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Robin Hood
U. S. A. | RESOURCES | TESTIMONIES
Fr. Reuben Edward Nuxoll

Fr.  Reuben Edward Nuxoll
Fr. Reuben Edward Nuxoll
So, what are you going to do when you grow up?” “Uh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll play baseball, or maybe I’ll be a scientist.” Not much came to my twelve-year-old mind. The other option was to continue on the farm. Priesthood? Never even thought of it. If anyone had mentioned it to me, I probably would have replied, “Why would I want to do that?”


The Life I Lived, the Blessings I Unwittingly Received

It was the beginning of 1993. As far as I know, I was quite like all the other boys my age. I fit in well with all my classmates; the only exception was that, when the math teacher asked me to correct the quizzes, I put frowny-faces on the quizzes of those who got under 80%, and some of the girls complained. I was in Little League baseball and then on the Babe Ruth baseball team. I played basketball. I loved soccer, though the league only started the year I left home. I did not mind class and studying as much as most do, but that did not make any difference, since some of my friends were like me. In first grade we had a competition to count as high as we could in writing, and I ended up losing to Tom Hattrup after we were well into the thousands. (That was when he became my friend.) During the afternoons, if I was not driving the tractor for my dad on our 500-acre farm or at a baseball game, you might have found me riding horses or reading a book. I loved to read the Lord of the Rings. (Peter Jackson had not yet made the movies.) Every summer my family and some friends went camping in the Gospel-Hump Wilderness of the Rocky Mountains and hiked each day deep into the fir and pine landscape to fish in clear, blue, cold lakes. One time my friend Tom and I caught 25 rainbow and cutthroat trout in less than an hour. October of 1992 was my first big-game hunting trip with my dad. After our third day of tracking, I downed my buck (I would not settle for a doe). I will never forget it: facing down a steep slope, almost a cliff, with a small herd of deer running about 200 yards below us, I clipped the lungs and nailed the heart of a 2-point buck (4 points in mid-west sizes). It dropped and rolled a short distance down the slope. My dad dropped a doe right next to the buck. My life was similar to that of the other boys in Cottonwood, and I definitely had no desire to go elsewhere. I could not imagine being in any other place, and I had all I could want.

In one way I think I had more than most boys my age. The problem is, I did not realize what I had until I left it: a good Catholic family. That is quite an understatement, as I now see : I had an excellent Catholic family. We were Catholics, Catholic Americans, not—you might say—American Catholics. Our first identity was Catholic, then came America, though we were solidly American, as much as you can be when you live in a town of 822 people (now 944!) on the edge of an Idaho prairie bordered by the Rockies and Hell’s Canyon, the deepest in North America—in other words, in the middle of nowhere. We were so in-the-middle-of-nowhere that the kids going to college would talk about being “from the prairie” and everyone knew what it meant. So we were American, and we were Catholic. We had a religious formation to be proud of. How many ten-year-olds nowadays know the Ten Commandments, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the seven sacraments, the Rosary, the responses at Mass, and the Creed? By heart? My Mom and Dad gave the best they could—which was a lot—­to all of us. I had four wonderful sisters at the time, two older and two younger. (Of course, I am sorry to say that back then I did not realize they were so wonderful.) My mom and dad made some “tactical” errors, but their love more than made up for it. They cared deeply about our education. As a cultural example, we all had to take at least two years of piano lessons starting in first grade, and then we could take another instrument to our liking. (I took the alto saxophone.)

Back then I did not realize how spiritually blessed I was. It was actually only a couple years ago that I realized how much God had done for me through my family. A retired military chaplain, Father Victor Lustig, celebrated a daily “farmers’ Mass” at 6:30 A.M. so
Fr.  Reuben Edward Nuxoll
that the farmers could get to the fields on time. My whole family went to this Mass, and I often rode my bike there a bit beforehand, since a lot of my friends went to the early Mass, and it was always a race to get there first and be one of the two altar-servers. Father Victor was also my regular confessor : at first every two weeks, and then my Mom decided we would go every week. (Yes, moms have a lot of authority in the home!). As a family we also prayed the Rosary every night on our knees, my Dad with his arms resting on a chair-back, my Mom up further toward the couch and monitoring the family at the same time, telling us “Rachel, lead the next mystery,” or “Yvonne, do you have an intention?” or “Reuben, fold your hands,” or “Bridget, kneel straight,” or “Mary, stop wiggling around.” Our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was not merely external; it was deep. Praying the rosary certainly was not my personal highlight of the day. It took too much time. I would rather have been playing computer games or watching a movie or shooting hoops in our shop. Still, daily Mass and Rosary had an effect on me that will never leave. I found peace there. It gave me a glimpse of happiness. We were constant, never missing a single day of family Rosary and hardly ever a daily Mass. The happiness I glimpsed never dimmed.


The Priesthood Trigger

Even so, I never wanted to be a priest. Only when I met a Legionary and realized that I wanted to be “like him” did the priesthood start to seep in. Now that I am a priest, I can calmly say that either I am a Legionary priest, or I am not a priest. Of course, once a priest, there’s no turning around, but my entire vocation is Legionary, and I am proud of it. Quite possibly, I would not have completed my formation in other styles of priesthood: I find the strong community support very helpful, and the Legionary charism fits perfectly with who I am, even though it’s a challenge to live up to.

The most influential and admired man in my childhood after my dad was Father Victor. Of course, my cousin John Stockton was a super-hero for me too, but I never imagined reaching his level. I also looked up to St. Mary’s parish priests, in particular Father Muha. Nevertheless, and only God knows why he made me this way, I never had the urge to be a priest like them. They were holy and were constantly present in my life, but God had other plans for me, just as he has plans for each of us, if we listen to him.


The Potluck Where I Met Robin Hood and Little John

I do not remember dates very well, but one February evening in 1993 we went to a potluck at my friends’ house. A priest was in town who belonged to a congregation called the Legionaries of Christ, which had something or another to do with some consecrated women who had been to my house a year before. We were going to throw a party for this priest and the seminarian who was with him. The priest was a great guy, and so was the brother. When I see somebody in full uniform, I think he looks cool—or more than cool—and that is how I felt when I saw Father Edward and Brother Ned—decked out in full uniform—at the Wimers’ house. They belonged to something that went beyond them, and they were proud of it.

Father Ed, as I called him, put on a video of the Legion and its boarding school for boys thinking about becoming priests: Mass, sacraments, Rosary, the mountains and lakes of New Hampshire, soccer, every day (with complete, organized teams), a band that played upbeat songs so I could play my sax, skiing, sledding, ice-hockey in the winter on the lake, swimming every day in the summer, and a challenging academic life. What more could I ask for? Yet that was not the main point: they were happy. When I say happy, I do not mean they had fun once in a while, and got to eat candy all the time; I mean they were happy, in any situation. Why? Why were they so happy, and yet I was not as happy as they were?

I liked the video and I liked Father Ed, but priesthood , well, no, not really, it still was not an option.

When they left that evening, I made Father Ed promise to come to my house the next time they were in town, and to play catch with me. He promised.

My family had been so impressed, that within a week we had taken a tune and “metamorphosed” it. The cartoon Robin Hood was always a family favorite, so out came, “Father Ed and Brother Ned / Driving through the U.S.” instead of “Robin Hood and Little John / Walking through the forest.” I was so enthusiastic that I transformed almost the entire song.


A Time to Play Catch

When Father Ed and Brother Ned arrived in April, we sang the new song to them.

I had not forgotten Father Ed’s promise to play catch with me, so practically the first thing I blurted out when he arrived at our house on the edge of town was, “Father, are you ready to play catch?”

“Sure, do you have a mitt I can use?”

I went upstairs to my bedroom, got two mitts and a hardball, and headed back downstairs to the living room. Father Ed was still sitting in one of our rocking chairs in clergyman and black suit.

“But Father, aren’t you going to change?”

“No, I’ll do fine in this.”

Wow, a priest who not only wears his uniform, but is also able to play catch in his uniform! And he was a natural. Not to mention that his sport was not baseball but ice hockey. I asked him to pitch while I played catcher: he threw more strikes than balls, and they stung. To top it off, he was respectfully approachable and kept me glued to every word he said.


Almost the Truth

“Reuben, what did you think about the apostolic school (the boarding school for boys thinking of the priesthood), the video I showed you last February?”

“It was awesome, Father! I really liked it, especially all the sports, and the band.”

“Do you want to go?”

Without thinking, it escaped, “Sure, Father, I’d love to!” Then I thought of my parents, “But I don’t think my Mom and Dad will let me. It’s too far away.”

“Well, if you’re sure you want to go, don’t worry about that; I’ll ask them.”

(I thought, “Great, I do not have to say anything. Father Ed will say it for me.”)

I waited a few minutes while he talked with my parents in another room. The trio came back to the living room (I remember exactly where I was: near the big window with the window seat that looks onto North Maple Street). My mom said, “Reuben, do you really want to be a priest?”

“Uh, yeah!” was the enthusiastic answer I gave, though I had totally forgotten about the “priesthood” aspect of the apostolic school. I was so excited about the apostolic school that I had forgotten its purpose, but I had seen something in these Legionaries, and I wanted to have what they had. God had played smart in my life, slipping the worm on the hook so well that I had no idea I was swallowing it. Without realizing it, I was going to become part of the Robin Hood song we had transformed.


Forever After?

How did I get to where I am from there, eighteen years later?

Our Lord used bait at first: I ended up at the top of my class at the apostolic school. I won every formation competition during my first year there, and I began to develop some great friendships, both with those who are now Legionary priests—Father Joseph Ramos, Father Vito Crincoli, Father Thomas Murphy, Father Gregory Heslip, Father Nathan Miller, Father Aaron Vinduska, among others—and with those who found another path in life and continue to be great friends. Because of my formation at home, though, I never fell into a mere external conformity with my vocation. Thanks be to God.

Chunk by chunk, our Lord began to “create a new heart in me” (Ps. 51), helping me to understand the gift of priesthood and live up to its requirements. No lightning bolt from heaven put any Harry Potter scar on my forehead or made me aware of my priestly vocation, my mission to minister. No, what God did was take the education my parents had given me and launch it into wider seas in the Legion, so that I gradually understood he wanted me to be a priest. There was no specific moment, but there were a lot of signs. What had been a slightly resented family event—the Rosary—little by little became a relationship of love with Mary, talking to her about her Son, my Savior and Head of the Mystical Body. What had been daily Mass and a chance to serve at the altar became the spiritual heart of my day, pumping blood into all I did. What had been a cool priest in uniform now became a personal call and duty to live for others. What had been mere coincidences in my life now became more signposts on the road. Now I am here because I believe firmly that God has led me here, and I have merely tried to follow in his tracks, the tracks of so many who have gone before me. Sometimes he has lifted me up and carried me, but I have never pulled back. Thanks be to God.

Of course, I missed home, like any good son, and I missed girls (who would not!), but when I look at the new heart created in me, I see that my home is nearer than ever through the Eucharist we all share, that I am as close to my mom and dad as any of my sisters or my brother, that I love my sisters and my brother more deeply than I would have otherwise, and that the beauty and love a woman provides and a man needs is present in her Maker and his Mother and the spiritual needs of so many people. “LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived” (Jer. 20:7). Thanks be to God.

Reader, please pray that I and the others ordained with me, before me, and after me, will stand firm in this wonderful calling that we are unworthy to receive, so that we may truly love the entire Mystical Body of the Church, Christ himself, the Legion of Christ, and Regnum Christi, giving our lives day in and day out. May it please God.

 

FR REUBEN EDWARD NUXOLL was born in Cottonwood, Idaho, on March 25, 1980. He entered the Legionaries of Christ’s boarding high school for vocational discernment, and he entered the novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut, in 1997, making his first profession in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1999. He studied two years of humanities in Cheshire, Connecticut. For three years he worked at the Legion’s territorial offices at New York and Georgia. He earned a licentiate in philosophy in 2008 and a bachelor’s in theology in 2011 from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome. While in Rome he edited the English edition of Sacerdos magazine and then worked at the Legion’s general offices, especially helping with Fidelis International Institute for Business Ethics and offering tours of Vatican City and Rome. He is currently working at the territorial office of the Legion of Christ in Santiago, Chile.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-12-12


 
 


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