was successfully added to your cart.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this episode of Praying with Priests. This is Father Michael Denk from The Prodigal Father and I’m here with Father Jim Sichko. Father Jim, thank you so much for your time.

 

 Father Jim:

It’s an honor to be here.

Father Michael:

I know you’re traveling all over the world so this is pretty providential, maybe, that I get to be with you right now. As we do this interview, what I love to ask priests about is their journey of prayer. What I’d like to start out with is your first memory. What is the first thing you ever remember about prayer?

Father Jim:

It would probably be around our table with my parents and my family praying. That’s my first memory of being with them because we always prayed before meals, but we also prayed the rosary after the meal.

Father Michael:

Oh, really! At the table together. Wow!

Father Jim:

Yes, at the table together. That was not an option and it was something that I grew up with.

Father Michael:

Everybody did.

Father Jim:

Everyone did. I’m the youngest of five.

Father Michael:

I’m in the middle of six. What was the affect, what was that like for you? What do you remember? Was it boring? Was it peaceful?

Father Jim:

I think, at times, as you grow and age when you’re younger, it was something that was exciting for me because I hoped I’d get to do a mystery or say a prayer or be a part of that. As I grew older, I wondered sometimes what is this all about? Is this worth it? I’m talking about being in high school or younger. But, to be honest, I’ve always been devoted to prayer because it was what was modeled in my home. I mean, that was modeled by my parents. There was no option whether you wanted to go to Mass or not. You went to Mass with us. And it wasn’t that you pick and choose which Mass you wanted to go to, we go as a family. That was just part of it, if that makes sense. So I always felt called towards the priesthood, I always felt called towards prayer. Whether I was always faithful in prayer is another thing. But that’s where you find the rhythm, you find the direction, you find the discoveries, at least I felt it.

Father Michael:

So Mass together with your whole family.

Father Jim:

Mass together, the rosary together. Perpetual Adoration. My parents would switch out once a week and they would take the 3:00 a.m. hour. Then that got so ingrained that you’d want to go to Perpetual Adoration as you got older. That was something that was extremely special. I’ve always found through my most difficult moments in my life that adoration is, the grace from that moment is, what always brings me through. That solitude. It’s very interesting, whenever I travel throughout the world, even before I became a priest, when I would go to college, when I would find a church, anywhere, I would always look for the sanctuary lamp. That is just something that rooted me and centered me to know that Jesus is present.

Father Michael:

If our listeners don’t know what a sanctuary lamp is, it’s usually a red candle, sometimes white, but it identifies where the Blessed Sacrament is in the church. That’s a great practice for anyone to do. Any time you go into the church look for the sanctuary lamp. It’ll point you to the Tabernacle, and pray right before our Lord.

Father Jim:

The Canon states that it should be visible to the majority of the congregation. Finding that always brings me solace and peace.

Father Michael:

That’s beautiful. Any other memories of prayer from childhood?

Father Jim:

Yes. One thing is I went to a Catholic school, and I remember in third grade we became pen pals with cloistered nuns in Lufkin, Texas. There’s a monastery there of cloistered nuns. There were about 30 Dominican nuns. Cloistered, as you know, they’re away from the community. They’re set apart. They’re 24/7 prayer. We became pen pals, our class. Then we decided as a class to go and visit them. That was just amazing! I remember that. I remember it was storming, raining, and we went. Those times are when you would go in cars and parents would drive. Different parents would drive and the whole class would be in a caravan. I remember that. When we got to the monastery we were all so excited. We wanted to see the nuns who we wrote. I still communicate with her to this day, and I celebrated my first Mass there, at the monastery.

Father Michael:

Did you really? So, she was a big part of your vocation.

Father Jim:

Yes, yes. I remember those things. I remember in grade school when we would have to recite the prayers and you’d get a gold star. I remember being a little boy and celebrating Mass every day in my house, and I couldn’t have been thrilled more when Pringles came out because they broke like how the priest broke the host at The Lamb of God. I used to celebrate Mass. I had the vestments, I had the book, I had everything. I would pretend I was the priest and my animals, my dogs, would be my congregation.

Father Michael:

So then, when did you transition? When did you go to seminary?

Father Jim:

I went to seminary after college. I had a Performing Arts degree. I did my undergraduate at the New England Conservatory of Music in vocal performance and opera. I did all that, but always felt called to the priesthood.

Father Michael:

So talk about high school, college. Often that’s when people stray from their faith, stray from prayer. What was your life like during those times?

Father Jim:

Sure. High school was a good time, but I did a lot with my music. Music was taking precedence, but I was still very faithful to church with my family. Still very faithful, but what was starting to happen was I was getting a lot of invitations to sing in protestant churches. My family was very leary of that. Leary. In fact, my mother and father would make me get approval from the pastor in the parish. He finally said, “Look, it’s okay to go do this.” And I became very intrigued a lot by some of the different ministers and the way they preached and sang, the way. . .their hospitality, and just the various different things. It didn’t get me so much questioning my faith but it sure did begin to kind of shape and open. In college I found a group of college students that liked to live their faith and I remember we would go to Mass every weekend. But I was also part of what they called inter-varsity. It was a campus crusade type of thing for Christ where in one aspect I think they were trying to convert people to their form of being saved, so to speak, but I was very much rooted in my faith and I was already saved, you know. They had no animosity towards me. They would ask me questions and I would ask them questions. So I don’t know of a time where I actually ever strayed from my faith. There were times when there were questions that led me to deeper. . .I mean, even in high school I would be taking Ignatian retreats and the same in college. I would go and spend weekends at a seminary, so there was that.

Father Michael:

It was there and evident. It seemed communal. You were always surrounded by your family or other people.

Father Jim:

Yes, yes. But I’m also, though people will find this hard to believe, I’m very much an introvert.

Father Michael:

Really!

Father Jim:

Yeah. I do preach in front of thousands of people but I’m very much. . .I enjoy, at times, solitude.

Father Michael:

So you were familiar with some of the Ignatian retreats in high school and colleges.

Father Jim:

Yes, yes.

Father Michael:

Was there a moment in prayer or discernment when you knew it was time for the priesthood?

Father Jim:

I always wanted to be a priest. Whether or not it—it wasn’t so much about whether or not I was going to be a priest. It ended up being where was God calling me to be a priest.

Father Michael:

Okay.

Father Jim:

Okay, so my journey was not an easy one. So, I started out to be in seminary after college for a diocese in southeast Texas, in Beaumont, Texas.

Father Michael:

Is that where you’re from?

Father Jim:

I am. I studied for four and a half years for that diocese. The bishop was an extremely pastoral man. His name was Bishop Bernard Gantor. He was the founding bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then became bishop of Beaumont, Texas. He was originally from the diocese of Galveston/Houston, and just extremely pastoral. I mean, write you notes, call you, that type of thing. He was a model of the priesthood for me. Every year in seminary there are evaluations so I was evaluated and given the green light to go for orders, and Bishop Gantor came down with an inoperable brain tumor. He was diagnosed with that in August, he died in October. I also knew, however, that those who were within the circle of powerful priests in that diocese, some of them did not think that I fit the mold. And as soon as Bishop Gantor died, two months later, I was dismissed from the diocese.

Father Michael:

Gee.

Father Jim:

No scandal.

Father Michael:

Right, right, right.

Father Jim:

The seminary knew nothing, my spiritual director knew nothing. I was literally called in and it was said that they did not need me. It was the most . . .

Father Michael:

That’s devastating.

Father Jim:

More than devastating.

Father Michael:

Going from such a pastoral, loving . . .

Father Jim:

Going to your dream of already having where you’re going to be and what you’re going to do. And what’s interesting is, people who may be listening to the podcast may say, “Oh well, I’m sure there’s something.” No. If you were looking at today—we’re not looking at it from the lens of today. We’re looking at it from a lens of thirty years ago. I’ve been ordained a priest for twenty-two years. So it was about twenty-eight years ago that this happened. It happens more than people think.

Father Michael:

I know a lot of times back then, too, it could just be a personality thing.

Father Jim:

That’s exactly what it was.

Father Michael:

If they don’t like your personality, you’re done.

Father Jim:

That’s exactly what it was, exactly what it was. It was a personality thing. And I’ll say to you it was the best thing that ever happened to me because, number one, if I would have been ordained in that diocese I would never be doing what I’m doing today. Number two, one of the places where I preach every year is that diocese. I’ve been invited many times to preach there. And, number three, it just wasn’t in God’s plan. I think that’s something that we always have to remember. I think that we sometimes have a very difficult time realizing that God can answer prayer and sometimes His answer is no. You know what I’m saying? People always think, or I hear people think, that when they pray to God they’re praying for what they want, not necessarily what they need, you see. And God offers us what we need, and that may not necessarily be what we want. You see, in my mind I wanted to be a priest there. Actually, to be honest with you, I just wanted to be a priest. And then, after I was dismissed, I was just in shock, and people were writing, the seminary was writing, “What is going on”? And then, I took about six months off and I began to really pray before the Blessed Sacrament. I began to discern, really where would be somewhere I would be called to serve. Who would take me? Because you feel like an outcast. And I remember one day in adoration I was going through the Catholic Directory. Your podcast people may not know it’s a directory of all, it’s a big old book, red book, with all of . . .

Father Michael:

Every Catholic institution.

Father Jim:

And every diocese. And it has the motto of every bishop of that diocese.

Father Michael:

Oh, okay.

Father Jim:

When I opened it up, I opened it to a motto which was Micah: “Walk humbly with God, love tenderly.” You know, I looked and I was like, wow, that’s an interesting motto for a bishop, “Walk humbly with God, love tenderly.” So I just wrote that bishop.

Father Michael:

Really?

Father Jim:

I did. And I wrote him, and I said, I laid it right out on the table. I said, “Here are my evaluations, here is what happened to me, and what I’d like is I’d like to come and work in your diocese, free of charge, and let you see me, and let you get to know me.” And he said, “Come on.” And I did for a year, and at the end of the year they picked me up as a priest and for twenty-two years I’ve been a priest for that diocese.

Father Michael:

Wow.

Father Jim:

God provides. It didn’t mean that there wasn’t pain, there wasn’t struggle, there weren’t moments of asking, “Why, God?” But there also had to be moments of me being quiet and listening to God. And listening for the answer and trusting. Trusting.

Father Michael:

Did you hear Him?

Father Jim:

Oh, sure. I know when God speaks to me.

Father Michael:

Tell . . .

Father Jim:

Oh, you know, God speaks to me through the great depths and recesses of my heart. It’s a feeling that I cannot explain, but I know that whenever that feeling comes to me I’m to act. So if any of your podcast members Google my name, they will see random acts of kindnesses that I do. Some are very far-fetched. Some kind of, you know, catch people by surprise or confusion. They’re not geared just to Catholics. They’re geared to wherever the Lord leads me to do that. Always, powerful miracles come from it. I mean, literally. So it’s the. . .the only way, though, we’re able to discern that the Lord is speaking to us is that we have to trust God in that. The way that I have learned to do that is by spending time with God in prayer. By forming a relationship with God. So, that’s the “R” in trust; by having an understanding how God operates. God understands how I operate because He created me, but I also have to understand how God operates. The way I have to do that is I have to read scripture. I have to recognize that if my bible is in good shape, I’m not. You know? So I have to have that time, I have to form that relationship, I have to have that understanding, and then I’ve got to do something that I find is really difficult for us in the United States, and that is surrender. I’ve got to let go and let God.

Father Michael:

Michael: So how to you do that?

Father Jim:

Yeah. You do that by recognizing you’re not in charge, or that I’m not in charge, and that I’ve got to put into practice all that I’ve heard about and learned about, and that I’ve really got to keep focus. Because if I don’t keep focus on the cross, if I don’t keep focus on Jesus, then I’m going to sink. So time, relationship, understanding, surrendering, and then the final “T” is just try. That’s all that God asks of any of us, I believe, is just to try, to make the effort. Just like tonight, after the mission. I’ve made the effort to come and visit with you as a brother priest. That’s part of it. You’ve got to make the effort. In every miracle story, in every encounter with Jesus, all He asks is that we come halfway, not even the whole way. I always love to take that story of Peter walking on the water. Well, how did he do that? He did it because he spent time with Jesus. And he knew what Jesus could do. I think we all know what Jesus can do. Jesus can do some very powerful things. And then from that, Peter and Jesus had a relationship. And from that relationship they understood one another. Peter saw Jesus do some amazing things, and Jesus saw Peter do some really stupid things. But they understood that, and then Peter had to do something. He had to get out of the boat and he had to surrender his will to God’s will. There’s always someone who says, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, but he sank.” Yeah, but he tried. And the last time I checked, I’m not walking on water. But he did, and he had an experience that I will never have, at this time, as of yet.

Father Michael:

So you were ordained in your diocese.

Father Jim:

I was.

Father Michael:

And then they said, “We don’t need you.”

Father Jim:

No, I wasn’t ordained yet. Yeah, I was right before ordination.

Father Michael:

So that bishop that sponsored you . . .

Father Jim:

Yeah, that bishop who sponsored me, meaning the bishop in Texas. . .

Father Michael:

Yes.

Father Jim:

He died, and then because there was no bishop—well, as a seminarian you don’t have any canonical rights, so it was perfect for them to let me go because there was no bishop. See, there was no new ordinary. And I doubt any new ordinary was going to let a seminarian go right up front. So they got me out before ordination, and then I went to Lexington where I’ve been ordained ever since.

Father Michael:

And you got ordained there.

Father Jim:

I did.

Father Michael:

But your first Mass was back . . .

Father Jim:

But I came back for my first Mass to be with the Dominicans.

Father Michael:

So as you prayed through that. . .

Father Jim:

Yeah. . .

Father Michael:

Now you’re a priest.

Father Jim:

Yes

Father Michael:

People want to know, what’s it like to be a priest and pray. Think about your early years. I’m sure it’s different.

Father Jim:

You’re right, you’re spot on. Because the way. . . I’m not the same priest that I was twenty-two years ago. So a lot has changed, for the better. So, you know, being newly ordained, on top of prayer, on top of the Office, on top of everything. . .following everything by the book and making sure everything is in order. And then, you know, one of the hardest things for me—just because I was somewhat of an outsider in that diocese— was being as faithful as I could to the priest gatherings. Those were very difficult for me. It was a bunch of men that I really didn’t know, so I’ve learned over time how important those gatherings are, even if I don’t want to be there. But you make the effort. And what’s interesting is now that I’ve come to understand that, very rarely am I able to make any because I’m gone. So something that I do is twice a year, at the Chrism Mass, I host a luncheon immediately after the Chrism Mass for all my brother priests; and in November I host a dinner at a restaurant for all my brother priests. And, I mean, the majority of them come. So it just shows the transition that, now I’m a more seasoned priest and I see value and the need . . .

Father Michael:

Of that fraternity.

Father Jim:

Of that fraternity. The other thing is that you can’t get too busy for prayer. So where I used to do my Office in the chapel or in the church or in my—now a lot of times it’s being in the airport, in the airplane, on the airplane, that type of thing. Because that’s where my life is right now. And it’s also—I use it as a tool of evangelization. People will see, people will look, people will ask.

Father Michael:

For sure.

Father Jim:

So I always, always have, always had, a great devotion to adoration and the Blessed Sacrament. Sitting in quiet and being present is important for me.

Father Michael:

So I try to teach people meditative and contemplative prayer, and that’s often the part that they struggle with, sitting in quiet.

Father Jim:

Yes, it is hard for me, especially as the social media guru that I am. And this little phone here, constantly getting messages in places. The thing that I’ve started learning is the phone doesn’t go with me.

Father Michael:

Nice.

Father Jim:

The phone doesn’t come in the confessional, the phone doesn’t come in the sacristy. You know what I mean, those type of things. I’ve started leaving the phone in the car when I go out to dinner. You have to be very mindful of that. You have to be very strict on that.

Father Michael:

Yeah, yeah.

Father Jim:

Because there are lots of distractions, and that’s just something you have to be very much aware of.

Father Michael:

So when you were newly ordained and you were doing all the prayer structured, everything we do as priests, where did you find yourself most fulfilled in that or most, you know, to be a new priest?

Father Jim:

Always the Eucharist, that was very powerful for me. Always, celebrating Mass was and is very much a joy. Hearing confessions, marrying and being a witness at weddings and baptizing, and funerals, those were all things. I’ll take it. I remember early on in the diocese whenever they would put up “we need help here or there,” I mean, constant. I mean, I would be hopping from place to place to place. And finally someone had to say, “You need to say no, you need to slow down.” And if this is slowed down, what I’m doing now. . .but that’s just part of it.

Father Michael:

Yeah, yeah. Tell us what your prayer life is like now. You’re traveling. You’re going all over the place. You’ll be in Australia next week. You’re in Cleveland right now. You pray on the airplane. Do you still get some time of that solitary prayer before the Blessed Sacrament?

Father Jim:

When I go to the different churches I very much try to, especially if they have twenty-four hour adoration. I do. I find that is an essential part of ministry. Just like, I just got back from India where I was for eleven days. Every day, there were 6,000 people at the retreat where I was speaking for eleven days. They had adoration for hours, and it was amazing to watch people of all ages just be mesmerized by the Blessed Sacrament. I’ve always learned that that is a powerful tool. It’s at times much more difficult in the traveling that I do because I find myself. . .I get very tired. There are long days, but that’s when you really need it the most. People say, “Father, what about when I start nodding off?” I think that’s the greatest. . .in one aspect, it shows that you are totally relaxed with Jesus. You’re totally His.

Father Michael:

It’s like a child to be there.

Father Jim:

So why do we get so upset with it? Just be present.

Father Michael:

I’d like to talk about prayer as being a personal relationship. So when you think about God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, how do you pray to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Father Jim:

Well, you know, whenever I preach, which is something strong for me, I’m always praying to the Holy Spirit. I mean, before I proclaim the gospel, if there is not a deacon, I just invoke the Holy Spirit constantly. I’m like, people see me and they’ll see that I put my hands on the gospel book before I process over to the ambo; and my hands will be there, and while the Alleluia is being sung, I will just be in deep prayer to the Holy Spirit. “Speak through me. Come, Holy Spirit. Open their ears, open their minds, open my heart, open my voice, open my tongue, let me. . .” I just go into this very deep prayer, and then I let it go. When you pray to the Holy Spirit you really have to be open, because when I’m preaching, if something comes into my mind, I do it. I say it. I say it, and that’s where that trust factor comes in.

My prayer to Jesus is through the Eucharist. That has always been a very powerful, powerful moment for me. I’m always equating Jesus through the Eucharist, through that whole aspect of brokenness at times. How at times we have to be broken down to be built up. That everything I do I have to remind myself it’s not about me, it’s about Christ. That’s why oftentimes when I use music in my speaking, I always tell the pianist to continue afterwards playing and then fade out, mainly because I don’t want people to applaud and think that it’s a performance. It’s more prayer, and I want the focus on Christ.

And then, with God, our Father, it’s for me the most omnipotent of all. You know, the Creator, the one who gave name, the one who is in essence God, our Father. God the Father who is in charge. I think one of the things, and I mean this in a very real way, but one of the things I think we’ve lost a lot in our lives and in our world and in our nation is a sense of fear of the Lord. And that’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean to be fearful of God. It means that we’re called to respect God. So I have that understanding that God is in control and God is the ultimate authority. It’s not what Jimmy Sichko wants.

Father Michael:

Right. I can see in your face that there’s a joy and a relief about that as opposed to some people who will take that as a negative.

Father Jim:

No, no. For me it’s like, you know….but I think also, something that I haven’t mentioned, which is very true, is there has to be spiritual guidance. There has to be key people in your life who you are willing to bounce things off of, or experiences, or things like that. That’s all very important. Those are important things. I always say that God teaches us through our daily experiences, and that doesn’t mean all happy experiences. That’s why I always believe that prayer, everything we do as Catholics, as Christians, has to be balanced. You have to be balanced in it. So whenever we do anything, especially in our prayer, our prayer has to be balanced. Our devotions have to be balanced. That’s just a very key point that’s important within my life.

Father Michael:

And other people do help us keep on track with that.

Father Jim:

They do.

Father Michael:

Our spiritual director, a good friend.

Father Jim:

That’s what I’m saying. A spiritual director, a good friend, a brother priest, religious sisters. There are people there. Family. My travel schedule is that I’m always in Lexington, the majority of Thursday afternoons and Fridays.

Father Michael:

Oh really?

Father Jim:

Yes, and then I leave Saturday through Thursday. So I’m away Saturday morning through Thursday, then I arrive Thursday afternoon. This week’s a little different because I’m leaving for Australia. But Friday evenings I always eat with this family. They’re very close friends of mine and they subscribe to the model of their entire family eats together every night. I have eaten at their house for twenty-two years on Friday. I make my travel and my plans around that. In fact, my parish knew to never invite me out on Fridays because that was important for me.

Father Michael:

It’s important to have a family like that.

Father Jim:

That’s right, because they also hold me accountable and responsible. “Where have you been? Why haven’t you been here?”

Father Michael:

Like a normal family.

Father Jim:

That’s right. What I’m trying to say is saying is I think we all need that. That’s sometimes the role of a spiritual director. That’s sometimes the role of the shepherd, the bishop or a brother priest. They say, “Hey!” For instance, I have a great calling toward our retired priests, so I take them out once a month. I call them, you know. At times they’re grumpy, at times they’re frustrated, usually when I’m in town I’ll celebrate Mass with them at their house. But it’s that old accountabilty. They’ll call me. “We haven’t heard from you. Where have you been?” That’s important in our lives. We need to ask ourselves the question: we make time for everything else, are we making time for prayer? Are we taking time out? And we need to be mindful of that.

Father Michael:

When people are thinking of that, am I taking the time, they often want to know how much time or what do I do? Do you have any practical tips for somebody?

Father Jim:

Well, one of the things that I have said is be creative in your time. So let’s say I have a twenty minute commute. That’s a good time to put on a Rosary. There are CD’s, there are stations, you can find things to pray the Rosary. Or maybe this would be a good time to just be silent. Turn the radio off, attentive to your driving, but quiet. For some people, it’s beautiful for a husband and wife to pray together early in the morning before all of the children and all of the house and work starts hitting. I’ve known couples that have gotten up just about 20 minutes early.

Father Michael:

To pray together.

Father Jim:

To pray together. So what I try to do is, I really believe that we can get in at least sixty minutes, and that’s why I call my talk 60 Minutes for Jesus. That we can find sixty minutes, even if it’s in fifteen minute segments four times a day. Put in that hour. Give back that hour to Jesus.

Father Michael:

That’s a beautiful challenge. Because when I look at prayer, I look at it as such a wonderful opportunity to be with God. Sometimes people may be daunted by that, but if you do enter into it or do enter into the discipline, you’re going to discover.

Father Jim:

That’s right, but in the same aspect, with anything, it’s a give and a take. It demands. It challenges us to be faithful to it. You have to be faithful to it. You have to get into a routine. That was the interesting thing about seminary. You have morning prayer, you have Mass, you have evening prayer, you have night prayer. Okay? You’re in that routine. But then you come into a parish, there’s no routine. You’re so busy and there’s so many things happening that you have to create your routine. If you don’t, then you’re going to be swamped. And if you don’t, then you’re going to drown. So you really have to develop a routine for you. And it has to be flexible.

Father Michael:

Yeah, I think that is important for people to know, too. I like the give and the take. Just like any other thing that you do with someone that you love, you do the best you can. Sometimes it’s not always the best.

Father Jim:

That’s correct. And sometimes you falter, but I think here’s the interesting thing. Just as I find it important to communicate to people—my family, friends, relatives, it’s important to communicate to God. You have to have that communication, but that communication can’t be just speaking. There has to be that powerful moment of listening. Gosh, what relationship would survive if all we do is talk? I’ve always said, people have no trouble talking to God.

Father Michael:

Exactly.

Father Jim:

But people sure do have trouble listening.

Father Michael:

When I ask people about their prayer life they will say, “I talk to God all the time.” But I say, “Have you ever heard Him?”

Father Jim:

Yeah, that’s right.

Father Michael:

What would you say to someone who hasn’t heard God or struggles with hearing God?

Father Jim:

Well, I would say that, never get discouraged. I cannot believe that there is anyone who has not heard God. But I can believe that there are people who maybe do not recognize the voice of God. Do you see what I’m saying?

Father Michael:

Oh yeah!

Father Jim:

In other words, I believe that God makes himself known to us all of the time. In fact I was preaching about that tonight. That God speaks to us all the time, but the point is, do we have the heart to receive it? Do we have ears to hear it? Do we have the eyes to see it? It’s not usually in ways in which we think. You know, God can come to us in some very difficult and tragic ways. And He’s there with us. Sometimes we just gotta step back. Sometimes it takes the wind out of us. And you have to step back and really have to ask the question, where is God in this? What’s interesting is, I always ask God this question—it’s one question, but I ask it in different ways: “Why are You telling me this?” I ask God, “Why are you telling me this?” And then I go, “Why are you telling me this? Why are you telling me this? Why are you telling me this? Why are you telling me this? Why are you telling me this?” You see, and they all can come up with different answers that really challenge us to live a good and holy life.

Father Michael:

Give an example of what the “this” is. When was the last time you had God tell you?

Father Jim:

Today. So today I was—I had pulled up to the BP station and I felt—a truck pulled up next to me and I felt a need to buy the guy’s gas. I’m like, what is this about? What is this? Like I don’t know this person, I’m just passing through. So I went over and he was like, “That’s my pump!” And I’m like, okay, okay, I know that. And he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m buying your gas.” He said, “Who are you?” I’m like, “It doesn’t matter. I just felt called to do this.” And what was interesting is, he turned to me, and I said, “My name is Fr. Jim. I’m a priest and I’m going to be speaking in a church down the road.” And he said, “Gosh, I haven’t been to church for a while. Why are you doing this to me?” Well, there was a reason. Think about if I had not followed through with that or had not taken the time. So, there are just little things but you have to reflect on it. You have to pray upon it. You have to trust. I always say to people, “How many people were in that boat? How many people were in that boat when Peter got out to walk on the water?” There had to be at least eleven. Peter got out, he walked on the water, they recognized that it was Jesus, and yet eleven people didn’t do nothing. They stayed in the boat. That’s troubling to me. If I was in the boat, I would have jumped out, pushed Peter down and run to Jesus. I think the question is how many of us are boat potatoes? How many of us like the comfort of the boat? And if we’re really going to be faithful to prayer, prayer calls us out of the boat. Prayer calls us to step out of our comfort. It’s not always comfortable to be praying at five in the morning before a flight. But it’s not about me. When I do the Office, I join the whole church. When I pray the Rosary, I pray with others all throughout the world. So there’s more to it than just me.

Father Michael:

Well, thank you so much. What I would just ask as we close is, any final words of advice you have for people? One last thing that you would say about prayer?

Father Jim:

You have to try. You have to try. And you have to be willing to experiment and see. You have to be willing to recognize that just as we grow, our lives grow spiritually. And they change and they mold. So don’t be afraid to try new avenues. Don’t be afraid to realize that maybe, possibly, you’re moving from one form of prayer to another. I think finally I would challenge people to be faithful. Be faithful, and that means to be dedicated. And that means that you’re going to have to sacrifice. And find some prayer partners. Find some people that will help you. Make sure, though, you find some solid people. Just don’t run to the internet. Really seek out, just like you would do a doctor or someone. And just be faithful.

Father Michael:

As Teresa of Avila would say, “Seek a wise spiritual person.”

Father Jim:

That’s right.

Father Michael:

Thank you so much. Can we have your final blessing and would you bless all of our listeners?

Father Jim:

Definitely. The Lord be with you.

Father Michael:

And with your spirit.

Father Jim:

May God’s blessings be upon you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Father Michael:

Amen.   Thank you, God bless you.

Father Jim:

Thank you.

 

 

About the Author, Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into the priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.