MOMM's flagship presentation: This film brings the heart of St. Faustina's famous Diary to life in a moving and informative way. Tell All Souls About My Mercy: Includes Chaplet of... Read more
David Flannery is spilling his guts and, in the process, apologizing for what he calls his broken train of thought. But there's no need to apologize. The train isn't broken. David is merely shunting some cars in the rail yard of his mind. His past. His present. His future. He's lining them all up, and everything's finally making sense.
He's just finished his shift for the day on the maintenance crew on Eden Hill, home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. David, 21, took this job last spring with hopes of earning some money and getting his head together in peaceful surroundings.
He's in the Marians Helpers Center. He's wiping the sweat from his face. Something big has been stirring in his heart. He's sharing it with a willing scribe.
It's autumn now. He's loved this job. He's gotten his head together. And here's what it looks like when all the rail cars are lined up: He's of a one-track mind to become a priest, and that train is preparing to leave the station, and he's starting to glow with a happiness he's hitherto only seen in others and envied.
"God is lavishing graces upon me," he says. "God has smacked me across the face and said, 'Why can't you see that everything is mercy?' He has been blessing me abundantly to which I don't deserve."
He believes he's had a religious calling for years. He now understands he's spent the better part of his young adult life running away from it by means of the usual diversions: drinking, smoking, and other run-of-the-mill forms of purposeful lethargy.
"I turned 21 this past February," David says, "and it really started hitting me that the things I once found to be fun were no longer fun. And I remember thinking that maybe God was doing this on purpose to me in order to draw me back to Him."
Still, at first, he fought it — a "hard-core fight," he says, "like Mike Tyson."
He even considered joining the U.S. Marines and got as far as a recruitment office. There, a recruiter gave him a stack of cards, each printed with individual character strengths. David was told to pick three he hoped to gain through the Marines.
That was easy. Number one, David says, was "Self-Discipline" because he knew he didn't have any.
"But immediately when I said it, the first thought that popped into my head was, 'God can give me that, too," he recalls. He was immediately inspired to, first, not join the U.S. Marines, and second, simplify his life and to see what would happen as a result.
Through his mother, Mary, a guiding force in his life, David learned of a summer job available in the maintenance department on Eden Hill. Mary works here as a graphic designer for the Association of Marian Helpers. The job would entail raking leaves, trimming trees, cutting lawns, and doing general upkeep of the buildings and grounds. It sounded perfect. He got the job and started in April.
Eden Hill proved a spiritual catalyst for him. He began going to Mass at the Shrine. He was asked once to read the part of Jesus during the Stations of the Cross. He was a nervous wreck doing it, but it proved a watershed moment for him. It inspired him to go to confession, which, in turn, inspired him to realize that God is Mercy and that without Him, life is a miserable ordeal.
"Misery is the appropriate word," David says. "Some would call it 'depression.' I call it misery, and that was what I was experiencing. I was in the desert. It was nothingness."
Unwittingly, through the witness of their quiet presence, the Oblate Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament, who reside on Eden Hill, soon inspired him.
"The sisters have had a huge impact on what I would call my reversion," says David. "I've found that every morning I see them is a great morning. They are constantly happy, completely generous, and humble. I just remember asking myself, 'Why are they so happy?' And I just remember thinking, 'I want that. I want that happiness.'"
He defines that happiness: "It's not the kind of happiness that's dependent upon day-to-day factors." Rather, he says, it's "spiritual happiness" — the happiness that comes from closeness to Christ, from simplicity, and from suffering and self-denial done out of desire to live only for Christ.
It's all making sense.
David has agreed to continue working on Eden Hill through the winter. He believes God is calling him to be a Franciscan, like his Confirmation namesake, St. Maximilian Kolbe. He's already visited the Franciscans. "They really stress austerity and simplicity," he says, with a smile as bright as a headlight on a locomotive.
In the meantime, he's on Eden Hill — and it's home for now. "Home," he says, "in the sense that when I'm in the chapel I can let down my guard and just be. I am with my Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I am hers. And it is when I give myself, my troubles, and my burdens to her that I am truly free."
Let's all keep David Flannery in our prayers!