This week, as 2 million youth gather for World Youth Day 2016 in Kraków, Fr. Weber shares his own experience, one that ultimately led him to the priesthood.
By: Rev. Jason Weber, pastor of San Francisco De Asís, Bánica
Many people who have been to a World Youth Day have their World Youth Day — a week that radically alters your faith experience. I have been to three: Toronto, Canada; Cologne, Germany; and Madrid, Spain. Looking back, Canada was my World Youth Day. My experience in Toronto led to an experience during the Sacrament of Reconciliation that would open up a new road in my life that would eventually lead me to the priesthood.
Fr. Jason Weber, second from left, at World Youth Day 2002. (courtesy photo)
As a young man in college, the opportunity to go on a trip and visit a foreign country was welcome indeed, and being somewhat pious, I knew such a trip would also be good for my faith. Anyone who has been on a road trip — especially with about 200 people — knows that there are bound to be frustrations and inconveniences. We slept on gym floors and shared confined spaces for long periods of time. The shrines that we visited were often packed with people, and thus, were not always prayerful.
In hindsight, the trip was wonderfully organized and now that I understand a bit more about large-group events, I would say things ran rather smoothly with many blessings along the way. However, when a bit of negativity grabs hold, it can be difficult to shake off and the little tensions and frustrations were building on me. Very aware of my frustrations and the poverty of my attitude, I decided Wednesday afternoon to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The area set up for confessions was like a little labyrinth with priests tucked here and there as penitents snaked their way in to see the next available confessor.
Arlington pilgrims wave to Pope St. John Paul II at World Youth Day 2002. (courtesy photo)
I began talking about my sins and the frustrations that I was experiencing on the trip, the priest asked me, “Why did you come?” I responded, “To see the pope, I guess.” Even in this simple response I think I was venting a bit, and my subsequent response could even be considered flippant, but the priest was quite patient. He continued by asking, “If we ask the pope why all these young people came, what do you think he would say?” “I don’t know, I’m not the pope!” I retorted. The priest then gently responded, “I think the pope would say that the young people have come to see Christ in union with the pope. You will find Christ on the Cross most perfectly, so begin to look for him in the frustrations and difficulties that you are experiencing.”
His response was so simple and so profound. It transformed the remainder of my week into a time of joy, and directed my heart to seek to serve the other World Youth Day attendees. And, to find Christ in the sacrifices that we were making as we walked with one another on the pilgrimage. It was the day after that experience of confession that I, after several years of silence, also thought about the possibility of being a priest and I was able to share that with someone on the trip.
After years of ignoring the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, my confession with an anonymous priest at World Youth Day allowed me to take a first step in that direction: I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Arlington in 2010, and I currently serve in the diocesan mission in Bánica in the Dominican Republic. It is important that we look for Christ at all times, but more than ever when we face the trials and crosses that this life has to offer. As my confessor reminded me, the Cross is where we will find Him most perfectly.
A missionary partnership between the Diocese of Arlington and the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, serving 13,500 poor people in the rural area of the Dominican Republic on the border of Haiti. To learn more or to donate to the Mission, click here.