Why Didn't You Spare Me?

"Did you ever see the movie Animal House? Well, that was the story of my college career."

That's how Father Brian Hurley began his story when I asked him how our live drama Thérèse had touched him. Sure, he had been brought up Catholic, but as a young adult he wasn't practicing faithfully. He graduated from college and went to work in the auto industry. Little by little, he began to take his faith more seriously.

His co-workers at Ford actually encouraged him to become a priest, but Brian didn't think he was the type. A priest, he thought, should be able to walk on water. He fought the call from Our Lord, but finally, after three and a half years, he decided to give it a try, despite how unfit, unworthy and sinful he felt.

While Brian was in the seminary and still struggling with God's call, he was required to read Story of a Soul, Saint Thérèse's autobiography. These words made him angry:

"God forgave me in advance," wrote Saint Thérèse, "by preventing me from falling."

"Why," Brian cried out to the Lord, "did you preserve Thérèse in innocence? Why didn't you spare me?" He held a grudge against Jesus and grew evermore bitter and angry.

Finally, though, during his candidacy (which is the priestly equivalent to an engagement), the young seminarian received his answer:

"I knew you would go off, and I knew you would come back. That's why I picked you. It wasn't because you were perfect, but because you weren't. Like Peter, I want you to strengthen your brethren."

This answer gave him the courage to follow his vocation, and he is a priest today. Through the years, though, he was still a bit jealous of Saint Thérèse. But when he saw our live performance of Thérèse, his jealousy melted away.

"The moment the lights went down and the music started, I could feel the tears welling up," he told me. "I cried through the entire performance. The box of Kleenex was out the whole time."

In Audrey Ahern's portrayal, Father Hurley recognized that Saint Thérèse was like him. She had a sense of humor and a relaxed familiarity with our Lord, but she also struggled with Satan in an intense tug of war for her soul.

Saint Thérèse saw herself as a lowly little flower in the midst of beautiful roses. Like her, Father Hurley realized he was nothing without the Mercy of God. Praised be Jesus for reminding him, through our live production, that all is Grace.

That's the power of a live encounter with a saint. Thank you for supporting this work - you touched the heart of a priest with your generosity.

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