.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them. (Rev 14:13)
You and I have folks that we’re praying for. and it’s easy to despair at time that our prayers are making any difference. But don’t give up. It is my privilege as a priest to receive people at my door who have been away from God for years who are now requesting confession and a return to the Church. Many have been away for decades. But someone prayed for them, witnessed to them, called to them and didn’t give up. Maybe it took 30 years or more. But now they’re back. Often the person who most prayed for them and desired their return has already died. They had sowed the seeds and I as a priest am reaping the harvest. At moments like these I recall the words of Jesus:
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” (John 4:34-38)
Sometimes we sow, sometimes we reap. Sometimes too we have to pull weeds, water and feed. The work of evangelizing and shepherding souls is seldom simple or brief. But don’t give up, don’t be discouraged. You just never know how folks will turn out. Pray, work, witness, and trust. Don’t agonize, evangelize!
The following video is not about religious conversion per se but it depicts “losers” who became winners. It shows those who were rejected, who became great leaders. You just never know.