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Father Muench Says...

What’s your story?

November 22, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Thanksgiving is a time for stories. Families are gathering – sometimes from far and wide. What has happened since last we gathered? What are the new stories? We want all the details.

I learned today that Pope Francis has written a new book. It is an autobiography. The pope wants to tell us his story. He wants us to know how he has dealt with the experiences of his life.

Recently, I have been reading a new book by David Brooks, “How to Know a Person.” One of the chapters is on life stories. He writes this, “We live in a society in which people don’t get to tell their stories. We live around people for years without even knowing their tales.” Brooks believes that you and I, the people in our part of the world, are eager to be heard and understood. So, he suggests, “Ask someone to tell their stories.”

So, today, I decided to ask you to take some time to write your story. This Thanksgiving would be a perfect time. Write a story about who you are – maybe how you have dealt with the experiences of your life. Or write about just what has happened to you since last week. This would be an opportunity for you to investigate your own life and think about those who have influenced you and helped to form you. Think of it as a gift to yourself. If you share it, it’ll let a few others realize who you are. It could be just a few sentences, or maybe it could be much, much more.

Since I have some space left here, let me share a little about my story. Let me tell you about a major turning point in my life and priesthood. It was when I discovered Madonna House. I was transformed as a priest through meeting and often visiting Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House, and through my friendship with several members of this community. They helped me to realize that first and most important presence for me was God. I would be a good priest and bring more people to the Lord when I allowed God to lead and guide me.

You see, during my seminary years and my early years as a priest, I came to see that my dedication was simply to the Church. I had to come realize that this was God’s Church, not mine. Truly! My concerns were more about Church things – the liturgical rubrics, putting myself into my preaching and teaching – than about God. I was neglecting why I had become a priest and pastor in this parish. What I discovered through my association with Madonna House was that my priesthood was all about God. My dedication should be dedicated to my God. I must allow God to lead and guide me in my vocation. Nothing else was important. I found in my visits and time as part of this community of Madonna House the importance of God in all that I do as a priest. I discovered this by letting those people walk with me, and letting them help me discover the reason I was ordained as a priest. It was a turning point in my priesthood.

I know only too well that they truly influenced me. I became a different person, a different priest. Yes, God became my guide, showing me the way. God continues to walk with me in all that I do. The Holy Spirit brought new power to my vocation.

That is my story. What is yours? So won’t you join me in this Thanksgiving story time. It’s an exercise for us personally and maybe an exercise to share – a gift to others. Who are those powerful forces that have profoundly influenced you? Who walks with you? Who leads you on that road to becoming a saint? What is your story?

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