When I was 17 I started a fourteen and a half year training program. That was back when my personal files fit on a 1 MB 3.5in. floppy disk. At the end of the program I should have been a Catholic priest and I remember the greatest fear for guys like me was "What if I get 14 years through it and then am told it isn't for me?" You try to be optimistic and then not think about that because you know some great things only happen when you take a risk. But then Murphy's Law on steriods...and it happened to me.
It's not like my worst fear has come true though because the me of the present is much different from the 17 year old me of the past. Things change. Things happen and there are certain experiences in life that make even the premature end of such a long relationship not seem like such a bad thing. The problem isn't that bad things happen. It's when they happen for the first time that shatters us and most of my "firsts" happened a long time ago.
Now is the time to toss out my business cards because in a little while I'll no longer be what they say I am, a Legionary of Christ. It's not like I never ever imaged a moment like this would come. Religious life inevitably provides plenty of moments when you'd like to hang up the cassock, box up your spiritual diaries and walk away. And though you may not have been built for that life, faith and strength of will can pull you through - at least for a while.
The future? Yes, uncertain, the way I've come to accept it over the years. I'm not sure what my next business card will say. Apparently, there are a few diocese in the nation who wouldn't mind training a middle aged seminarian so that's at least one door in life open. Even one who's just now learning the difference between a checking account and a savings account.
Christmas will be the first with my family since '96 so for now let's just enjoy the holidays. And then the beginning of an exciting New Year and new life carrying only the best from the past into an unknown future. After 15 years I can say the dream isn't over. It's probably just beginning.