Episode 9: Defining Spiritual Direction

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Episode 9: Defining Spiritual Direction


September 18, 2019 Duration: 39:40:00 Guests: Fr. Brian Meldrum

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Episode DescriptionSpiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality. In episode 9 of Following Francis, Fr. Brian Meldrum provides insight into what spiritual direction is and how he applies it throughout priesthood. Fr. Meldrum is a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit who is currently attending the Catholic University of America to study Sacred Scripture.

“So the Archbishop said to me that the purpose of studying and teaching, would be to know the word of God, to love the word of God, to be able to pray with the word of God and to come back to Detroit and to help others to do that.” -Fr. Brian Meldrum


Chris Dwyer: [00:07] Welcome to Following Francis. I’m Christopher Dwyer, your host, and I’m coming to you from the Franciscan Monastery in Washington D.C. Today, we have the pleasure of having with us Fr. Brian Meldrum. Fr. Brian was ordained a Diocesan Priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2015, he served as the Associate Pastor of Our lady of Lakes in Waterford, Michigan, and is currently assigned to graduate studies in sacred scripture at the Catholic University of America right down the street from us here.

Fr. Brian: [00:40] Thank you, it’s great to be here.

Chris Dwyer: [00:41] Yeah, thank you. I appreciate you coming out, making time. Today we’re going to look a little bit at your priesthood, a young priesthood at that and then also discuss a little bit about spiritual direction. It’s a topic that comes up here regularly at the Monastery and I think it’d be interesting for folks to understand exactly what spiritual direction is. So, let’s start by talking a little bit about your priesthood and I was looking into your history here in the diocese had printed up, I guess when you were a deacon, what your expectations of the priesthood were going to be. And so, they had asked you what your hope for your priestly ministry was and at the time you said it was to bridge Jesus with others. How has that worked out at this point? Is it the same? Is that still your mission or has that expanded?

Fr. Brian: [01:42] Yeah, that’s great to hear what I said four years ago and that it still resonates with me. I think as a priest for me as a young priest, especially and the place I was at in Waterford that you mentioned Our Lady of the Lakes has a great school in the high school. We are very blessed to have both. So, there were plenty of opportunities to be involved with the young people and to help young people know the person of Jesus, not just know about him. We do a really good job in the church, of course, teaching about the Lord, but with the sacraments and with the scriptures, we have an even deeper understanding that Christ is present with us. He’s personally there, sacraments lay there. So to be able to bring young people into a place of encounter, to open up a space in their own lives and their own heart, to invite the Lord in as a priest that’s the goal of each and every day to create space in my life and my priesthood, in my ministry, but also to help people find time and space to invite the Lord into their day.

Chris Dwyer: [02:47] What I find interesting in your answer there is that it’s almost spoken like a teacher. And that goes back to where I think you originally thought you were headed when you were in college.

Fr. Brian: [02:58] Yeah, so even earlier than that from even the youngest age, I always wanted to teach. I always admired my teachers growing up. I thought they were great people. I thought they had done a lot giving their life in that way. And sharing, sharing their life as a teacher. So I’d always want to do that. I mean, I wanted to do it, you know, we wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a fireman and everything else too when you’re young. But, teaching was always the one that really, that really stayed constant in my life. In fact, if you had known me when I was 18, I would have said my whole goal was to go to college and to end up back at the high school, I went to teaching. I went to an all-boys Catholic high school De La Salle, run by the Christian Brothers of John Baptist, De La Salle. And so many of the male teachers at our high school were alumni of the school. And as, even as a young person I remember that impressed me, that they, they cared so much about the mission of the school. The mission of John Baptist, De La Salle and educating the youth and to know the Lord that they would come back and teach it. They weren’t, they weren’t probably doing it for the money. I’m sure. They were there because they believed in it. So even as a young person that impressed me that so many of alum were back there teaching. So that’s what I would have said, that my plan was to go off and teach and be back teaching there and retire from that. That’s all I really had planned. And it was when I was in college that I started to meet more Christians outside of the circle of just the Catholics that I knew in high school. And I found myself unable to answer some questions, some simple questions often about the church. Even after, even after having a great Catholic education, I needed to do a little more on my own. And it was in finding these answers and Hey, let me get back to you on that. And being able to explain more aspects of the faith and why do Catholics do that and why do, what do Catholics believe about the saints, about Mary and the Eucharist and these, these heavy topics, these big topics where there is a rich, richness there in explaining that and learning more about it myself ultimately being convicted.

Chris Dwyer: [05:00] But there’s also the teacher. Because the teacher will go research and then distill it into a form that then makes it easy for somebody to understand.

Fr. Brian: [05:09] Absolutely.

Chris Dwyer: [05:09] So you were actually exercising your idea of being a teacher at that point.

Fr. Brian: [05:13] And then to fast forward the times that as a priest I’ve been able to teach formally in a school setting or adult education, you learn so much by teaching just by preparing it and by going through it and hearing this from the students and having a great conversation, I think you learn more as a teacher than you probably in part because you’re just constantly going deeper into this thing that you love. And for us when it’s teaching about the Lord, when it’s teaching about our love and our desire to know the Lord, you’ll never exhaust that depth will just continue and continue.

Chris Dwyer: [05:50] But you thought that was getting derailed as you started to pursue this vocational idea in your head, the religious vocation. You thought now that idea of teaching may disappear.

Fr. Brian: [06:01] Sure. It’s certainly a part of what we do, part of the identity of the priest to teach and to share the faith with others. But now in my time of studies, the goal for me is more specific to be back at our seminary, Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit to be teaching sacred scripture. So, it’s exciting to see how the Holy Spirit brings it back around to what he had clearly implanted in me early on in the gifts and the desires and the passions that he gave me early on for education to be able to use that now in a different, God is never going to say, don’t use that gift I’ve given you. Don’t use that, that thing you’re passionate about, he might say, let’s use it in a different way. Let’s use it in the service of the church and the service of others. Let’s use it in a way that you wouldn’t have seen fit. I also studied music in college. I thought I was going to teach music. So, I get asked a lot as a priest and as a former music director, do you miss doing that kind of stuff? Do you miss doing music and theater and all those other things? And to me it was, again, it was never about giving up something that God had given me. It was about using it in a different way. So being able to use music at the liturgy, being able to use my experience on stage to preach and to be in front of a crowd. Those are great skills that never, they’re never wasted. They never go away. God will just say, let’s use these in a different way.

Chris Dwyer: [07:17] Transferable to many, many different vocations. You mentioned the youth and you mentioned your peers and they asked you questions. We see in our recent podcasts, a number of folks who come in here, same situation, they had lots of questions. They went out and researched and that either convicted them or in fact may have led them in a completely different direction. Sure. What are you seeing among your generation now? Are they seeking you out or are they seeking out other folks to find the answers to their spiritual questions?

Fr. Brian: [07:52] I think in some sense having a younger priest in the parish, I was very blessed to be with a pastor who was at the end of his ministry. He was two years away from retirement when I started. He was 40 years ahead of me and the priesthood. But to have that dynamic of someone who is so well respected and part of that community, had also been at that parish for 20 years. So he was, you know, everyone just knew him. He had baptize babies and then, and then did those first communion and seven years later and then did those weddings, you know, when they were in their twenties and stuff. So he had that, just that longevity there. But coming in as a new priest for the community to see that we share the same priesthood and we share the same gift to the priest that’s been given, but it’s lived out in a very different way, at very different gifts that we use in very different ways of doing ministry. I think for some young people having a young priest there at the parish, he might be more relatable or might just be more able to know exactly where they’re coming from as a member of their generation as well likely with the, with the youth, even that people younger me to be that bridge, like I said, that you can get involved in and just in their lives and in their extracurriculars of the school and you’re there at their band concerts and their football games and they, they, they, they see that you’re there as a spiritual father, as someone who wants to be involved in their life in the same way that the Lord wants to be. If we let him.

Chris Dwyer: [09:14] But also as a regular guy. I mean you’re not this real authoritative individual who scares him off, but you’re somebody they can relate to.

Fr. Brian: [09:24] Yeah. So I was able to use some of my music background at the high school a couple times. They did a musical. I played in the pit orchestra, I played the piano alongside some of the other faculty and students. And I was in the little pet band that we had at the football games playing the trumpet. But, those were fun experiences for me because I think it helped. Like you said, it helped the kids see if
Fr. Brian’s a relatively normal guy. Like he, yeah, he has gifts and talents just like the rest of us. And he had a whole life before coming to the priesthood. He had things that God had put in his path and, and things that he had said yes to and God is using that now in a fuller way to, to, to give glory to God and to, and to help bring souls to Christ. And that’s a great thing to be a part of.

Chris Dwyer: [10:11] Do they ever ask you about what you’ve given up in order to follow this vocation?

Fr. Brian: [10:16] That question would come up a lot. I would, like I said, because we had a great school and the high school, I actually found that the middle school students were very receptive to me. I think sometimes in a K through eight Catholic school environment, sometimes the seventh and eighth graders are, you know, they’re running the show. They’re the oldest ones in the building. But because we had a high school, sometimes our middle school students seem to stay a little more young and innocent like in that age group, because the high school had its own dynamics as well. So I would find myself often times in the seventh with an eighth grade classroom. And yeah, those questions would come up a lot. They had the young people, they had so many questions just about the life of a priest. what do you, what do you do day to day? What is it like living with Father D., With the pastor? You know, what do you guys eat over there in the rectory, what are you doing on your day off? Do you ever wear other clothes? Why do you wear this collar and this black clothes, do you wear other clothes. I mean, stuff that seems simple and I’m, you know, saying it with a smile on my face now because coming from kids, it’s just so, and adults have those questions too, obviously. Coming from kids, it’s there’s something like very endearing and something just very honest about it that they’re just, there is a lot about the life of the priest that is maybe mysterious to people what it is. Or do you just sit in church and pray all day or do you just work one day a week for an hour? And it’s obviously so much more than that, but every day is so different. And being able to go where the spirit leads you, whether it is into a classroom of kids or to be called at a moment’s notice to the hospital or the funeral home, to meet with the family that’s grieving or, I mean there’s just, there’s such a of human emotion,

Chris Dwyer: [11:55] But, you do work with folks from the beginning of life to the end of life and after.

Fr. Brian: [11:59] Absolutely.

Chris Dwyer: [12:00] You know, which is, which is a really for you. It also has to be an emotional roller coaster at times. Does that ever impact you? These various experiences of having to work with the very ill and those who are dying and such?

Fr. Brian: [12:17] You know, I would say it never impacts, it hasn’t impacted me in a negative way or I mean certainly, certainly you give a lot of yourself and you’re tired at the end of the day and it can be draining emotionally and physically. But, but what underlies that I would say, is it’s incredibly humbling too, as you might walk into a hospital room or by someone’s bedside at home who is, who is very near death. I will always think to myself, who am I? Who am I to walk in to this situation? Only by the grace of God. And there were very few people that have access to us in those really serious, maybe trying and hard moments at the end of life. Maybe a doctor, a nurse, maybe a close family friend, a lawyer or something like that. But, then this priest comes in, who may not even know the family.

Chris Dwyer: [13:12] That’s what I think is so remarkable. You can be an absolute stranger to the person when you walk into that room. But, there’s an immediate sense of connection and trust through the collar and just your vocation.

Fr. Brian: [13:25] And it’s about bringing Christ to people in the sacraments, but it also is about recognizing Christ is present there already. He doesn’t just come because, because Fr. Brian cause I show up,. He’s there in that suffering family. He’s there. And that parent, you know, sitting up with a sick child, he’s there in those moments, that are really become moments of encounter. That’s why it’s so humbling for me. I mean, even hearing confessions is humbling because you sit on the side of the screen, the priest side of the screen, knowing that I’ve sat on the other side many, many times myself to a brother, priests and will continue to, and you hear what people are struggling with and what people are fighting against and what is plaguing them. And you know, that somehow in the midst of those two sinners, in that little confessional, Christ is made present. And his forgiveness is real and his mercy endures forever. And to be the agent through which that, comes into someone’s life knowing that I’m the recipient of as much because I’m the dispenser of is, is just incredibly humbling and that’s, that’s a gift of the priesthood.

Chris Dwyer: [14:31] Well, I’m going to be one of those seventh graders for you and tell me the daily life. Tell me the routine. What’s your life like on a daily basis? I know it’s a little different now being at Catholic U, but when you were back as the associate pastor, what did that look like?

Fr. Brian: [14:43] So, daily mass, time of daily prayer. Before that, we pray the breviary, we pray the liturgy of the hours our day is punctuated by prayer. And we make a promise as an ordained minister, priests, and deacons and religious and many lay people are doing this. Lay faithful are doing this now too. But we make a promise that we’ll stop, we’ll pause throughout our day and, and lift up our minds and hearts in prayer. So the day is certainly punctuated by prayer. Intentional like that. But then also other instances. In the parish you would tend to, I would find myself like early Monday morning you’re in the parish office, you’re sitting around with the ladies who work in the office while they’re having coffee and you’re getting a sense of what the week looks like because we have so many great coworkers in our ministry. It’s clearly not just me and the pastor. We have this great team of coworkers that really are there to advance the mission of the parish, to help us in our ministry to bring Christ to the people that we minister to. So, you might sit around for a while and just soak up what’s, Hey, what’s going on this week and what are the events that are going to kind of lead our days? And then I would tend to head over to the school as much as I can and just pop into classrooms. Sometimes it’s stuff that’s scheduled. Sometimes it’s a teacher that might say, Hey, can you come in? We’re teaching on this topic. Can you make some comments on it or just go and get fired, get questions fired at you by the young people that’s great too. And then in the evening you might have meetings with engaged couples that are coming in after the workday, funeral families, it could be, it’s different every day and you just have to I suppose be ready for what the Lord is going to lay out. The days that you, the days that I worry more about are the days that are completely wide open and you know that the Lord is just going to fill them somehow. The ones that you know are already filled up and have some kind of structure to them are easier to get through in some sense. Even if it’s a long day, you might have a meeting in the evening, Knights of Columbus or finance counselor or something that just is the day to day operations of the parish too. You know, those days are, those days might be long, but those are easier in some sense than the day that’s wide open and that, you know, the Lord will send somebody your way that just might coming off the street or the phone call that comes out of the blue and someone needs help. Someone needs a listening ear or somebody needs a sacrament.

Chris Dwyer: [16:58] We see that here at the Monastery, oh my goodness. We’ll put together a to do list for the day and by the end of the day, when we look at the list, and it’s the same as it was when we came in. That’s what we knew we did the Lord’s work. Do you get involved in spiritual direction when you’re at your parish?

Fr. Brian: [17:23] I did a little bit, probably more so than I thought. So in the seminary, we have a spiritual director that’s part of seminary formation. You know, being open to the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a young man, discerning the priesthood. So in the seminary we would meet with a spiritual director and another priest twice a month. And then usually in the priesthood, the recommendation is yourself keeping a spiritual director maybe once a month, twice a month. It’d be hard to do obviously for with a pair schedule, but then the lay faithful will seek you out for counsel. And I will say we certainly need more people in the church to pray for the gift of spiritual discernment, priests and lay faithful alike and religious. And we need good spiritual directors in the church in general. But for most people, because their main interaction with the parish is probably through their parish priest. They would seek us out first. And you’re able to, you’re able to take some people on as a continual meeting, you know, maybe once a month or every other month. And some people you have a discussion with and, and the thing as the priest that you never really know. Like when the phone rings and somebody comes in, you never really know what it’s going to be about and you don’t know what the follow-up might be. If this is something that’s going to be ongoing or this is, you know, a one-time thing. So you try to just be as open and as responsive as you can. Some people will seek out, they do want to meet with you more often. And for other people it might just be a certain life decision or a certain thing, a certain experience they had in prayer that they may have questions about or confused about. And they might just need some more one on one time, bit of information. But again, you kind of never know. But that’s where mutual discernment really comes in. Somebody might be seeking you as a spiritual director, but you, as the spiritual director needs, need to also discern if this person coming to you, if this is going to be a good relationship. I kind of made the comparison or kind of have made the comparison to the whole seminary process because in the seminary, a man is discerned into the priesthood, but the church through the seminary is also discerning him, is also seeing if this is where the Lord has called this particular person. So there’s always that mutual discernment. But certainly for any Catholic out there who is devoting some time to prayer in their day and is not just only filling up that time in prayer with their own requests of God or their own speaking or talking, but really is leaving some time to listen. I mean, that would be the, the place that we all hope to get to where we can, we can just be more responsive in prayer, right. To hear what the Lord has to say to us, not just us always kind of guiding and leading the conversation. But anybody who is doing that, it is going to likely need a guide to help them sort through what they are hearing and what they are experiencing in prayer as promptings of the spirit and what to do with those, with those things that they hear.

Chris Dwyer: [20:22] Yeah, because we hear frequently folks say, how do I know that’s the spirit talking to me. You know, isn’t in my own mind that’s telling me or at least giving me these words that I’m hearing in my mind. And then they believe, well it can’t be, it can’t be, he wouldn’t be speaking to me. So it is very important that they have a director who can help them sort that out.

Fr. Brian: [20:46] And I think there is a tendency there exactly as you’ve said, that sometimes we go to God in prayer with things maybe that seemed very important or very big to us or maybe they are just minor things to us or in the grand scheme. But to remember that the father delights in hearing from his children. I mean the father is fascinated with, with the, the small things in our life. Like he wants to know every part of it. There’s nothing off the table for God in prayer, even if it seems so minor. So minute. I mean if it’s, if it’s on your heart, it’s heart speaking to heart and prayer. It’s, the Lord wants to hear from you. So the tendency there is this tendency like, well why would, why would God, God has so many other big things, wars, and famines and plagues to deal with you, why would he spend any time, but that’s the closeness that we have to the father in Christ Jesus. That’s the access that we have.

Chris Dwyer: [21:39] Well, I do this too. I mean I think we all do this. You sit in a football stadium and you look around or you know, and you think, Oh my gosh, how can he keep tabs on everybody that’s in this stadium? And you start to say maybe he can’t. Cause we use our human mind to try and comprehend that, which is impossible to comprehend what he can do. So how do you overcome that part where you start realizing you’re just part of this massive society. And how can he be that great to be able to do this?

Fr. Brian: [22:13] Because prayer is about relationship. I mean it’s a conversation between two deep and intimate friends. And as we all know from other relationships with family members and with friends, that there are times when you don’t need words that you can just be in the presence of someone that you care about and you love and you might reminisce about an old story may tell an old joke and sometimes you just, you can just sit and be comfortable in silence with that companion, with that friend. Now this is in the midst of a world that’s not very comfortable with silence. It’s hard for us even as Catholics to do the work of prayer, which is sometimes like sitting there and just being quiet and letting the Lord speak. You know, we’re, but Jesus did this, the Lord did this. He had to go off on his own. I mean, the crowds are pressing in on him and on, on the disciples. And even there were times he draws the disciples aside and says, come away for a time. So being able to go away in prayer, to go outside of ourselves and just sit in the presence of the Lord is going to start to foster in us this listening heart. This comfortability is being more comfortable with silence in which God will truly speak to us. But you’re right. Having the spiritual director then is the next piece of, I might go to somebody a month at a time or a few weeks at a time and say, here are my experiences in prayer. Here are all the great ones where I really felt the Lord speaking to me. And all the cylinders were clicking and everything was just working. And then here were the times when it just was painful. And I was looking at the watch and I was, you know, thinking, Oh, maybe it’s, maybe it’s time to clean out my sock drawer. Maybe I should go back and revise that homily I’m working on. You think of a million other things to do that in that moment would be more productive. But God is patient with us. He, he wants us to wait and to be still and, and to know.

Chris Dwyer: [24:12] Right. But isn’t that society, maybe we have measures for everything and you know, productivity is one of our measures, you know, successes, financial success as a measure. But I don’t know that that’s the measure that we should be measuring ourselves when it comes to faith. Obviously. You had mentioned when you sat down in the parish and you would meet with the ladies in the morning, you know. It has come up repeatedly. This is probably the third forth podcast in a row. The role of women in the church. And I’m remembering back to a recent movie that was called The Hidden Figures and it talked all about the group of women that were behind some of the space program. And we just are really learning about those folks now and I think the church is very much the same way. There’s a lot of women who are hidden figures in the church, but the church would never have succeeded or continue to succeed as it does now without them. Where do you see the role or various roles for women in the church? We have our own chancellor here in the Archdiocese of Washington as a female. But what are some of the other roles that women can fill in the church?

Fr. Brian: [25:34] Absolutely. I mean, I think God has been so generous in the way that he gives gifts to all the baptized and the faithful are in need of everyone to use the gift that they have been given. So that’s, that’s men and women included. I mean the church is richer in the sense when all of us are working together and using the gifts that God has given us. So, I’ll just speak specifically to my role as a priest. I mean, obviously as a priest, being celibate, not having a family, not having a wife, not having children, to have the wisdom and the insight of so many women in the church that we often work with in the schools. Most of our teachers are women and most of the people who work in parishes, in my experience have been women. You know, to have that insight that they bring that I don’t have in my personal life, but I have in my vocation because they become our coworkers in ministry is extremely valuable. I mean, to hear from the ladies that serve at the parish, their perspective on things, how they minister to those, they’re the first face that people see when they come into the parish before they even get to the priest. And the joy that they bring to their service. The professionalism, the gifts of the caring and the compassionate nature that the women bring to those who are seeking anything in the church a huge gift that needs to be explored. And then certainly the witness of the female religious, the witness of the married vocation, those women who are called to be wives and mothers and they help us so much to know about the heart of the family, about raising a family. Because as a spiritual father in the parish, I’ve been sent there to, to foster the faith of that particular parish family. And when I think about how would I seek out wisdom running a home in a family and sharing life that way? I would look to some of the great examples of the women that I have in our parish and that we have in the lives of the lives of the saints in the church. The church itself is portrayed as a mother. I mean our lady is our blessed mother is the model of openness as a disciple. So there’s so much of what John Paul II called the feminine genius that is needed to be fostered in the church to continue to share those great gifts and to build up all vocations. And I think women are a phenomenal doing that, supporting us in all of our vocations.

Chris Dwyer: [28:16] Excellent. Father, I think that’s a great answer. And I know the young ladies who have been through here are looking for a role. They truly want to be in a role to help support the church. They don’t want to leave it. They want to help lead it. And so they’re looking to the priest and to the religious to help them find a way of doing that. That’s great. So Father, you’re down here in back to Washington, D.C. And in fact, you spent a year living here at the Monastery, you know, the workings of this Monastery in our friars. But you’re now living over at Catholic U and you are studying sacred scripture. Tell us a little bit about what the Bishop and why he sent you here to do that.

Fr. Brian: [29:00] Sure. I was asked by Archbishop Vigneronn, who is the Archbishop of Detroit who also is an alumnus of Catholic U, has a great love for this university as well. I was asked to come here and study sacred scripture, specifically the Old Testament. When he asked me to study that was really the first question. Would I be willing to go off and study in general with the hope of once finishing, coming back to teach at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit where I also attended. So at first it was just a general question, would you be willing to study tuition? I said yes to the Bishop. And then he said, well, the area of greatest need from the seminary is someone to do scripture and specifically Old Testament. And I was thrilled when he said that there were other, other areas, liturgy or spirituality that I probably would have enjoyed studying as well. And there were some areas that will remain nameless that I would not have been so excited about studying. But, he, in his wisdom, I know that he wants his priest to succeed in what they’re doing and to love what they’re doing. And, for my program, it means being here five years. So I think if I had told the Archbishop that, I you know, I don’t think I’d be happy as a priest to doing that for five years. He would say, well, let’s find something else because I don’t think he wants to force a guy to do something that’s going to be unfulfilling or unfruitful in his ministry. In fact, he even said, if your, if your ministry, if your priesthood starts to suffer because of this, then this is, you know, not for you. But, I was, I was very happy to, to say yes to what he was asking me to do. Just because I have a great love for, scripture myself and wanting to know more about it. And it’s funny, as I tell like family members and other Catholics and people in the parish, when I was leaving my time at the parish to come out here and I’d said, Oh, you know, I’m going to go study scripture. And they would say, Oh, that’s great. The New Testament, like the gospels and the parables and Jesus. And I said, no, actually I’m studying the Old Testament. They’re like, why? That’s the hard one. That’s the confusing one. God’s angry, God’s this, God’s that. And, and I would think to myself, this is exactly why we as Catholics need to know the new tests, the Old Testament better and, and, and to see how God is unfolding this whole plan. So if you read another book, if you read in the New Testament, if you read Revelation, which is another very challenging, confusing book at the very end of the Bible, you know that what John is doing is he’s going back and taking all this imagery. And all of this stuff from the Old Testament and he’s, he’s showing it now in the light of Christ. So you have to have this great sense of the whole picture of scripture. You know, to read, to read it from Genesis to Revelation. So I’m excited to be able to, to be a, a piece of that going forward. So the Archbishop said to me that the purpose of studying and teaching, would be to know the word of God, to love the word of God, to be able to pray with the word of God and to come back to Detroit and to help others to do that. So when you hear that clear, concise, request from your Bishop that there’s a very specific purpose why I’m asking you to do this. It makes it much easier and much more enjoyable and really much more, open to how the spirit is going to work through my priesthood. Now, bringing me back into teaching like we talked about before, which is what I, you know, had planned to do, I’m excited. I’m excited to be here. The days are challenging. There’s lots of work to do. I mean there’s, there’s plenty of work to be done of course. But it gives me excitement.

Chris Dwyer: [32:34] How is it back on campus. I mean you’ve been away from a college campus for a number years.

Fr. Brian: [32:39] So I’m a little bit older. I’m 35, so I’m a little bit older than some of the undergrads who are coming, you know, to Catholic U for the first time or even maybe some of the other grad students. So I met a little bit of a different place, you know, just age wise and being study habits and just knowing how much you can do or accomplish. And then, unlike other students who are maybe coming to the campus for the first time, who are getting involved in extracurriculars and are meeting friends that they’re going to be with for life and formalize relationships, and you know, there’s a lot else to do on a college campus when you’re just kind of starting out that is not so much I focus now coming back because you’re just in a different place. Not, I mean, that stuff is great and I’m meeting lots of great people too and making lots of great friendships, but you have, you have more time to devote to the studies itself because that’s really all that’s really all I’m here for. There’s really not a whole lot else to do. So you’re just in a little bit of a different place. So you approach it a little bit differently. But I think coming back to school this time, I feel a great sense of gratitude knowing that it really is because of the generosity and the sacrifice of not just my brother, priests back in Detroit who are working hard while I’m gone. One less, one fewer priest, you know, at home working in the diocese, in the parish, but also the people of God in the diocese who, through giving to our annual campaign through our, Catholic service appeal, are allowing me to be here. I mean, it’s an immense gift that I actually had to talk about this with my spiritual director last year. This is going back to spiritual direction because, you want to be grateful. You want to be, you don’t want to waste the opportunity you’ve been given. So I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in my first year of studies to do the past and everything had to be the best. And because all these people are counting on me and all these people are, and some of that, those are temptations. Those can be temptations to wear us out and to get our eyes off of the Lord and, and focus more on ourselves and our own ability. And that’s clearly not where God wants us. It’s only, you know, it’s through his grace and through our cooperation with it that we’re able to achieve any of this. So, my very wise spiritual director here at the Archdiocese of Washington told me that you will never be able to pay back this gift that you’re given. So you pay it forward. You go home and you share the treasure that you’ve received of this wonderful education at Catholic U. Of these five years where I can delve into the languages and delve into the scripture and just, and hopefully know it forwards and backwards. You go home and you share that and you just share the gift that you’ve been given the gifts that you receive, you give then as a gift.

Chris Dwyer: [35:26] That’s awesome advice.

Fr. Brian: [35:28] Yeah. I mean that, so that was like probably around midterms in that first semester in that it just made, it put it in a totally different perspective. Yeah. Because it is about working hard and doing your best and taking ownership of it as well. But, also being open to receive what the Lord has given us and to be willing to share it when those opportunities come. So for me, that’ll be very, very specific in the way that I go back and teach not just seminarians, but also the lay students that study at Sacred Heart. That’s the great thing about being in the scripture program. Back at Sacred Heart. Everybody has to take scripture. It’s not like it’s so specialized to the seminarians, like some of the classes, you know, and then they’ll then liturgy or in practical things might be like that. So I’ll really get to encounter the wide range of students that study there and really be able to interact with, a great amount of people from the diocese who come down to our seminary, which is really a jewel in our seminary that we, in our diocese that we have this great seminary that teaches, not only priests and deacons, but the great number of the lay faithful to be joyful missionary disciples.

Chris Dwyer: [36:33] I get the greatest kick out of the fact that you thought your plan to be a teacher was derailed, you know, and now it’s right on track. There’s no doubt about it.

Fr. Brian: [36:42] The Holy spirit, he shows off sometimes, like he just, he just comes, comes back around with something that you didn’t think he would bring back into your life. And it’s another gift from him to be received.

Chris Dwyer: [36:54] It’s also an active of faith and trust on your part. You know, and that’s the other key component to letting the spirit work. We have to trust and participate in his work with us.

Fr. Brian: [37:04] As a younger priest too, it’s different to know that that a small section of your priesthood will be kind of defined for you as a younger priest. You tend to move around a little bit more. It might show two or three years in a parish and then by the time you’re made a pastor, there’s a little more stability. But, to know that I have the certain number of years here and then going back to Sacred Heart, they’re going to want to get a couple of years of me teaching since they put all this time and money into me. So I don’t know how long I’ll be there. That’s up to the Holy spirit and the Bishop. But, to know that a certain amount of your priesthood is set for you is a little bit different as a young priest. And, but again, it’s something, it’s an invitation to just say yes and to trust and have faith that that’s where the Lord wants you. And the Lord is going to use the gift that he has given through me, in a way that will do the most good to get his word and to make his word known and to make Jesus known.

Chris Dwyer: [37:59] Well, you’ve certainly been a bridge, today for me to Jesus. You are an inspiration, knowing that our church is in good hands with a young priest like yourself. So, we all pray here. I know the friars are praying for you all the time that your ministry is successful and your studies are successful. So, thank you so much for coming by and sharing your story and giving us a little bit of insight into what spiritual direction is here. Thanks, Father.

Fr. Brian: [38:32] You’re welcome.

Chris Dwyer: [38:36] I want to thank Fr. Brian again for coming by to Following Francis and thank you, our listeners for tuning in. For the latest information about the Franciscan Monastery and the work of the Holy Land Friars, please check us out on our website, myfranciscan.org as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. And until next time, I want to extend to you the Franciscan blessing, peace and all good.




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2019-09-18T11:02:44-04:00September 18th, 2019|Categories: Following Francis Podcast, News|Comments Off on Episode 9: Defining Spiritual Direction