My guesses would have fallen far short | Reflections Post-Rome 2021

July 27, 2021
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There were twelve years between my middle school pilgrimage to Rome and The Rome Experience. I remember being thirteen standing in front of St. Peter’s for the first time and being overwhelmed at the beauty and size of everything. I had the same feeling this June when I stood in front of St. Peter’s as a seminarian soon to be ordained to the diaconate. Twelve years ago, I did not know I was going to be in Rome again, that I was going to be a seminarian, or that God actually had a plan for my life. But when God saw thirteen-year-old me in Rome standing in the heart of the Church on Earth, He knew He would bring me back under a new set of circumstances in a new state of life. His Providence brought me to Rome in order to bear fruit in ways I am only beginning to discover.

I was not sure that I was going to be able to go on The Rome Experience. I was quite sure that it was going to be delayed or canceled another year due to COVID, in which case I would never be able to do it. But it happened. Once again, I didn’t think I was going to go because the day before I was to leave, I realized that I had left my passport at the seminary which was seven hours from my home. But one of my friends who was coming up for a first Mass was able to give it to me. Even still, I didn’t think I was going to go because at the airport I presented my molecular COVID test which I needed to get into Italy, and the airport did not accept it. But I had just enough time to get a rapid molecular test equivalent and get on my flight to Rome. God’s Providence brought me there. I didn’t understand why God brought me to Rome when I arrived, but it only took a week to begin to see what His plans were.

The peace of the retreat guided by Fr. Eric Nielsen in the Italian countryside which enlightened and invigorated my desire for the priesthood followed by spiritual conferences by Fr. Jacques Phillippe and visits to the towns of Bracciano and Assisi were enough to show me that God desired to pull me from my routine and to love me apart from my world. The joy and the peace that I had not realized was fading from my life through a misinterpretation of my calling and from being burnt out returned to me quickly through The Rome Experience. God knew I was going to need to be drawn away and set aright, so He planned that I would experience Him and His Church in Rome.

I did not know what the Lord had planned for me in Rome, and had I attempted to guess, my guesses would have fallen far short. Now that I am back home and am preparing for another year of seminary formation, I do not know how the experiences which I carry in my heart are going to bear fruit, but if the trend follows – and I know it will – even my guesses will fall short.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
– Jeremiah 29:11

Steven Chabarria
Diocese of Tyler