|Fr Daniel Brandenburg, LC|
Part 1 in a series on priestly experiences, published
every Thursday in the Year for Priests.
August 20, 2009. Like
any Christian, priests have their own moments of experiencing God’s
presence and action in their lives. And sometimes, those moments
can be powerful reminders that their lives are no longer
their own, and that God wants and needs to use
their priesthood to bring souls back to him.
Daniel Brandenburg, LC, an inconvenient cross became an occasion to
witness a “coincidence” that looked a lot like God’s providence…
and to receive a humbling lesson about his own life
in God’s service.
[Note: names in the story below have
been changed to protect the privacy of the persons involved.]
Around February of this year, he broke his wrist
and had to go to the hospital. The break was
a serious one, and the doctor’s prognosis was that he
would be in a cast for 3 months without regaining
full mobility for 4-5 months. For an athletic priest whose
apostolate depends greatly on his ability to type, this was
a very inconvenient problem. Plus he was in chronic pain.
so it was, that while walking from the doctor’s office
to another office to fill out his paperwork, he was
interiorly grumbling, “God, why did you permit this? Can’t you
see that I’m trying to do your work? Why now?”
Three women were working in that next office, and as
they saw him walk in with his Roman collar, the
conversation started spontaneously.
“I’ve always wanted to ask a priest,”
said Sue, a Protestant. “Why do you [Catholics] go to
confession?” After Fr Daniel explained it to her, Sue turned
to her colleague in the office and asked, “Martha, how
long has it been since you’ve last been to confession?”
Up to that point, Martha had shown interest in the
conversation, but at Sue’s sudden question, she turned red and
covered her mouth, mumbling, “Eighteen years.”
Fr Daniel’s ears pricked
“Wow, that’s a long time!” exclaimed Sue. “I guess it’s
high time for another confession! When’s the next time you’ll
have a priest walk into your office?”
At this, Fr
Daniel offered to hear her confession if she wanted. Martha
said no thanks, so he let it rest. As the
conversation continued, Martha freely explained why she had not been
to confession for so many years.
The story had to
do with her son. Eighteen years ago, her rambunctious boy
had gotten himself kicked out of Catholic school. A young
mother at the time, Martha felt mistreated, so she left
the Catholic Church.
As the conversation continued, it turned out
that her son’s birthday would have been two days ago,
but he had died just a few months before in
a fatal car accident. Upon hearing this news, Fr Daniel
offered to pray for him and celebrate a Mass for
the repose of his soul.
“Thank you,” said Martha, tears
forming in her eyes.
“What was his name, so I can
pray for him?” asked Fr Daniel.
“His name was Daniel,” she
“You’re kidding!” said Fr Daniel. “That’s my name!”
name was Daniel Bradley Hoffenburger,” she said.
Fr Daniel just
looked at her and said, “My name is Daniel Brandenburg.”
By now, the tears were flowing.
“Martha, this is too
much of a coincidence,” said Fr Daniel. “I think God
is really speaking to your heart right now. This is
a moment of grace. Are you sure you don’t want
to go to confession?”
She stood there, wavering. At that moment,
Sue piped up to the other lady, “You know, I
think it’s high time for our coffee break! You two
take care of what you need to take care of.
We’ll be back in a little while.” And without missing
a beat, the two women got up and left the
Martha was still crying, so they just talked a little
more. Once she had calmed down a bit, Fr Daniel
offered again to hear her confession and she said yes.
So he heard her confession, gave her the absolution, and
welcomed her back to the Church after 18 years away.
It had truly been a day of grace for Martha.
For Fr Daniel as well, it had been a moment
to witness God’s action through what had seemed like an
inconvenient obstacle. He was almost kicking himself as he left
the office, thinking, “Lord, if this is what it takes
to bring a person back to the Church after 18
years, then take the other wrist too!”
Lessons learned after ordination
Daniel was ordained to the priesthood in December of 2007,
which means he has been a priest for a grand
total of 1 year and 8 months. But many lessons
can be learned in a short time, especially when that
time is lived intensely.
|Fr Daniel Brandenburg, LC, chatting with a young married couple at a Familia conference.|