I will run as long as I can

by Seminarian Mike Keucher

I know a lot of people who run. Some do it to stay in shape. Others do it for community’s sake.  Others run with a healthy spirit of competition. Some don’t know why they do it—especially after those long training days! I want to share two reasons why I love to run.

First, I like to run when I am running for a cause.  Like many, I often “offer up” whatever pain I might experience and whatever prayers I say during a run for a particular intention.

The Race for Vocations is an example of this.  As I run for it and prepare for it each year, I pray for vocations.  I pray for young men I know who would make such incredible priests that would put me to shame.  I pray for my newly married friends.  I pray for my priests and for my brothers in the seminary. I pray for my friends who are now nuns and for those discerning that way of life, and for the monks at St. Meinrad. I pray for those I know who are confused, those who just can’t decide, those who are running away, and those who are just afraid to make that commitment.

When I say I pray for those people, I mean I pray for them by name.  I think of individual faces and pray for them and for their vocations. These faces inspire me and help me keep going, and more importantly, I know my prayers make a difference.

The second reason I like to run is because of the contemplative nature of running.

When I am training for the Race for Vocations, I think and pray a lot about my own vocation.

I think about my preschool days and how I would play Mass. I think about my teachers and priests—memories of whom compose my many of my earliest memories. I think about my brother who discerned his own vocation and made me think twice about my own. I think about my parents and all they have modeled and done for me, and how they never forced the idea of vocation down our throats but made us know, somehow without words, that they would support us if we ever became priests.

I think about middle school and the people who, for reasons still unclear to me now, started calling me “Fr. Mike,” much to my chagrin at the time.

I think about the priests God put in my life—a varied lot!  There was Fr. Ron, who baptized me and whose path I later was blessed to collide with again over a summer assignment.  Then there was Fr. Charlie, who knew us kids all by name and laughed with us, cried with us, and simply walked with us. His love for us convinced me of Christ’s love. I think of Fr. Don, a Precious Blood priest who served my home parish for many years, who made me fall in love with knowledge, the saints, and poetry, and whose preaching brought the mercy and love of God to the deepest depths of my heart and mind. I think of Fr. Bill, who arrived at my parish just in time to counsel me through the pre-seminary fears and doubts that stop many from ever taking the first steps into the seminary. He has never left my side through it all. I think of Fr. Mike, whose vocation discernment groups I used to attend and who shared many meals and even more wisdom and laughs over them since I first made noise that I thought God might want me to be a priest.  I think of Fr. Tom, one of the hardest working priests I’ve ever known and who prays for me at least twice a day by name. I think of Fr. Joe, my spiritual director, without whom I would have left a long, long time ago.

Space won’t let me go on, but my thoughts do as I train. I think of college years and friendships and my work at the parochial school and the kids—adults now—who made me a better man.

Then I think also of the present, of my classes and friendships and the work I do in my parish assignment now and back home at St. Charles.

Most of all, I think about the people who have made and make it all possible.

Sometimes I even think about the future, into April 2014 when I will, God willing, be ordained a deacon, and into June 2015, when I hope to be ordained a priest.  I think about my first baptism and marriage and homily. I think about that First Mass and how much I look forward to having all the special people in my life in one place at the same time. I think about future ministry assignments and wonder at what God might do through me and for me and with me.

These are the thoughts that flood my mind as I train for and run the Race for Vocations. And each is turned somehow into a prayer.

As much as the Race for Vocations is about praying and sacrificing for others’ vocations—which is SO important!—for me, it has been a powerful opportunity to consider my own call, to thank God for the graces that my vocation has brought me, and to rededicate myself to my vocation in new ways.

For that reason, I will run as long as I can.

Mike Keucher is in his Third Year of Theology at St. Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology. His home parish is St. Charles Borromeo in Bloomington, IN. He is the current Race Captain at St. Meinrad and blogs at tallseminarian.blogspot.com/.