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Jul 21, 2023 951 Father Joseph Gill, USA
Encounter

Walk of Faith: Sacred Romance

Father Joseph Gill, Shalom Tidings’ regular columnist, opens his heart to share the story of his life and how he fell in love

I suppose my vocation is less of a calling and more of a love affair with the One Who created me and drew my heart to His. From the time I was very young, I loved the Lord. I remember reading my Bible in my room when I was eight or nine. I was so inspired by the Word of God that I even tried to write my own book of the Bible (needless to say, it didn’t make the cut!). I dreamed of being a missionary or a martyr, of generously giving my life to Christ.

But then my teen years hit, and my passion for Christ got buried under worldly cares. My life began to revolve around baseball, girls, and music. My new ambition was to be a rich and famous rock musician or sports announcer.

Struck to the Soul

Thankfully, the Lord didn’t give up on me. When I was fourteen, I had the privilege of traveling to Rome on a pilgrimage with my youth group. Standing in the Colosseum, I thought, “Over ten thousand men, women, and children shed their blood for Christ right here on this spot. Why don’t I care more about my faith?” The Sistine Chapel impressed me—not because of the ceiling, but because of the art on the far wall: Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment.” There, the consequence of life-long decisions is powerfully depicted: Heaven and Hell. It struck me to the soul to think that I will spend eternity in one of those two places, I thought…“So where am I headed?”

When I returned, I knew I needed to make some changes…but that can be hard to do. I was trapped in plenty of teenage sin and angst, and drama. I tried half-heartedly to develop a prayer life, but it didn’t take root. I can’t say I really strove for holiness. It took more encounters for the Lord to win over my heart.

First, my parish started Perpetual Adoration, providing a 24/7 opportunity for people to pray before the Eucharist. My parents signed up for a weekly hour of Adoration and invited me to come. At first, I refused; I didn’t want to miss my favorite TV programs! But then I reasoned, “If I really believe what I say I believe about the Eucharist—that it is truly Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood—why wouldn’t I want to spend an hour with Him?” So, reluctantly, I began going to Adoration…and I fell in love with Him. That weekly hour of silence, Scripture, and prayer led to a realization of God’s personal, passionate love for me…and I began to desire to return that love with my whole life.

Only True Happiness

Around that same time, God led me on a few retreats that were very transformative. One was a Catholic family summer camp called Catholic Family Land in Ohio. There, for the first time, I found kids my own age who had a deep love for Jesus, and I realized it was possible (and even cool!) to strive for holiness as a young person. Then I began attending weekend retreats for high school boys with the Legionaries of Christ, and I made even more friends whose love for Christ greatly supported my spiritual journey.

Finally, as a high school senior, I began taking classes at a local community college. Until then, I was homeschooled, so I was rather sheltered. But in these college classes, I encountered atheistic professors and hedonistic fellow students whose lives revolved around the next party, the next paycheck, and the next hookup. But I noticed that they seemed so unhappy! They were constantly striving for the next pleasurable thing, not living for anything greater than themselves. It made me realize that the only true happiness is to lay down your life for others and for Christ.

From that point on, I knew my life had to be about the Lord Jesus. I began my formation at Franciscan University and attended seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland. But even as a priest, the journey continues. Every day the Lord shows more evidence of His love and leads me ever deeper into His heart. It is my prayer that all of you, my dear Shalom Tidings readers, may see your faith as a radical, beautiful love affair with the great “Lover of our souls”!

WALK OF FAITH: Through this Anniversary special section, our in-house writers share their amazing conversion stories.

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Father Joseph Gill

Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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