As a young college student, I found myself drifting away from the church. I had a thousand questions, and I found institutional religion unappealing. If it were not for a piece of writing that spoke to my heart, by Cardinal John Henry Newman, I don’t know where I’d be today:
“God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me, which he has not committed to another.
“I have my mission. … I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. … Therefore, I will trust him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
“If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him.
“If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.”
This prayer made me realize that we all have a God-given purpose in life. It brought me back to the church.
My experience of God can be expressed in the image of a sculptor molding his clay. We are putty in the hands of a loving God.
At first I resisted this outside spiritual force, which was mysteriously moving me in a direction I did not want to go. Then one day after six years of a prayerful agonizing struggle, all of my doubts and hesitations evaporated.
I made my final decision while serving as a draftee in the Army at the end of the Korean War.
I soon entered the seminary, and four years later was ordained a priest on May 28, 1960. Not long after, in 1967, I began writing a column for my home Catholic newspaper, The Beacon, of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey.
The inspiration for this came from the words of Jesus, “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15).
The whole experience of writing is like a vocation within a vocation, for which I am most humbly grateful.
You the reader have given me a lot of heartwarming feedback over the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope I have served you well. I always tried to write as though you were the only person receiving my love.
And now after 50 years of writing articles, 20 of them in syndication with Catholic News Service, having reached the ripe old age of 85, I am leaving behind the deadline drudgery to slow down a bit.
I will still dabble with Twitter (@JohnCatoir) and Facebook, so that any future columns I decide to write at my leisure will be posted there, in the public domain, free for one and all to see.
From 1988 to 1990, I was the president of the Catholic Press Association. In that capacity, I made many friends throughout the world of spiritual journalism, and I want to thank them for all their support and friendship over the years.
I will leave you with another favorite quote of mine, this one from the mystic Julian of Norwich:
“This place is a prison; this life a penance. Yet it is a remedy he wants us to enjoy. For the remedy is that our Lord is with us, keeping and leading us into the fullness of joy.
“And this is the endless joy for us that our Lord means, that he will be our bliss when we are there, yet he is our keeper while we are here. Our way and our heaven is true love and sure trust; and he gave this understanding in all.”