“What return can I make to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116: 12-13).
I began to ask myself, “Where does it all end? Is there one, ultimate goal that brings lasting satisfaction?” If so, then I wanted to dedicate all my energy in pursuing this goal.
Perhaps the most frequent question I receive is, “So, when did you first decide to be a priest?” I often chuckle at the question because, atleast for me, the answer can’t be given in a single phrase or a short conversation. While some priests were suddenly aware of a special calling to serve the Lord at a fairly early age, I didn’t even think of the priesthood until a bit later in life. Instead, the discovery of a vocation occurred gradual, over time.
Although I was born and raised a Catholic in South Louisiana, I wasn’t the most pious child. It was my older brother Tim (my only sibling) who was the altar boy and goody two shoes of the family. I was more rambunctious and the class clown. I can remember making fun of my older brother for going to Mass on Sundays and wasting an hour of watching football or playing outside. It’s not that I detested religion or the Mass, but I just didn’t see its’ relevance. I was much more concerned with friends, grades and sports. As I grew up, I excelled in American Football and it consumed much of my life. In high school, I played the fullback position and was elected a team captain. We were one of the best teams in the state of Louisiana and many of the players went on to play at the collegiate level. The sport taught me so many life lessons such as hard work, sacrifice and teamwork. I also excelled in the classroom. I was in all honors classes and ranked near the top of my class.
My so called “conversion” experience happened during my late high school years. Even though I excelled in sports and grades, I noticed a certain interior dissatisfaction. If we won a game, I experienced happiness, but that experience didn’t last long. Almost immediately, I found myself preparing for the next game. Even after a winning season, I was suddenly planning for the next season (and so on). It was the same thing with studies. I would do well on a test, experience a brief moment of satisfaction and then start studying for the next exam. I began to ask myself, “Where does it all end? Is there one, ultimate goal that brings lasting satisfaction?” If so, then I wanted to dedicate all my energy in pursuing this goal.
I began to take my faith seriously and started to develop habits of prayer and sacramental life. I prayed the rosary daily before lunch, went to Mass regularly on Sundays and frequented the sacrament of confession. For the first time, the person of Christ was relevant in my daily life. I started dialoguing often with Him and the Blessed Mother and tried to live an authentic Christian life. Even though I continued to excel at sports and academics, my perspective toward them changed. My relationship with Christ now became the center from which all else revolved around.
After high school, I attended college at Loyola University New Orleans and met a Legionary for the first time. I was immediately impressed. His demeanor, way of dress, dynamism and passion for Christ were extremely attractive. Even though I had not been actively discerning a priestly vocation, a thought crossed my mind that seemed to come from nowhere. That idea was, “If you were to be a priest, be a priest like that.” I soon developed a relationship with him and a few other Legionaries and became a member of Regnum Christi. I fell in love with the charism and, after graduation, spent two years as a Regnum Christi Missionary. I lived in a Legionary community and saw first-hand the spirit of charity and sense of mission in the Legion. I felt at home and discerned that God might be calling to me to the priesthood. Therefore, I decided to atleast join the Summer Candidacy Program in Cheshire, Connecticut. I had nothing to lose. There was no commitment to join and after the three months I would have a better idea of where God was calling me. I just had one condition. I made a visit to Our Lady in the Novitiate courtyard and prayed this prayer: “Mary, if this for me, just bring me happiness. If you fill me with joy, then I will follow wherever God leads.” At the end of the Summer, I could honestly say that I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I became a Novice in September 2005 and adventure of religious life began. Since then, I haven’t turned back.
Reflecting on these last eleven years in the Legion, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). The landowner goes out and calls various workers at different times of the day. Even though some were called earlier than others, they each receive the same wage. For those of us called to the priesthood, that wage is God’s mercy. His goodness to me has given great joy and has led me on a path unimaginable. He has called me to a specific vocation of priestly service in the Legion of Christ and has asked me to be an instrument of His love and mercy in the world. “What return can I make to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116: 12-13).
Deacon Ryan Richardson is a spiritual director for college age students and young adults in the Diocese of Dallas, Texas. Born and raised in New Orleans, He graduated summa cum laude in 2003 from Loyola University New Orleans, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics and received the John X Wegman Award for Most Outstanding Business Undergraduate. After graduation, he volunteered one year as Director of Chapter Development for COMPASS, a national network of Catholic college students. He was named the program’s Executive Director in 2004 and in 2005 joined the Legionaries of Christ. During his years of priestly formation he has served as an Assistant to the Instructor of Novices in Cheshire, CT and co-founder of Upper Room Rome, an apostolate that networks English speaking Catholic college students in the Eternal City. In 2016, he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Philosophy and Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Italy. He was ordained a deacon on August 6, 2016 in Rolling Prairie, Indiana and will be ordained a priest in Rome on December 10, 2016.