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.