I spent my college years confused and wondering, “Where is Jesus?” I was fortunate enough to earn a college scholarship to play quarterback at Lock Haven University. I dated beautiful women, had a supportive and loving Catholic family back home in Pittsburgh, and a large group of friends, but I wasn’t happy. Something was missing. I was bored and continued to ask myself, “Why am I here? What is the point of all of this?" When I indicated my feelings to my parents, my mother would ask if I was still going to Mass. I went to Mass as a child during my Catholic grade school days and during high school, but never really understood the teachings of the Church. My answer to her was, “I rarely attend when I am away at college”.
I continued to ask, “Where is Jesus?” He definitely was not spending any time at Lock Haven University. My social life consisted of alcohol, bar fights, and sexual impropriety. This was the norm and it seemed as if none of my friends had a care in the world about it. As a quarterback you inherit leadership status. I knew my actions and the actions of my friends were wrong but I was not strong enough to say anything. I was at an all-time low.
During my junior year, I started attending Mass at the local Catholic Church in Lock Haven on Sunday mornings, hoping to find Jesus. I went by myself because I did not think any of my friends were interested in going. I sat there week after week, sometimes in tears, thinking about my lifestyle. “Where is Jesus?”
I came home that summer and was heading up to Bethel Park High School to get a workout in when I ran into an old friend, a former teammate at Bethel Park. He decided a few years earlier that he was going to enter the seminary to become a priest. At the time I thought this was crazy. This guy was the life of the party, dated beautiful women and was a college football star. Why enter the seminary?
We started to talk about college life and it seemed that our experiences were very similar. I expressed to him how I was depressed at times and did not really understand the purpose for my life. Nothing was making me happy. Life was dull and I was numb most of the time. We spent an hour together that day and I felt a little sense of relief while hearing about his vocation to the priesthood.
Entering fall camp my senior year I was battling for the starting quarterback job with two other teammates. Things were looking really good; I was about to be named the starter for the first game that was less than 3 days away. During a drill in practice, I tripped and fell on my right throwing shoulder. I knew immediately that it was an AC separation since it was the third time that it happened to me in my career. I was in pain and completely deflated. I walked off the practice field, right passed my car (manual transmission), knowing I would not be able to shift gears. During my two-mile walk home I was no longer asking, “Where is Jesus?” I instead was yelling at Him.
I was angry and continued looking up to the sky, wondering why these bad things continued to happen around me. Today, it seems really shallow when considering all the tragedy of this world, but as a 23 year-old man, football was my life and it was taken away from me for 4-6 weeks. I arrived at my college house and was about to walk through the front door when I noticed a package in the mail box. It was a book called The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, with a posted note from my friend who had entered the seminary. The note read:
Tim - I am not sure what’s going on in your life but I hope football is going well. This is the book my father gave me that explains the Mass. It’s one of the main reasons I am on my path in seminary. Give it a shot when you get a chance. God Bless…Joe Freedy
How about that for timing? Some might say, “It’s a coincidence,” but really, that day, that hour, when I needed Jesus the most? I read the book and it had a profound impact on my understanding of the Mass and decision making for the rest of that school year. I stopped hanging out with the football team, found a different group of friends who would attend Mass with me, as well as engage in activities that would please my mother.
I now realize that Jesus is always there –you just need to ask him and continue to ask Him for help along the way. He might not knock you off your horse like the Apostle Paul, but he will use other people in your life to help guide you.. Fr. Joe Freedy has been a gift to the Diocese, my family, friends, and me. I now understand that it was Jesus working through Fr. Joe and so many others to help me on my journey. Now, instead of “Where is Jesus,” I find myself saying, “Thank you Jesus, I love you Jesus.”