Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., Coordinator of “Need to Talk?”, Chaplain to Latino Student Ministry
Not long ago someone asked me this question. “Father, if you had your life to live over again, would you?” And my first response was, “No way.” The person was surprised and asked why I wouldn’t want to live my life over. I said, “There’s absolutely no way that I could be so blessed a second time around.”
Fr. John Dunne, C.S.C. (RIP) used to say this. “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fail, but that it work, because God’s life plan is always so much bigger and better and deeper than anything that you could have ever thought up for yourself.” That has certainly been the case in my life. My life has been fuller and richer and deeper than anything that I could have ever put together for myself.
My life has been filled with more opportunities and richness than I could ever have imagined. God has been unspeakably good and generous to me. God has seen me through ups and downs, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments, and so much more.
I often ask myself if I love God. I know, for sure, that I want to love God with all my heart and soul and being. But I don’t know if I do. On the one hand I think that I would not want to love God with my whole being if I did not already do so. I hope that this is true.
Recall the seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. When Jesus goes to dine at Simon’s house, a sinful woman washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and dries them with her hair. Jesus says of her, “She has loved much because she has been forgiven much.” Well, if this is true, then it is very true of me. God has forgiven me so much that I hope that it can be said of me, “Joe has loved much because he has been forgiven much.”
And so the question for me is not “Why I Minister” but how could I not minister? God has been so generous, so lavish, abundant in loving me. God has been so reckless with his mercy and forgiveness towards me that I cannot not minister. How could I not want to share with others all that God has given to me? God has given me so much that were I not to share it in ministry, I would be hoarding such great gifts that God has given to me. And all the gifts that God gives to one are given for the good of the community, not for the individual.
There is a great story about St. Therese of Lisieux. She would go to confession often and she would confess the smallest of faults. And one day her confessor said to her, “But Sister you don’t have to come to confession to confess such small faults.” She replied, “Yes, Father, but who are you to be stingy with a treasure that is not yours?” So were I not to minister I would be being stingy with a treasure that is not mine. Whatever I have, I have been given by God, and for others.
And so I minister, out of deep gratitude for all that God has given to me and always hoping that others might experience how rich and blessed they are by God, how loved and cherished they are by God, how God always has their back, how God is always on their side.
And so I gratefully and willingly celebrate the Eucharist in dorm chapels, at the Basilica, at the Milkshake Mass, at Mass in Spanish, in parishes, always looking for opportunities to preach about the mercy and love of God.
And so I gratefully and willingly hear confessions inasmuch as is possible whenever asked because the sacrament of confession remains a unique opportunity to extend the mercy of God to others.
And so I gratefully and willingly minister in Campus Ministry trying to accompany students on their journey toward God, walking with them, side by side, helping them to know that they are immensely cherished and loved and redeemed and forgiven by God.
And so I gratefully and willingly live in Dillon Hall with about 300 undergraduates where I try to share life with them, always trying to be a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
And so I gratefully and willingly do what I can do because God has given me so much and has been so good and generous to me. In the end, how could I not? When I was named to be a Missionary of Mercy, I said, “God has shown me a lifetime of mercy. How could I not share it with others?”
And it’s true, so true. The question that I have to ask myself is not why I minister, but how could I not.