[su_dropcap style=”flat”]H[/su_dropcap]ERE GOES my first article from my heart to your ears. In my younger life, with some definite strong influences from parochial school, I was pretty darn sure that I heard God’s call for my vocation to enter the seminary to become a priest. My 14 years of life experience (possibly 10, since that’s how far my memories can recollect) seemed to me as “seasoned enough” to answer God’s siren call. Soon thereafter, I spent the good part of my 7th grade year at Saint Mark’s Seminary in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was just positive that I would someday wear that backwards white collar and raise my right hand to bless the folks in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost!
Boy! Was I wrong! I believe that my “homesickness” trumped God’s calling so I returned home to complete my high school education. At 17 years of age I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps who promised to build my mind, body and spirit (the old recruiting slogan back in 1967) for the following four years of active service.
Believe it or not, I still heard God’s faint call for me to possibly resume my seminary education on the road back to being a priest.
Well, once I completed my overseas tour of duty, I was posted at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, California. As I had only six months left on my enlistment in the green machine (also known an Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children among other acronyms); I went to the base education office where I learned they had a program called: “Operation Early Out”. This program was designed for jarheads that did not want to “ship-over” (re-enlist) but would afford the individual Marine an opportunity to attend an all-fees-paid tuition to any 90-day educational program offered by any local community college located in Orange County, California. Additionally, any qualified Marine would be temporarily “detached” from base duties and their new duty would be to successfully attend and graduate from any of the available educational programs.
Okay! Three months of “detached” duty seemed like a good deal, so I asked the Educational NCO, “What was the longest program they had that I could attend?” (I did not care if it was advanced yoga for the elderly or even navel gazing for the sight impaired.) Well, it turned out to be a three month “Orange County Police Officer’s Academy” sponsored by Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California.
I signed-up and off I went to be a police academy recruit, urrrrah!
I just loved it and I could not believe you could get paid to do the police gig and have sooooo much fun since I had to ride-along with real cops on the academy weekends.
Fast forward 43 years later and here I am wearing a sheriff’s star and I still love it. During my very “storied career” on every level and detail of law enforcement that you can imagine; I have had plenty of time to reflect on God’s distant call to me to be a priest; and you know what? He was right (but with a great sense of humor or you may call irony).
A priest ministers (provides service) to people – so does a cop!
A priest hears confessions – so does a good cop and detective with the proper techniques!
A priest offers absolution – so does a cop with admonishments and warnings!
A priest is present soon after an infant’s birth for baptism – so I have been when I helped deliver three healthy babies when I was in uniform and on duty!
A priest is present when people die – so I have been- way too many times and in every possible circumstance (suicides; accidents; homicides and serious physical assaults and officer-involved shootings)
A priest must give counsel to his parishioners – and so does a good cop every working day to the citizens on the other side of a 911 call!
A priest can marry people – well, to tell you the truth, I have performed “unofficial” marriages when I would have two angry lovers solve their problems over a bowl of ice cream that I had dished-out in front of them. (No one has ever killed anyone over dessert – not even in the Godfather movie – it was over pasta!)
A priest is celibate – this is where my comparison really ends!
There you have it, my kind folks … how God really called me to a life and career of service but not the one that I thought He had chosen for me.
Until next time, this is “Gumshoe” signing off for now. Be well, be safe, people love you!