2028 — I Philosophy

James Freeman, St. John Church, Russellville

Attends the House of Formation in Little Rock

The Lord has definitely been working on my heart for a while, in regards to my calling towards the priesthood. I grew up in a home that nurtured my Catholic faith. The realities of Catholicism were manifested by often speaking of the faith and by displaying religious artwork throughout the house. Looking back, I see many examples of Christ calling me to his priesthood.

When I was young, my siblings and I would play "Mass" quite often. Our mom would help us make the "hosts" from smashed slices of bread cut into perfect circles by using different-sized drinking glasses. The large glass was for the priest and the small one was for the congregation consisting of my mom and sister. My younger brother and I would take turns being the priest or altar server.

After my first holy Communion, I received a personal missal for kids that included the words used by the priest and congregation. This helped aid me in an even deeper understanding of what really happens at the sacrifice of the Mass. Although I would play "Mass" at home, I didn't become an altar server until my fifth-grade year.

Once my brother received first holy Communion, he wanted to become an altar server, but would not do it without me trying it with him. I somewhat reluctantly joined him at the next altar server training; the rest is history.

The greatest gift my brother gave me was helping me to discover the blessings of being an altar server. From that point until my senior year of high school, I served almost every weekend, every holy day of obligation and non-obligatory holy days. I learned a great deal from the priests that I grew up with. Each of them helped me to understand my calling to the priesthood (unbeknownst to me).

The people of my parish also worked to show me the aspects I had of what many call "a priestly heart;" some more straightforward than others. I never felt pressured, and I am now thankful for the kind observations as well as the many prayers they shared for me.

Until I reached junior high and especially high school, I had not fully realized that God was possibly calling me into a deeper type of relationship with him. I started attending local youth conferences offered by the diocese and other religious entities. Those conferences and my own local youth ministry program helped me to start realizing that God was desiring more out of my life, then what I had planned.

I would say my big “aha” moment (or for me more like the moment I gave up on trying to form my own plan without letting God get past knocking at my heart’s door) took place during one of the multiple youth conferences I went to. It was during the summer at a Steubenville Mid-America Youth Conference, that I “heard God loud and clear” as many would say. Except for me, I wouldn’t describe it as loud and clear.

We were nearing the moment of benediction, during what many call the adoration time of the conference, and the worship team was singing a beautiful song. This particular conference had thousands of teens present inside of an arena. So while we were quieter than normal, since adoration was taking place, it wasn’t deathly quiet.

I was kneeling at the back of the arena, having a full frontal view of the altar from my group's section, and was more listening to the song, since I didn’t know it. The lyrics were scrolling across the top of the projector screens, behind the altar, at the opposite end of the arena. Suddenly, my world went quiet, only being able to hear the muffled sound of the song leader, piano and students around me. I was scared at first, thinking I had ruptured an eardrum or something.

The fear passed almost instantaneously, though. I felt a warmth, calmness, peace engulf me. Then I heard the worship leader sing the single word "chosen," as it appeared on the projector screen. That very second everything went quiet. My surroundings grew dark and I was entranced in looking at the word "chosen." In that moment I felt God, in a powerful, yet soft voice/presence. As if knowing I would try to doubt my experience, I heard the words: “You are chosen my son” spoken to me.

Throughout the past years, I had been praying, but also ignoring in my way what had felt like a calling to the priesthood. At that moment, with Christ already physically present in the room in the consecrated Host housed in the monstrance, I was given one of the most powerful and beautiful experiences I have ever had.

I believe that God, in his Fatherly person, had spoken to me that night, confirming what I felt his Son had been calling for me to do, and there was no way now for me to ignore it. It took me a couple more years before I finally took the step of entering the seminary.

What is beautiful about God’s way of working, is that he won’t force you to do anything you don’t want. He gives himself fully to us, only if we accept him. Even in trying to form my own plans, God worked his way into them and helped me to finally ask him to take control of my worries and follow his desires. Here I am now, doing something I still can’t believe I get to do.

I am far from ordination though, so I ask for anyone reading this to please keep me in your prayers as I prepare to be a better servant of the Church. I pray God’s blessing be with you all. He definitely sees what his children are doing here in the Diocese of Little Rock!

If you wish to contact James Freeman, please e-mail Maria Izquierdo-Roque in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published July 1, 2020. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.