For Anderson, childhood Bible jump-starts journey to priesthood

| May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments
Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

An accidental glance at a Bible atop a stack of cardboard moving boxes was the turning point in Jake Anderson’s spiritual life.

Now a transitional deacon, he was on a much different path in 2008, fresh out of college and ready to start a career in business management consulting in the Twin Cities.

He was moving into a new apartment in St. Paul the day before his employment was to start.

“I was unpacking all my boxes; I was by myself,” said Deacon Anderson, who spent a good chunk of his childhood near Baldwin, Wisconsin, and graduated from Franciscan University in Steubenville in May 2008. “All my stuff was laying everywhere. I was taking a little breather from moving, and I saw on my stack of books, my Bible. I had never actually picked up this Bible and read it personally up until that point. I got it for my first Communion.”

A thought flashed through his mind. He remembered hearing people talk about opening up a Bible and randomly putting their finger down on a verse, then reading the verse to see if God had a message in it for them.

Anderson decided it was worth a try, so he pulled it open and let his finger do the walking. It landed on Luke 9:23, in which Jesus instructs those who would be his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

“In that moment, it was as if Jesus had entered the room and was speaking those words to me off the page,” said Deacon Anderson, 29. “It was as if he was sitting there and saying, ‘Jake, if you want to be a Christian, if you want to be my disciple, I’m all or nothing.’ It was a simultaneous challenge, but with such a love that I was weeping when I read it. . . . In that moment, I realized that God was real.”

He decided to break open his Bible daily, and he credits the Word of God for eventually directing him toward the priesthood. He enjoyed his job and career, but wasn’t satisfied.

He eventually left his field and enrolled in the St. Paul Seminary to begin a path that will lead to his ordination to the priesthood on May 30, along with six other men.

As he imagines what it will be like being a priest, he reflects on one joyful priest he met shortly after that fateful moving day when he was 22.

“I started going to Mass at St. Olaf in downtown Minneapolis, the 7 a.m. Mass,” said Deacon Anderson, who grew up Catholic but considered himself lukewarm to the faith throughout his teens and early 20s. “That’s where I met this priest who was a very big influence on me, Father Martin Fleming. I was always so struck with how he was . . . full of joy, loved Jesus and had a sense of humor.

“He had a big smile on his face and loved to preach the Gospel. That really was a great start to my day.”

Like others who pursue the priesthood, Deacon Anderson is drawn to the Eucharist and looks forward to being able to celebrate Mass and pray the prayer of consecration. He also enjoys spending time in the outdoors and hopes he will be able to continue a pastime that began when he spent time as a child hunting and fishing with his father, Mark.

He has gone way beyond those boyhood experiences and now bow hunts, even making his own bows.

However, he no longer is able to hunt with his father. Mark died from a fall down the basement stairs in September 2007. Jake was a senior in college at the time, and came home immediately after getting the news.

“Everything changes after something like that,” said Deacon Anderson, the fourth of 10 children. “I really shifted priorities in life and started thinking about things differently.”

That opened the door to receiving God’s Word a year later, when he decided to open his boyhood Bible. It also created the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to come alive in his life. And, that is what led him to the priesthood.

“The Holy Spirit has been such an influence on my life of dispelling fear, of pouring love and encouragement in my heart,” he said. “You come alive  where you once were stale.”

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Category: Ordinations