Monday, 29 July 2013


When I was younger I remember going to Dreamworld with my family. I'd never been to Dreamworld before, so I  was a little bit apprehensive. By the time we got there fear had well and truly set in. I was so afraid of the rides that I made up a thousand excuses as to why I couldn't go on them: "I'm too short", "I feel sick" even: "I have a bad back!" Eventually I was forced to go on the rides, but I'd kept my eyes shut the whole time, too afraid to even look.

Looking back now, I don't even know why I was so afraid. I'd never been so scared of anything up until that point. What I do remember was feeling like I was stuck: looming before me were obstacles and challenges that scared the junk out of me, and I knew that I would eventually have to confront that fear but I became so afraid that I was willing to stay in that one spot to never have to confront it.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. That feeling of being stuck, of being paralysed is something that I have felt in my life and as I've discerned God's call. Before I applied for the seminary I was so afraid that God wasn't calling me to priesthood that it took me years before I had the courage begin the application process. Even more recently in my life as I discerned God wasn't calling me to priesthood, I was so afraid of what God might actually call me to that it took me months to make a move.

A big part of my job is to ask guys if they've ever seriously thought about priesthood. Often the response is "No, but God's not calling me to be a priest" or "Not really, but I don't want to be a priest". But if you've never thought about it, how do you know that you're not called?????????? It's not just priesthood, so often I talk to young people and they've never thought about what they could do with their life. I want to shake them and yell "WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF???!!!???!!!"

"Go, do not be afraid, serve!"
These are the words of Pope Francis, spoken at World Youth Day in Rio. I wasn't there, but someone told me the Pope had said it. And if he said it, than it must be right. We don't need to be afraid. We just need to go and serve. The fear of failure or embarrassment or whatever - if you're honest to yourself and before God then there's nothing to fear.

See, here's the thing: the situation has become critical. Look around, not just at the Church, but at your world. There's way too much crap going on for us to be afraid. So, let's take up the words of our Papa:
Go, do not be afraid, serve! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Ice cream makes you happy

Sometimes (only sometimes though) I take myself a bit too seriously.......Okay, I take myself way too seriously. Take, for example, when my basketball team tied our game a few weeks ago. I was not impressed with my own play or my teammates. And I was letting everyone know it too. I needed to take a chill pill. Maybe two. It was not a pretty sight.

Then I went to Fiji. I wasn't meant to learn anything in Fiji, I was the coordinator, the leader, I was meant to be doing the teaching. But being among the Fijian people was a transforming experience for me. They're so chilled out man! Often us Westerners interpret this as laziness or being slow, we call it "being on island time"; but I saw a deep trust in the Fijians: trust in each other and in God. There was an acceptance of their circumstances and their smiling, joyful manner indicated to me that they made the most of every moment. The Fijians see things how they are. I think it's best summed up by this:

"Ice cream makes u happy"

It made me realise that I get so caught up in being caught up. I mean, every time someone asks me "How are you going?" my answer is almost always "Busy!". Yes, life get's busy. Work and study and social life and family and girlfriend and all the rest of it is time consuming. But the way I approach it all is what makes the difference.

See, I've been experimenting since I've been back. I've tried to be more "Fijian" in my approach to life. Take for example my basketball game last night. We were beaten by the other team, but I chose to just play as hard as I could and enjoy being out on the court with my mates. It made the biggest difference! Now you might say to me, "well Adam, that's all well and good that you can choose how you feel!" And that's exactly my point, we do choose. I choose how I respond no matter what the situation, whether I'm happy, angry, sad, or tired and exhausted - I choose how I will act.

There's a bigger picture and sometimes we need to take a step back from our situation and look at that bigger picture. So, at times last night we were getting thrashed by the other team, but I didn't join the team to win, I joined because I wanted to stay in shape, hang out with mates and play the game that I love - and I can accomplish all those things whether we win or lose. And yes, sometimes work can be involving, it can be draining, it can be time consuming when all I want to be is somewhere else, but I wanted this job because I wanted the opportunity to help other people discover their vocation, so maybe a few more hours in front of this computer isn't the most despicable thing in the world.

What struck me about the Fijian people is that they were bigger picture people. They had a sense of their place in the world. I realised I'm so busy trying to make my place in the world that I neglect to see that I already do have a place in it. So I'm going to slow down, take a deep breath and see things for what they are. It seems so basic, but it's life changing: see things for what they are. Ice cream really does make you happy.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hearing the Call

Maybe you didn't know this, but my job does encompass more than just writing blog posts. I do other stuff too. Like going to Fiji. Actually, the bulk of my work is in high schools, where I speak to Year 11 and 12 students about vocation. I've been to schools all around the Archdiocese of Brisbane and I've shared with students about my own journey of figuring out my vocation. At the end of my talk I always ask the students if they have any questions. Most of the time they don’t, but every now and then I get asked: “Why did you go to the seminary?”

With my mum on my first day at (priest) school

It’s a great question, and I've asked myself the same question many times as I've looked back on my life.  I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Brisbane at Holy Spirit Seminary back in 2010. I was there for a year and had an awesome experience, but ultimately discerned God was calling me in a different direction.
But why did I go? Why did I think God was calling me to the priesthood? In this blog post I wanted to explain some of the things that were going on for me as I tried to figure out if I was meant to be a priest or not.

A wise friend always advised me that we know how to move forwards by looking back: looking back at our life and history and particularly our family life. I grew up in a broken family, but my Filipina mother was firm in her faith. That rubbed off on me and I remember as an 11 year old saying I wanted to be a priest when I grew up.

My faith dimmed a bit in high school, but in Year 12 I joined a youth group and started to define myself by my faith. I was the “Catholic guy” or the “God guy” and all my friends knew it. Priesthood seemed like the obvious destination.

After school as I matured in my faith I started to experience a deeper love for the Church and a desire to serve God. I’d heard plenty of other people say that I should be a priest, but for the first time in my life there was something deeper there in me that wanted to explore the call.

But discerning your call isn't just your call: the community and the Church discern you too. So I went through the formal application process for the seminary, including a psychological assessment and an interview process. The Archbishop approved of me and my seminary journey began.

So there’s a lot more to discerning a call than just saying “I want to be a priest!” For me, there was other people’s observations, a growing desire within me to serve the God and the Church and the Church’s discernment that I was a worthy aspirant.

However, after a year I left the seminary. Why did I leave? I could list stuff like I was too young, I wasn't like the other seminarians, I liked girls, etc, etc...But that’s the journey of a lot of young seminarians. To be honest, I can’t really name a thing which prompted me to leave; but I did have a sense that I was a square peg trying to squeeze through a round hole. The more I prayed and discerned, the more I felt at peace that I’d prayed and discerned enough about priesthood.

In the first few months after I left I wondered if I’d made the right decision. In the years that followed I went back and forth to the point where I moved into Canali House (a discernment house) to look at it again. And again I had the experience that I wasn't called to be a priest. As I moved out of Canali I told a friend I’d discerned I wasn't called to be a priest, and he responded by saying “what, again? You said the same thing when you left the seminary!”

And this is the point. Discernment isn't an exact art. Some people just know their vocation. For other people (like me) discernment involves questioning and listening and wondering. Ultimately, it’s about trusting in God, hoping in his providence and loving him to the point of surrender. Sometimes we get so caught up on the end or on the destination that we miss the point of the process. I’m still not 100% sure of what my vocation is, but regardless of what it will be I know that now and always I can love God, the Church and my brothers and sisters, and that is something to get caught up on.

Monday, 15 July 2013


When we were in Fiji it felt like there was a learning experience around every corner. I mean, in life there's always something more to be learnt; but when you pull yourself right out of your usual box of existence you become hyper aware to the existential questions unraveling in front of your eyes. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, when we were in Fiji we came across a couple of rocks. Yep, rocks:

Ok, so they don't look like much, but these rocks are actually a source of life and renewal. Right now you're probably thinking my head is full of rocks, but bear with me. See these rocks are actually the source of the Sigatoka River. Those rocks produce this:

Essentially the bowl shape of the rocks catches the rain and some funky geology happens and a river is made. Ok, so I don't understand the exact science of it all, but I still think this is uber funky. Other than the fact that these rocks are the source of a major river, there's nothing extraordinary or spectacular about them.

I think we get caught up with the idea that our lives have to be grand and spectacular, like some sort of Broadway Production or Hollywood Spectacular. Actually, there's something already spectacular about life without adding dramatic soundtracks, musical numbers, explosive stunts and special effects. Life is spectacular because God calls us and all we have to do is respond.

Look at those rocks again. All those rocks do is sit there, yet their flow on effect is incredible. Vocation isn't complicated, it doesn't have to be. If a rock can create a river, think of what God can create with you if you just say "yes!"

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

VOCadventure 2013

Wow, VOCadventure really lived up to its name: WHAT AN ADVENTURE! Rather than recounting the whole trip day by day, I thought I'd tell you a few of my favourite stories from our week in Fiji.

What's the point?
Before we'd even left Brisbane the adventure had begun. We introduced the boys to the 21 point system: each item the boys packed was worth one point, with a total allowance of 21 points. Cue mad rearranging and hectic repacking! The boys weighed up what was essential and the realisation dawned on them that they would not be able to access Facebook for the entire week! Why only 21 points? VOCadventure isn't a holiday, it's a pilgrimage to priesthood.

The Bula Boys
On the second day we were staying at the Catholic parish in a town called Lautoka. We sent the boys into town to buy some bottled water. Turns out it wasn't the only thing they bought! I was minding my own business, having a nap outside of the Parish hall when a local approached me. "You must be one of the Australians," she said. I asked her how she knew. "I counted eight young men, all wearing bright shirts yelling 'bula' (hello in Fijian) everywhere in town!" I'm sure this is a sight both I and the locals will never forget:

Ain't no mountain high enough
The (literal) high point of the week was climbing the tallest peak in Fiji: Mt Victoria (or Tomanivi as it's known by the locals). We arrived at a small village called Navai at the bottom of the mountain around 3pm and immediately headed up the track. For many of the boys (myself included) this was the first mountain climbing experience. We navigated rugged terrain and stared down steep drop offs. Despite the challenge, we all made it up and thank God we all made it down too:

Those are just some of the stories and each of the participants would have many more. I hope that this experience will become a part of their story and they continue their pilgrimage through life. With the 2013 VOCadventure finished I now begin the planning and preparation for the 2014 program. If you (or anyone you know) want to be a part of this pilgrimage, please contact me.