As a seven year old boy I was kneeling in St. Raphael’s Church at the school mass – it would have been on a Thursday. As the priest was at the altar – probably in the Eucharistic prayer – I perceived a light: that is what I am called to be.
Now that inspiration was nice while it lasted but a child can only do so much with this inspiration – mostly what he can do is wait. I really didn’t tell anyone and somehow decided that I would put it far back on the back on the back burner. At that young age I was able to see that I had been offered a choice to give myself to God unconditionally, or to give myself to the mediocrity the world had to offer. Thus began a small game of tug-o-war.
I was raised in a Catholic family that was unapologetic about its faith, and strove to grow in it. The first few years of my life were spent in North Carolina, right outside Fort Bragg, and the small but endearing Springfield, Minnesota.
Shortly after the inspiration I felt in the Church our family moved to the ‘Cities’, just outside Saint Paul to be exact. This turned out to be very providential since shortly after our arrival our family first met the Regnum Christi movement, and that was a huge pull for God that nearly knocked me off my feet and tumbling toward him.
It was not instantaneous, however. I remember receiving an invitation to join ECYD and I knew immediately that ECYD would bring me to closer friendship with Jesus and that in turn would put me on a path to follow the inspiration I received. And so, I declined. I was nevertheless benefiting from the contact I had with ECYD, the
Legionary priests and religious, and an occasional meeting with one of the consecrated members.
I discovered Immaculate Conception Apostolic School quite indirectly, at least by my memory. A friend who I always saw at ECYD events went on a trip out East all of sudden. I asked my mom where he had gone and she said to New Hampshire to a school for boys open to the priesthood. My first reaction was “New Hampshire? (can anything good come out of that place?). Then my mom asked, “and you, are you thinking about the priesthood?” My face compressed into a look of annoyance and I added with a flourish and a spin towards the door the profound teenage response: “whatever, Mom”.
I couldn’t escape the interest that all this sparked in me and as soon as my friend returned home he filled me in and shocked me with his resolution to return for the school year.
I began high school with all of its opportunities and challenges. As a little escape I signed up to visit New Hampshire myself over Christmas, just as much to see my friend as to see the school. When I got there all the barriers I had built up dropped over like cardboard. The boys were fun loving, athletic, some trouble makers (with good taste) but at the same time in love with their faith and pious. They weren’t perfect but neither was I. In a way I had never felt so at home in my life.
Over the following six months I think I spent over a month in ECYD activities and camps. After coming home and seeing the date so far off, my decision waivered a bit but never vanished. One highlight was going to Rome for Pentecost to be with Regnum Christi members from all over the world to celebrate with Pope John Paul II and the other ecclesial movements in the Church.
A couple of days before I left I broke the news to a few friends and said my good-byes. I had great peace knowing that I was giving God his place and following that inspiration that I had received years before.
My time of preparation for the priesthood has been great. God has never let me down. There has been necessary suffering, some confusion, especially in these last years. The bottom line is he chose me and chose me for the Legionaries of Christ. At first I challenged him to a game of tug-o-war and lost – and I’ll be lying prostrate on the ground at my ordination as proof.
Fr. Matthew Schmitz, L.C was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, United States of America, on March 5, 1983. He entered the novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut in 2000. He studied classical humanities in Cheshire. Has a degree in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Ateneum Regina Apostolorum. He has been member of the team of formators of the noviciate in Cheshire (U.S.A) and Dublin (Ireland). During his last two years in Rome he resided in the General Directorate.