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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Can Anything Good Come From D.C.?
Fr. Thomas Aloysius Flynn

Fr.  Thomas Aloysius Flynn
Fr. Thomas Aloysius Flynn
When I tell people that I am from Washington D.C. they usually do a double take and ask, “Can anything good come from D.C.?” to which I nonchalantly answer, “In D.C., the bad things almost always comes from outside!”

Boys Will be Boys Being the youngest of three boys, I had to learn rather quickly how to defend myself from my brothers, whose favorite sport was to see how long I would endure their teasing before I lost my temper. My mother, being ever so dear, rushed me off to karate class in hope that I would have a chance against the other two. However, fate decreed that my place on the totem-pole of adolescence would be dead last, and there I would stay until I reached high school and outgrew both of them.

Our house sat upon a hill in the suburbs of Bethesda, Maryland. My brothers and I attended the same school (good old St. Jane De Chantal), we played the same sports (everything but badminton, if you consider that a sport), shared the same friends, and even shared the same clothes (my mother was a firm believer in hand-me-downs). Life was good, amidst frequent cuts and bruises.

We were raised Catholic because mom and dad realized they needed all the help they could get in containing us three and so flooded Heaven with prayers for their little rascals. All of us became altar boys for three very (shall we say) transcendent reasons. There was a trip to an amusement park each year, you got out of the first class when you served 8 A.M. Mass on weekdays, and if you were lucky enough, you got 5 or 10 bucks for serving at weddings. Perhaps our intentions were not so pious, but I assure you that God used them to bring us closer to the altar.

I also joined a boys club called ECYD that was run by the Legionaries of Christ. We had fun activities every week and even found time to learn about God and the importance of our faith. Though I do not remember a single talk the priests gave us, I do remember their example of happiness and love for Christ. Within my little heart a tiny flame was lit when I said to myself one day, “These priests are cool. If I ever become a priest, I want to be like them.”

All three of us were blessed with a mom and a dad who loved us more than anything in the world. They taught us to pray, to forgive, to enjoy life, to be polite, to give it your best, to keep fighting, and to behave yourself. Though I am still working on the last point, I am forever indebted to them for what they did. They never sat us down to explain these things to us; we learned it by their example. Laughter flowed through the hallways of our house and was absolutely contagious. To this day, I never laugh as much as when I am at home with my family. Though we did not get everything we wanted, I never remember lacking anything we needed. To be quite honest, if the Church decided to canonize my folks someday, I would not be surprised at all. My brothers and I have already purified them enough.

A Tiny Fish in a Big Sea

High school came around and I found myself again following in my brothers’ footsteps as I attended Walter Johnson High, the local public high school. From an 8th grade class of about 30, I suddenly found myself in a freshman class of over 500. I was just a tiny fish in a big sea and had to learn how to defend myself quickly. Although I never used my karate skills (which were not very spectacular, to say the least) I found that playing sports gave you the upper hand in making friends quickly. Coming from a Catholic school, I was edified by getting to know people from every race, culture and creed. My friends were mostly Jewish, Protestant, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, and Baptist, with a few Catholics here and there. I respected their faith, and I found myself more interested in my own beliefs. As in most high schools, morality was not a strong point. Parties were held each weekend where beer and marijuana could be found easily. Sex was experimented with and spoken about openly. Fortunately, I steered clear of all this, knowing that it was immoral and did not please God. I remember one day walking into history class and finding a little toddler sitting in my chair. To my surprise it was the young son of a girl in my class who could not find a babysitter that day.
Fr.  Thomas Aloysius Flynn
Fr. Thomas with his parents, brothers, nephews and nieces.
There were jocks and druggies, head bangers and “gangsta’ rappers,” preppies and nerds, all the fish in the sea!

With the help of my family and the Legionary priests, my faith remained an important part of my life. I never missed a Sunday Mass and prayed the Rosary whenever I remembered to. However, I felt that my friendship with Christ was losing its flare and that I could easily find myself going down the wrong road in life. That was when God sent me an angel.

All right, she was not an angel, but she sure looked like one! In God’s providence I found a girlfriend who set me back on the right track. She was from a family of 9 and belonged to the same parish. She went to an all-girls private school in downtown D.C., and fortunately I found myself spending more time with her and her friends than with other “friends” from my school. She loved her faith and helped me to cherish it as well. Life was good once again, and yet something was missing.

God’s Wake-up Call

I received a phone call one day from a Legionary named Fr Michael. He wanted me to come to Cheshire, Connecticut, for a weekend ski trip and spiritual retreat. I thought, “Skiing? Connecticut? I’m totally there!” We arrived at Cheshire and stayed at the seminary of the Legionaries of Christ. I was shocked when I saw the chapel full of young guys in black cassocks with their heads slightly tilted in reverence to our Lord. They were clean cut, they wore spotless uniforms, and I was convinced their shoes were spit-shined. They looked like soldiers kneeling at attention to their General. My second impression of the seminarians came when we were having lunch. Every single one of them had a smile from ear to ear. They were the happiest people I had ever encountered, and it made me down right jealous.

I thought to myself that first night in the seminary, “Here I am with everything I could ever want. I have a wonderful family that loves me, I have a beautiful girlfriend, I lack nothing materially speaking, and I am even living out my faith. So why are these guys in the seminary happier than me? They have absolutely nothing to call their own except a crucifix!” It was a question that kept nagging me and never went away.

After that weekend I went home, walked through the door, and my mother greeted me by saying that my girlfriend was on the phone. She had tickets to a dinner at a comedy club in Georgetown and wanted me to go. All I could think about was what a wonderful time I had had in the seminary, how great all the seminarians were and how much the retreat had helped me. The last thing I wanted to do was go to some comedy club for dinner. So, of course I said yes!

The comedy routine was mostly distasteful cracks at Bill Clinton’s personal life mixed with another handful of political jokes (this is D.C., you know). I do not think I laughed once during the whole night. All I could think about was the experience I had had in Connecticut and that horrible question kept coming back, “Why are they happier than I am?” My girlfriend asked me if I was feeling alright and I lied by saying that my stomach was hurting a bit. The night was over and I went home to reflect on all that was happening inside of me.

The Last Hurdle

A week later I was in art class when I noticed a girl, a non-practicing Catholic, staring at me for at least 10 minutes while the professor spoke. I finally leaned over to her and whispered, “What is your problem?” She just looked back, smiled and said, “You would make a great priest.” To this day I do not know what made her say that, but God used her as an instrument.

I spent my last year of high school as normally as possible, but I was leaning more and more towards the possibility of becoming a priest just like those young seminarians I had seen. When all my friends were writing their applications for college, I was filling out an application to join the seminary. But before I reached the door at Cheshire, Connecticut, there was one more hurdle I had to overcome: breaking up with my girlfriend.

We went to a park and walked around for a while until I found the right place to break the news. I am not sure if she knew what I was going to say, but I told her that I had to go back to the seminary and see if God was calling me to be a priest. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she told me something that I will never forget. “Don’t let me get in the way between you and God.” We ended it there, promising that we would remain friends and pray for each other.

That night I went home and prayed to God that he would send the best man in the world to be her husband because she deserved it. A few weeks later, right before going back to Cheshire, she called me to tell me that she was going to consecrate herself to God in the Regnum Christi Movement, where she continues to serve to this day. God certainly gave her the best man in the world: Jesus Christ!

The End of the Beginning

In the seminary I found that profound joy I was seeking all along. I also realized why those seminarians were so happy. In giving up everything in this life, they filled themselves with God. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.”

Much more could be said about how God called me to the priesthood. Like tiny rocks in a mosaic piece, little coincidences and luck encounters jotted the path that led me to where I am today. Each rock is important, and when you step back and look at the big picture, you see how providentially everything falls into place. I would not be here if God had not chosen me. I am his priest. I am his instrument.


FR THOMAS ALOYSIUS FLYNN was born on April 7, 1980, in Washington, D.C. He is the third of Robert and Nancy Flynn’s three sons, and he attended St. Jane De Chantal Elementary School and Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. After high school he joined the Legionaries of Christ, and made his first profession in 2000. Fr Flynn earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2003 and a licentiate in 2007. Between his philosophical studies, Fr Flynn spent three years as a member of the formation team at the Legionaries’ seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2011, and he is currently studying for his licentiate degree in spiritual theology while continuing to be on the formation team at the Legion’s seminary in Rome.



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