About three years ago I wrote about Father Leonard Mary’s Calling. This essay gave impetus for the growth of this Blog. Father Leonard is a dear friend of mine; even though we live in opposite time zones, we have always managed to keep in touch. I have had the special blessing of discussing perplexing matters of my life with him and have received great counsel from a holy spiritual director. I asked Father Leonard if I could write a new story about his ever-evolving life. He happily agreed. I asked Father ten questions, so this is an informal interview with a very busy priest who humbly took the time to answer these questions.
1. Which Bible verse best inspires you?
After a few minutes of healthy laughter Father answered the question. That verse would be 1 Corinthians 2:2:
1 Corinthians 2:2
2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
2. When did you first hear God’s calling?
I’ve had a deep respect for the clergy and what they represented and stood for. I was part of a youth group where I felt a spark drawing me closer to the Lord. The youth group’s leader must have noticed something, and told me that I should consider going to seminary. But I was too young and believed that God wanted me to experience more of life.
3. Who is your favorite saint?
St. Francis of Assisi. I learned about him right before my Confirmation. My father shared some of his stories, so I continued to learn more about him. What impressed me the most is that St. Francis wanted to live radically for Jesus and literally to be like Him. I was 16 years old and I took his name for my Confirmation.
4. What is the importance of Adoration?
Adoration brings you into the presence of God. Jesus is with you, you are in His Holy presence. This is the taste of heaven: we sit at His feet, put our heads on His Heart like St. John the Beloved, and allow Him to love us. I started attending Adoration while I was in high school.
5. As a priest have you been misunderstood?
Yes, more so in the first and second years as a priest. Becoming a priest involves you becoming a new person. I’m a big guy, and I felt awkward in the liturgies and at the altar with my hand motions and gestures, kinda like a bull in a china shop. I had trouble speaking Latin, and as much as I studied before Mass I didn’t feel comfortable. Singing was also very difficult. I never felt comfortable with my singing voice as well. All this made me nervous. You need to find your expertise, and when I realized mine, that’s when I experienced calm and God just wanted me to do my best, and to do everything with love. All falls into place with love. God looks at the heart, not at the appearance.
6. What direction do you see the Church going?
The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. It’s the Bride of Christ, always giving glory to God. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it; it will never be destroyed. Its members are sinners in need of God’s grace. There will always be trials and scandals amongst its peoples. We can’t let that discourage us, and must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, receiving Him in the sacraments and praying without ceasing.
7. Do you think it’s a good idea to use the pulpit to express truth in current events of our society?
Yes, you must bring up issues of today. These are troubling and trying times. We need to address how to live in these current circumstances, and the people need to be reassured that they are loved by God. We need to tell them that He is with them and hears their prayers.
8. Does the Church have bad Shepherds?
There have always been unfaithful clergy, wolves in sheep’s clothing, throughout the history of the Church. It started with the disciple Judas. The authority given to clergy from Christ is all about service. Jesus said, “I came not to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
Father Leonard dispensing First Holy Communion, Bro. Leo assisting
9. Our grandson Jacob is making his First Holy Communion in August. Do you have any advice for him?
Through receiving the Holy Eucharist Jacob will encounter Jesus Christ. As he consumes His Body and Blood, he’ll be nourished by Jesus’ loving presence. This is the food we always long for. This is the most important food of all.
10. What are your job’s responsibilities?
I serve by helping the sacramental needs of EWTN by celebrating Masses and hearing confessions. I am the Communications Director for my community, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. I am the Director of Formation for the temporary professed friars, who are preparing for lifelong, perpetual vows. I am in charge of procuring supplies, going to Sam’s Club and Costco on a regular basis. I am the confessor to the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.
Father Leonard Mary has a Master’s of Divinity and in May he received his Master’s of Communication and Management from the University of Southern California. He has also learned Spanish well enough to celebrate Mass in Spanish. Though he is greatly accomplished, one of his greatest gifts is humility. We were both under the teaching of a Catholic lay person, Joanne Petronella, who taught with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Her classes were rich with prophetic teaching. She was stern because she understood what God had in store for us. God blessed a young man, born and raised in East Los Angeles, to become a servant of the most high God. Because EWTN is the largest global Catholic television network, Father Leonard’s homilies can be heard by millions of Catholics all over the world.
I was humbled with the responses from Father Leonard. I will never leave my Catholic roots, but I had questions and doubts about certain situations within our Church. Now that I have a more gentle attitude about our leaders, my new approach will be to pray and ask for God’s holy intervention.
The reason Father Leonard laughed at the first question was because there are so many Scriptures that inspire him, including this one:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Dear Lord, we lift up Father Leonard Mary and the community of EWTN. Continue to allow them to spread Your Holy Word throughout the world. Lord, protect this organization and keep it pure. Bring in all the lost souls, those who are angry, those who curse You, those who want to destroy Your Church. We intercede on their behalf. Bring peace to our world. We pray for all parish priests and ask that You give them discernment to guide their flock to the foot of Your Holy Cross. Amen.