I remember when I moved into Wonder Lake, before I went into the seminary, I built my house in a neighborhood closer to Rt 120. My neighbors across the street were very nice to me. They called me “the next day neighbor”. I cheated a little on building my house; it was a pre-made home from Pittsville, Wisconsin. My neighbors were very welcoming. When I asked my neighbor across the street where the nearest Catholic Church was, they responded that I would have to go to one of the neighboring towns. I figured since they grew up there, that was the best place to start. Two weeks later I found a Catholic Church right in town. Oops!
It was a great parish to be in. The people were very welcoming. One family took me under their wing as a new parishioner and new to the town. I got to know so many more people. I was invited to become a Knight of Columbus, but was afraid of joining a group and obligations involved. Nonetheless, I did volunteer much time at the Church. I was growing a bond with people I would not have otherwise known or benefited from.
I started to realize the benefits of giving my time to Jesus. Even after working twelve hours in construction, I still had energy to do things for Jesus. I did not think about how people benefited from me. All I knew is that when I gave time to Jesus, I had a great joy and serenity.
I also became more open to what the Church taught. It was a great time of learning what Jesus said and why the Church teaches what it does. I was flabbergasted at how wise the Church really was. Sure, the Church seemed so backwards in things, but when I learned about the wisdom for such seemingly backwardness, I was all in. I had spent so much time listening to the world, I forgot Jesus and His Church. How much suffering I endured because I was ignorant of what the Church taught. How much more at peace I am now that I have the wisdom of God at my disposal.
My joy got so intense before I went into the seminary that I would be smiling more than I ever had before. In fact, most of the guys at work thought I had a girlfriend. I would tell them I didn’t, but they thought I was holding a secret. Most people assume that only sinful relationships can bring such happiness. Truth be told, it was my relationship with Jesus that brought me so much joy.
It was a relationship based on prayer and work. Since most of my work was driving the truck and using a pick and shovel, I could pray all day. My favorite at that time was the rosary. I learned so much just by these meditations of the Scriptures. I also volunteered a lot of time at church. It seemed that whenever I came in to volunteer for something, Jesus was with me. While I was doing things, I still talked to Jesus and He would speak to me through the people we served and through contemplation. The time I spent helping out at Church became a very important part of my spiritual life and my relationship with Jesus.
The prayer infused into the labor gave me a great balance in life. It gave me great joy and a sense of fulfillment on a daily basis. I write this to encourage you so that you may have this same joy and sense of fulfillment. Prayer and volunteering at the Church made my house a home, gave me a sense of belonging and increased my joy because I knew I had a relationship with Jesus. I had found the pearl of great price. It can be yours too.