It is only through God's providence that I became a founding class member of a new Catholic College in New Hampshire. After graduating from high school in 1974, I began an exciting adventure at Magdalen College. The four years at Magdalen changed my life forever. I had always planned to become a lawyer. I was particularly interested in politics and I had a deep desire to run for public office.
But, one evening during my Freshman year, I was reading either Plato's Republic or Aristotle's Politics and I was amazed that both authors dealt with similar situations to those confronting our culture, such as moral decay and corruption. Both of these great thinkers from history believed there was no political solution for the collapse of society. The problem was spiritual and man's heart needed to turn to God. In reflecting upon this, I began to ask myself a question “Who best can reach man's heart?”
The answer I came up with was this — a priest. That one intellectual discovery shocked me and started my journey. My spiritual life began to develop for the first time since the innocence of Catholic grade school. Four years of public high school during the 1970's did not help to feed a relationship with Jesus Christ.
During college, I was blessed with many things: exposure to the treasures of our Catholic Faith, the four very committed laymen who began Magdalen College, several diocesan and religious priests who loved their priesthood, and a small group of classmates who became the best friends of my life.
One evening in the early part of my sophomore year — after the evening Rosary — I felt a profound urge to stay in the chapel and pray. Everyone had left to study or socialize, and I was left alone with Jesus. There were no visions, no voices, but the presence of Jesus was so intimate and awesome. I looked at the Tabernacle and I said “I know that you want something big from me. I don't know what it is. Just tell me and I will do it”.
Thirty minutes later, I returned to my room. The next day was a Wednesday and a diocesan priest came on campus on Wednesdays and Sundays for Mass. As it turned out, I was the altar server that morning. At the moment of the consecration — as Father elevated the Host — I could feel this tremendous urge telling me, “You have to do what he is doing”. The outpouring of grace was so powerful, I almost lost my balance as I was kneeling beside the altar.
When I left the chapel, there was no doubt in my mind that God wanted me to be a priest. Initially there was fear — most especially the fear of more studies. These did not come easy to me. It was always a lot of work.
Shortly after these experiences — during that same school year — the freshman were assigned to give a talk on a saint of their choice for a special All Saint's Day activity.
During this time, one girl gave a short talk on the life of St. John Vianney. I had never heard of the Curé of Ars. She spoke about his difficulty with studies and how he persevered to become a great priest and a great saint. When she finished, I said to myself “If he can do it, so can I”. My fears were gone. After graduating college, I went to the seminary. They were years filled with profound happiness and excitement.
I was ordained on December 24 — yes the Solemnity of the Birth of Our Savior — 1987, in Rome, Italy.
Praise Be the Lord Jesus Christ, Now and Forever!
Father James Farfaglia is an Associate Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Churches. Originally from Ridgefield, CT, Father has founded and developed apostolates for the Catholic Church in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States. He may be reached by e-mail at Icthus@GoCNN.org