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Medjugorje Witness

Once expelled from Catholic School, now a Priest

 
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Monday July 23, 2007
 


It’s always a joy to come to Medjugorje and hear the testimonies of so many priests who were led into the priesthood by Our Lady. Here is a recent testimony from a priest who was moved by Our Lady’s request to pray for vocations at Ivan’s prayer group on July 16, 2007.
 

July 19, 2007, Thursday
Fr. Craig Harrison from California
Speaking in St. James Church in Medjugorje


When I come to Medjugorje, I really take time to think about my vocation. The other night when I heard Our Lady speak about “pray for vocations,” (see mej.com July 16, 2007 Medjugorje Headlines) I wonder how seriously we take that. I want you to understand a little about vocations. We have a number of them here (pointing to a number of priests sitting on the altar), but not enough. Each one of these men will tell you, we need more. So what do we have to do? I think Our Blessed Mother really lays it out in three simple ways. First of all, we have to pray for vocations. We need to pray for new vocations. We need to pray for not so new vocations. And there are some mature vocations we need to pray for as well, because we need your prayers too, in that day to day struggle, because vocations just don’t fall out of the sky.
 

I grew up in a town called Bakersfield, California. My parents were Catholic and took me to church and put me in Catholic schools. In 3rd grade, I got thrown out of Catholic school….for hitting a nun. Later on in my life, as I would go to church as a young person, I didn’t get anything out of it. Why did I have to go? Why do they stand, sit, and kneel? It’s too hot. It’s too long. I hope he reads the short prayers. Then I went away to college, to UCLA. When I went away to college, I didn’t need the Church anymore. I can remember saying, “Mom, Dad, that’s not for me.” I got involved in a very non-denominational church, Calvary Bible, and I can still remember the day I was saved. I came home that quarter from college and I said to my Mom and my Dad, “You have to be born again, Mom and Dad. You don’t understand. You’re all wrong. Mary, the Blessed Mother, this is all garbage. You gotta be born again.” My Mom looked right at me and said, “I was born O.K. the first time.” I tried to save them, and save them, and save them. It didn’t work.


What was really funny, I was working for an accounting firm, and I was driving around to my clients, and I drove around a church. This is a true story. I drove around this church, a Catholic church, and I hadn’t been inside a Catholic church for four or five years now. I drove around, and I kept getting called to that church. Of all names in Hollywood, it was called “Blessed Sacrament.” I parked my little Porsche. (It’s amazing what God takes from you.) I went inside the church and I knelt down. There was this beautiful image of the Blessed Mother. Well, those people who worship idols – all of you, these idols. There I was, kneeling down in front of it, and Her face just spoke to me. All of the sudden, I knew I was home. I knew that I was where Jesus was. I just began to sob. I said, ”Jesus, please touch me, please let me know that this is the true faith. Please, let me know that this is where I’m supposed to be.” And this is no lie. A hand touched my shoulder. I jumped. I turned around….and it was a monsignor. I didn’t know him. But he had heard me crying, so he came out and touched my shoulder. We started talking and he said to me, “You need to go to confession.” I was like, “What! Do you know how many years it’s been? I lived at a fraternity at UCLA.” He said, “Nope, you need to go to confession.” I knelt down, and I made a confession like I had never made before in my life. He didn’t judge me. He was Christ to me and from that point on, this vocation stirred in my heart. So much so, I called off my engagement. I sold my Porsche. And I decided to look at the seminary.


It was at that moment that I realized Our Blessed Mother plays an important part in a vocation. I’ve come back here today, to Medjugorje, to get ready to celebrate 20 years in the priesthood, more fulfilled, more in love and more ready.


Oh, yes, let me tell you, kids come up to me all the time and say, “Fr. Craig did you ever lie? Fr. Craig, did you ever cheat, did you ever drink, did you ever steal? Fr. Craig, did you ever say something bad about somebody. Did you ever hurt anybody?” I would always tell them the truth. And I challenge my brother priests to do the same. I always tell them “I don’t remember anything since the car accident.”


My brothers and sisters, when I met Our Blessed Mother, when I met Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist, I became a new creation. So we pray for vocations. We encourage vocations and, most of all, we need to accept vocations. I challenge every one of you young men, not to be deaf to Our Lord. Not to say I have my life figured out. I know what I want, and I know what I’m going to do. But to be able to say, Lord, if it is your will then bless me with your greatest gift there is. The gift of the priesthood.


I personally cannot understand why young men aren’t running to the door to say, Lord, I want to serve you my whole life. If they could just have one day of the grace that we priests experience. So today, as we come to the altar, pray for vocations, encourage vocations and open your heart to accept vocations. And pray for me. Sometimes those car accidents are very serious, but they’ve always been a blessing as we become a new creation.


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Father Harrison shared at the end of Mass that he became pastor at the school he was thrown out of in the 3rd grade.

alt

Fr. Craig Harrison raises his hands with his brother priests in blessing all the religious articles that pilgrims would be bringing home with them. He challenged all the young men present to open their hearts to the call of the priesthood.

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The Cross at Caritas on Penitentiary Mountain