With his head spinning at the prospect of becoming Pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger received a note from a brother cardinal, which moved him deeply and calmed his fears.
It said, “Were the Lord to say to you now, ‘Follow Me,’ then remember what you preached [at the funeral of John Paul II]. Do not refuse! Be obedient in the same way that you described the great Pope, who has returned to the house of the Father” (address to German Pilgrims, April 25, 2005).
When, on the next ballot, he was elected Pope, Ratzinger was able to say, “Accepto” (I accept), and he became Benedict XVI. With faith and trust, he set aside his own plans and dreams and answered Our Lord’s call to follow Him.
On June 30, Pope Benedict XVI called Fr. John LeVoir, pastor of the Churches of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, to be the Bishop of New Ulm.
Fr. LeVoir described the scene: “I received a call, ‘The Holy Father wishes you to be the bishop of New Ulm, yes or no?’ After I picked myself up off of the floor, I asked if I could think about it.
“‘You have three days.’
“My emotions said no, but my conscience said yes.” Fr. LeVoir was ordained as the fourth bishop of New Ulm Sept. 15. And though it was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, it was a day of pure joy because, like Mary, he said “yes.”
These events would prove to have a very great impact on my own life and the life of our parish. As the diocese of New Ulm gained a bishop, Stillwater lost a pastor, and very quickly, several priests of the archdiocese began looking West.
“If I were you, I’d start packing my bags for Stillwater,” said the rector of the Cathedral.
“I am very happy here,” I responded.
But the calls kept coming, and from higher up. Was Our Lord saying to me, through all these priests, “Follow Me” in a new assignment and chapter of my life?
I thought about the other great moments of my life when He said these words to me. Twenty years ago, He said them to me on the farm, which I loved in every sense of the word, and did not want to leave. In the biggest decision of my life, with faith and trust, I set aside my plans and dreams and said yes to His call. After eight years of study and formation, that call was fulfilled in my ordination to the priesthood.
There was a new call to exercise that priesthood at the Church of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. After five years, I was called to serve the Churches of St. Peter and St. Joseph in Delano. Though I did not want to leave St. Joseph’s, I said yes to Our Lord’s call, which always comes to us through others, and definitively through the bishop.
And so, after seven years in Delano, when Archbishop Nienstedt called me Sept. 17 and asked me to become the pastor of the Churches of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, though I do not want to leave, with faith and trust, I said “yes.” I will begin my new assignment Nov. 4, the feast of St. Charles Borromeo.
“Follow Me.” It is the last thing Jesus said to Peter in John’s gospel. He says it to all of us in different and particular ways. Sometimes, it is life-changing. This is one of those moments for me, for our parish, and my new parishes.
There is sadness and joy, fear and hope, gratitude and regret, anxiety and uncertainty. But there is one thing of which we can all be certain. God knows all things. He sees through the darkness; He sees the big picture and every detail of it for the whole church and every member of it.
With faith and trust, we can each say “yes” to His call. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).