A Defining Moment
I am pretty sure I know the exact moment when I blew my chances at a college scholarship. I was a senior in high school enduring an interview with the scholarship committee, and I fumbled my answer to a question about a defining moment in my life.
My answer concerned a young priest I admired, Fr. George Nesbitt, who had recently died. I mumbled something like, “Um, it was defining when he died because he was important to me.”
Not particularly articulate for a scholar. I lost the scholarship and gained a hard lesson in how to prepare better for interviews.
I’m thinking of Fr. Nesbitt because, in recognition of the Year of Consecrated Life, the theme of this issue of Liguorian is “living the consecrated life.” While Fr. Nesbitt was a diocesan priest, I’ve known many religious priests, brothers, and sisters who have taken the vows of the evangelical counsel and live the consecrated life. But it was at the moment of Fr. Nesbitt’s death when I began to understand a truth about their lives.
Fr. Nesbitt was the adult who oversaw our parish’s Christian Youth Organization (CYO). I was a CYO officer who was, well, not an adult. Fr. Nesbitt was a warmer and funnier presence than the pious and somewhat intimidating monsignor who was pastor. (I remember pecking at the parish typewriter as I tried, inexplicably, to justify the text of the CYO newsletter. Fr. Nesbitt remarked dryly that the parish would need to buy a new typewriter if I kept typing so fast.)
Fr. Nesbitt offered gentle spiritual guidance. There was completeness about him, a comfort with his faith that I admired and am still learning to emulate.
I remember that my friends and I didn’t understand at the time why anyone would enter the priesthood or the sisterhood. We wondered: Don’t those people know what they’re missing? I know it’s many decades too late, but I’m going to try again to answer the question posed.
Fr. Nesbitt’s death challenged my perspective. His death helped me see that perhaps it was I who was missing something. The vows that Fr. Nesbitt took, as well as those taken by those who join religious communities, help fill the gap: providing a focus on something other than the worldly, a desire to understand the divine.
I’m not sure that the lives of consecrated people are particularly well understood, and the actions of a few who have done harm have obscured the good that the great majority offers. But I am grateful for all who have answered God’s invitation and what they have brought to my life.