My calling is like a painting. God is the artist.
I am the canvas. During the creative phase, it all
seems pretty chaotic, ugly even. Naturally the canvas can’t see
what is happening to it, yet the master painter knows
exactly what he is about. He busily goes about his
work, and little by little the image takes shape. And
then, with the proper light, voila! – it all comes
|Fr. Mark Haydu LC|
Life with six brothers and sisters was
usually exciting, sometimes sad, never dull. Being the next to
last kid not only made me the perpetual tag along.
It gave me perspective, too. I watched my older brothers
and sisters grow up. Seeing them search for happiness and
not always find it, made me want to find it
for myself. Their example and my parent’s advice made it
clear: happiness was to be found in doing God’s will
and not my own.
On one Sunday morning I woke
up early for Mass and as I waited for everyone,
I sat on my bed talking with God. “Tell me
what you want me to do with my life today
at Mass.” Not your typical prayer for a 13 year
old. “If you are who you and my parents say
you are —and I believe you are— then it shouldn’t
be too hard for you to just tell me at
Mass what my mission in life is.” I really believed
it was that simple. And it was. God called my
bluff. After the gospel, the congregation sat down. The priest
began his homily with these words: “The Church needs priests.”
They entered my heart like a breeze through an open
window. I thought to myself. “Well, Mark, there you go!”
Although God spoke very clearly, I had no way to
act on it. “Some day when I am older,” I
thought. So, the priesthood shifted to the back burner.
Funeral Director or a Priest?
The years went by, and
after I graduated and did a year of missionary work
in Guatemala and Mexico, I finally returned home to face
the question of my future and the priesthood. I had
never really thought about a career, so I was at
a loss for what to study. A friend suggested I
take an interest survey at our local university. A little
embarrassed, but needy enough, I took the survey. Analyzing my
answers, the psychologist pulled out a list of ten professions
in which I would be happy. Eight of ten pointed
to the medical field, but number one was… a funeral
director! Thanks for the help, doc! The last profession he
mentioned was… a minister. “You know,” said the psychologist, “the
strongest elements in your answers were dealing with people in
matters of importance. Like, resolving crisis situations: life and death,
marital problems, and so forth.” Then he said. “The other
strong element is your religious inclination.”
“Yes, I am pretty
religious.” I admitted.
“Now, being an employee of a State
University with no religious affiliation, I can’t really say too
much, but if I were you, I would consider being
a professional minister in your particular denomination.”
“Like a priest,”
“Yes, like a priest,” he replied.
After this experience
and a late night conversation with a friend, I decided
to tell my parish priest of my “potential” interest in
the priesthood. Fr Hilkert answered matter of factly. “You should
go visit the Legionaries of Christ. You would be happy
there. I’ll write them.” I had just mentioned that maybe,
that perhaps, that I was thinking … and Fr Hilkert
already knew where, why, when, and how. Things were moving
faster than I expected.
Facing It Like a Man
came and went and within three months I was visiting
Cheshire, Connecticut, the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in
the United States. Before going, I drew up a list
of pros and cons. Then I met with the vocations
director, Father Owen Kearns. Ah, I was so proud of
myself – so organized and responsible before this decision! Yet,
he wouldn’t answer me if my pros and cons amounted
to a vocation. So I pressed him a little. “Well,
can you at least tell me if they point in
the direction of the priesthood?”
Father Owen: “No.”
Mark: “Why not?”
Owen: “Because the vocation doesn’t work that way; at least
not in the gospels.”
Mark: “Now you really have me confused.
If I can’t figure out if I am called or
not, then how else am I supposed to follow it?
And what does that have to do with the gospel?”
Owen: “You see, if you look at yourself, add up
all your talents, subtract your weaknesses, and then decide that
this equation adds up to you having what it takes
to be a priest, then it would be you calling
yourself to follow Him. If you focus on him, ask
him, and respond to him, then you are on solid
ground. He never changes. In the gospels, Jesus calls, and
the apostles simply leave all and follow. Not much analysis
Mark: “So pros and cons don’t help?”
Father Owen: “Very
little. They help a little to see if you could
be called, but not to decide if you are called.”
“But that is exactly what I am trying to figure
out! Is he calling me?”
Father Owen: “Well, is he?”
“I don’t know. That is why I am here.”
Owen: “So what are you going to do?”
“I guess I will go to the chapel ask him.
And just like the apostles, I’ll listen. And if he
calls, I will follow. I’ll let you know in the
morning how it goes.”
Father Owen: “Now you’re facing it like
Let There Be Light
At about 11:15 pm
I walked into that dark chapel. The only light came
from the flickering sanctuary lamp that brushed a soft hue
across the wooden crucifix. Walking down the long isle, and
stopping in front of the polished stone altar, I knelt
down on the first hard marble step. It didn’t give.
Kind of like this decision. It was hard, and no
matter how I tried to make it easy, comfortable or
logical, it just didn’t give.
As I focused my eyes
on the tabernacle amid the dancing shadows on the wall,
my heart settled on this petition. Give me light. It
wasn’t one of those prayers you think about. It just
burst onto my lips like tears you can’t hold back.
I was confused, even less sure now then before I
spoke to Father Owen. It seemed I was back to
square one again. “Are you or are you not calling
me? Give me light. I can’t see, I don’t understand.
Every time I try to figure this vocation out, I
just can’t. I’m afraid of what it might mean, where
I might have to go, what I will have to
leave behind. Yet, if it is you calling, what have
I to fear? If you want me, here I am.”
So there I was, kneeling in the darkened chapel asking
for light. Then, as if on cue, lights! All the
lights in the chapel came on!
A bit bewildered with
how all the lights went on at 12:00 at night
I looked around the chapel. No one was there that
I could see. The light brought comfort and clarity. Rather
than closing my eyes and thinking, I fixed my eyes
on the crucifix. Beginning to dialog with him, I found
my soul illumined. What was interior confusion just seconds before
now started getting very clear. I recognized that every time
I really considered my future, the priesthood was there. Sure,
many other things attracted me, but nothing as profoundly or
as constantly as Christ. I was free to do other
things with my life. He wasn’t going to oblige me.
I was free, and freedom is tough. I felt the
responsibility squarely on me. In that moment of prayer, face
to face with him, I heard the question in my
soul “So, will you follow me?”
I responded, “Yes, Lord,
you can count on me.”
The question was resolved. Simple? Yes
it was, once I started to love more than calculate.
And as I left the chapel, I saw Father Owen
praying his breviary in the hallway. There in the corner,
was a light switch.
Father Mark Haydu was born on
July 15, 1972 in Akron, OH and was baptized and
confirmed at St Matthew’s parish in Akron, OH, in the
diocese of Cleveland. He is the 6th of 7 children.
After a year of studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville,
he did one year of missions in Guatemala and Mexico,
followed by a year of studying nursing at Akron University.
He entered the Legion in June of 1993, did his
novitiate in Cheshire, and went to Rome in 1996 to
begin his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. From 1998 onward, he
spent several years serving as an assistant of novices in
Spain, the United States, and Ireland. In 2001, he returned
to Rome to complete his studies while also serving as
an assistant to the theologians in Rome. More recently, he
worked for the General Secretariat at the Legion’s headquarters in
Rome, and in 2007 began working at the Governor’s Office
in the Vatican, in the department of the Patrons of
the Arts of the Vatican Museums.