“A lesson more easily preached than lived”
In discerning God’s will for my life, communing with our Eucharistic Lord Jesus — both in participating in Mass and spending time in adoration apart from Mass — has been crucial in hearing His “still, small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:11–13).
In abiding in our Eucharistic Lord as a youngster at St. Mary of Redford Grade School in Detroit, I discerned Christ’s call to give public witness to Him and His Catholic Church. I thought this would entail using the “celebrity” I gained as a secular TV journalist—sports and/or news—to proclaim Christ and His Church in my personal time. My discernment was confirmed by different experiences, including speaking to students at Ladywood High School in Livonia when I was a senior at the University of Michigan, in the spring of 1984. I would go on to earn my master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri, which has a very good J-School.
In time, however, the call became clearer to serve Jesus as a Catholic lay minister full-time. I initially began working as a Catholic journalist, including as a reporter in the latter 1980s for The Catholic Observer, which served the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.
I participated in frequent daily Mass and adoration during this period of my life, and those disciplines helped me to discern—over time—that serving as an apologist/evangelist/journalist was a better fit for my skill set, rather than simply serving as a conventional reporter. God has blessed me with abilities to think on my feet and debate well, both in the spoken and printed word, and so I was eager to use those gifts in advancing His Kingdom.
Still, there would be times of spiritual testing and refinement. I remember after a stint ended with a Catholic magazine in Indiana, when I wondered whether I’d ever work for the Church again. I knew that I had to surrender to the Lord and trust in Him. Not long after I saw a young Catholic couple, whom I had met before. Both worked for the Church in Indiana: he as a liaison for Indiana’s bishops at the state capitol, and she as a family-life director for one of the dioceses. I remember the deep peace I experienced in seeing them in line together to receive our Eucharistic Lord (cf. John 14:27), knowing that, somehow, Jesus would lead me in providing continued professional service for Him and His Church.
That was November 1992. While subsequently working for a vendor for the auto industry in my native Metro Detroit, I discerned to pursue a master’s degree in theology and Christian ministry, not only because it would further the formation I had received in twelve years of Catholic education, but also because it would give me greater credibility and wisdom in serving the Church beyond conventional Catholic journalism.
At Franciscan University of Steubenville, daily Mass and regular Eucharistic adoration were integral to my life, and prepared me for another time of testing. The power of Jesus is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:8–10), a lesson much more easily preached than lived. In the spring of 1996, a month before my graduation, I was interviewing with various apostolates where I could possibly help advance the Kingdom after I finished my studies.
I had been serving as a student intern with Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) under the new leadership of Curtis Martin, who would go on, in time, to establish the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). I received an offer from CUF, but I also had other options.
I interviewed with the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN), the Global Catholic Network founded by the great Mother Angelica in Irondale, Alabama. Working for Mother seemed to be my destiny, as I thought I could serve as a spokesman and apologist for EWTN and the Church, including on secular TV network news shows. Ah yes, I was going to serve the Lord and His Church in a grand way, including perhaps appearing on ABC Nightline with Ted Koppell, a journalist for whom I had much respect.
Alas, it didn’t work out that way. It turned out EWTN wanted to hire me for a hybrid position, neither of whose duties would employ the theological and apologetics skills I had cultivated. I was rather let down, and I experienced tremendous turmoil. I didn’t feel at peace in taking the job at EWTN, the Catholic Network for which I had set my heart on serving, and yet I also didn’t feel at peace in staying at CUF.
I must confess, it was an inner trial I would not wish on anyone, as I knew I would have to make a decision within a day or two. And yet God’s peace, which I prized so much, was nowhere to be found.
I remember praying in the EWTN chapel, begging Jesus for guidance, and yet receiving no consolation. Mother Angelica had provided the “imprimatur” that cleared the way for my joining the EWTN team, but that didn’t give me any solace, again, given the nature of the position offered to me.
I recalled a key discernment lesson: Never make a major decision in turmoil (desolation), as St. Ignatius of Loyola counsels, which can sometimes require riding out a trial longer than we might like. It seemed like I was being tested to step out in faith, take the job at EWTN, and trust that God would lead me to my desired type of service at the Network eventually. At the same time, I knew that God is a God of peace, not anxiety (Phil. 4:6–7, 2 Tim. 1:7).
Nevertheless, my trial continued at the Birmingham International Airport near Irondale. I had tears in my eyes as I labored to pray the Rosary while awaiting my flight back to Pittsburgh, which is near Steubenville. During the flight, I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, still not experiencing any relief in the first couple of decades.
Then, it happened. As I continued to pray, I experienced an enormous flood of peace, a peace which indeed only our Divine Savior can provide (John 14:27). My course of action was unequivocally clear: I was to stay at CUF, a much better fit that would implement and hone my various skills, and where I would continue to serve fruitfully until mid-2007.
I experienced this peace within, but I knew that it was not of me. Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, provided me an inner clarity and serenity that was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and about which nothing—or no one, other than the Lord Himself—could persuade me otherwise. In short, it was an unshakeable conviction, because it was the fruit of a profoundly intimate divine encounter. My seeking the Lord through receiving the Holy Eucharist and adoring Him in adoration had borne abundant fruit, thanks be to God (John 10:10).
In subsequent experiences, trials and decisions in the last twenty-five plus years, both professionally and personally, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and communing with Him in adoration have proven indispensable in my walk with the Lord. I’ve grown in humility over the years, aided in part by the cross of periodic clinical depression. And yet the Lord has exalted me in serving Him (Matt. 23:11–12), including through writing two books and a booklet, as well as serving as a Theology Advisor at EWTN and a Contributing Apologist for Catholic Answers.
Through it all, he has guided me to be a more effective witness to family, friends, and all with whom I interact while serving Jesus and His Church.
If I may paraphrase and baptize the words of the secular philosopher Mick Jagger, “You don’t always get what you want” in serving Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church, “but you will find, in time, that you get what you really need.” Or, as St. Paul puts it: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).