A Heart on Fire:
Jack McLinden, SJ
“If I saw You on the street / and You said come and follow me…” These words from the song “You Can Have Me” by Sidewalk Prophets came on the radio one summer day. I had just graduated from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and the words spoke to me in a life-changing way. The song paints the picture of meeting Christ on the street in our everyday life and being called by him just like the first apostles were called from the seashore. When I thought about Christ calling me, I thought of the priesthood.
I headed off to college at Bucknell University just a few weeks later with a deep sense of excitement for the new experiences ahead, but also with a desire to discern God’s call for me. In the summer before my senior year, I attended the Six Weeks a Jesuit program at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario. I lived in the Jesuit community, worked at the Shrine, and learned about the Jesuit martyrs for whom the Shrine is named. While I was discerning there, I felt a renewed call to follow Christ, and I decided to apply to the Jesuits that year.
My formation so far has been full of experiences that have challenged me to do things I never thought I could do. Yet the way God has accompanied me has deepened my desire to follow Christ wherever he might lead me. For example, I remember saying before I entered the Jesuits that I could not imagine teaching someone the English language. However, in my very first experience of ministry as a Jesuit, I was asked to serve at an adult education center for folks who were learning English. God certainly has a sense of humor! I loved this experience, though, and it has made me more open and available to Christ’s call.
I have had many other experiences in formation which have challenged me to grow in ways I never would have imagined. Often the most difficult experiences have been the most rewarding. Traveling across the country on a Greyhound bus for pilgrimage, learning Spanish while living in Lima, Perú, or even working at a cross-state rival school, St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, have all forced me to feel my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I could only rely on God. In doing so, I learned that God is always with me and that God’s grace can transform even the most challenging circumstances. Each of these experiences had their low moments and trials, but ultimately they brought me closer to Christ and deepened my desire to follow Him.
Currently, I am studying philosophy, theology, and women’s and gender studies at Saint Louis University, where my desire to follow Christ continues to grow and be formed. Both my studies and my service in the local community have challenged me to work for reconciliation, to value and care for all people, and to be ever open and available to Christ’s call.
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