"I have called you friends..." John 15:15
Rarely does closet-cleaning enter as decisively in a vocational decision to the priesthood as it did that day.
Someone once told me, “Every good story begins with a bad decision.” Let me tell you a story. When I was about ten years old I got the idea to get ahead in life. This meant having a big family and making more money than my friends. I started working and saving. By the time I was fourteen I had kept a steady summer job for three years and knew the value of a dollar, but I wasn’t ahead of anybody. My opportunity came when I learned about a boarding school that offered the last three years of school in just two years. That was an easy decision, maybe too easy, like the fish before a juicy worm suspended before him. Like the fish, I did not give much thought to the Fisherman. This school would get me ahead and I took the bait. This was the bad decision. All of my friends got out of school over a decade before me and most of them have kids while I, of course, have none.
This is my bad-decision-good-story, but the fourteen year old boy was not as simplistic as just presented. Early on I learned that this school, Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, New Hampshire, was a minor seminary. More importantly I also found that I was happy there. I was surrounded by joyful young men, and fulfilled priests and seminarians. For the first time in my life I felt like the priesthood might be something I could enjoy doing. I also began praying and this allowed me to see a bigger picture. Little by little making money and having a big family, my dreams, were overshadowed by something infinitely more worthy and precious, to be with Christ, and let him work through me, in an incredibly privileged way.
What follows is the story of my best decision. To set the stage I would like to begin January 2009, at Oaklawn Academy, Wisconsin. I was just one year away from making my perpetual vows. On this particular winter day someone canceled something and I found myself with a couple free hours in my schedule. I pulled out my to do list and found a task I had neglected up to that point in the year: clean the sports equipment closet. It was a task that everyone had apparently overlooked for several years judging by the amount of dust. Rarely does closet-cleaning enter as decisively in a vocational decision to the priesthood as it did that day.
After a couple hours of turning the room inside out, and covered in dust, I reached the deepest corner of the closet (it was really a small room) and found something that had nothing to do with sports or exercise, three crates holding photo albums. Opening one up I was shocked to find a picture of my mother at a Mass. I wondered how this was possible. This was of course not a family album; I had not recognized anyone in the other pictures. This surprise grew a few pages later when I found a picture of my much-younger father canoeing down a river. Whoever took these pictures must have known my family many years ago. Then I flipped a few more pages and found a picture of myself. Actually, there were several of myself. And that is when I realized these must be the pictures taken on the camps and retreats my family began attending fifteen years ago and then somehow ended up forgotten and half buried in this closet. That I would be the one to find them was quite a coincidence. The picture of my mother was of her incorporation into the Regnum Christi Movement. The picture of my father was on a canoe trip in Northern Minnesota when he was helping out on one of the camps. The pictures of me captured the moment I kissed the crucifix to promise Christ that I wanted to be a better friend within ECYD. This seemingly random photo, capturing this apparently insignificant moment, when I was just twelve years old… This picture found on this apparently ordinary day exactly twelve years afterwards… This revealed to me my best decision. The rest of my life and eternity, confirmation, profession, ordination, will be nothing more than the renewal of this first, conscious, free gift of myself to Jesus Christ.
The coincidences of time and place that make up this story do not conclude Christ’s call to the priesthood with scientific certainty and that is why it is so hard to explain what happened within me at that moment. It was at that moment, when I saw myself kissing that crucifix, I knew with moral certainty, a certainty that the circumstances could not explain, that that childish desire and decision so many years ago was no accident. I knew that that day so many days ago, I had stepped into something far greater than myself. The boy in the picture was a well-intentioned dreamer. The man that found the picture was on a path for which he felt tremendously unworthy and fully confident in God’s power and mercy.
This is my quick story. The bad decision of the fish and the Fisherman that somehow merged with the good decision of the child and the Call. There are so many more moments, so many memories and little adventures, but in the end they all return to the moment I told Jesus Christ that I want to be his friend. Today I find myself not where I had to come, but where my Friend wanted me to go. I know that as long as I am at his side, I am on the right path, the path of the cross, because that is where my Friend will always be.
Fr. Aaron Loch, L.C. was born in Buffalo, Minnesota and is the second of eleven children. He entered the minor seminary of the Legion of Christ in New Hampshire in 1999 when he was 14 years old. After graduation he was sent to Dublin, Ireland for his novitiate. In 2005 he studied Humanities for one year in Cheshire Connecticut and Philosophy for two years in Thornwood, New York. He then began three years of internship beginning in St. Louis, Missouri, continuing in Edgerton, Wisconsin, and finishing in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, always working at schools. In 2010 he made his perpetual profession. Over the next six years he earned a license in Philosophy and a bachelour degree in Theology in Rome at the Pontificio Ateneo Regina Apostolorum. Fr. Aaron began his priestly ministry as chaplain of Oaklawn Academy in Edgerton Wisconsin.