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By Fr. Michael Callea, MIC
I was raised in a Catholic family, so I was taught from an early age that God existed and that He loved me. But there's a difference between knowing about God and knowing God, and as I got older I realized that my knowledge of God had much room for improvement.
Yes, I had heard that God acted in history in an amazing way 2,000 years ago when He sent His Son to redeem us. And, yes, I was aware that throughout history He had performed many miracles through His saints. But that all seemed to me to be "the past," disconnected from the modern world of computers, technology, and science.
That all changed, however, when, during my sophomore year in college, I read the story of Our Lady of Fatima. Here was Our Lady appearing before three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, and performing a public miracle seen by thousands of people — believers and non-believers alike — in the very century in which I myself was living! I almost couldn't believe it. But I did believe it. God became very real for me. I now understood that He knew about us and what was going on in the world. I also learned that what He knew didn't always please Him.
In her message to the world 92 years ago, Our Lady of Fatima teaches how it is necessary for us to pray very hard if we want to have peace — both the peace that comes from an absence of war and the peace that comes from conversion to God.
What I also realized is that if God knows about the situation of the world and is concerned about it, then He also knows about me and all the circumstances of my own life. I realized that God loves me and doesn't want me — or anyone — to go to hell. And so He wants me to pray. This knowledge that God loves me, that He hears my prayers, and that they matter to Him, dramatically changed my whole prayer life.
Once a person starts praying, God can really begin to work in his or her life. That's how it happened with me. I began praying in earnest, and it was through prayer that I began to discern that God was calling me to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and to the holy priesthood — a life of service to God's people in His name. Wow! What a call!
I hope that my main contribution to the people of God will be to demonstrate in my own life that God is real, that He is good, that He loves us, and that the salvation that He offers us — the salvation that we hear so much about but sometimes doubt — is also real and exists for each and every human being.
Thanks, dear Lady, for waking me up to the voice of God in my life.
Father Michael Callea, MIC, serves as associate pastor of St. Peter Parish, Kenosha, Wis.