Christ is Risen!
“There’s this church next to my work—says it is for Ukrainians. Check it out; your grandmother was Ukrainian. It looks like the Orthodox church she used to take me to.” Those words were spoken to me by my father in 2013. A man far from any professed belief, it was because of that sentence that I, and now my wife, have truly found our home—what is now our pilgrimage on earth to heaven.
I was certainly a much more devout 21 year old than most others I grew up with in Philadelphia, but my first visit by myself to the Ukrainian Cathedral wasn’t very fruitful. The Liturgy seemed so foreign that I was saddened of my inability to see it for what I now know it truly is. Still, I was determined to get to know this “other Rite” (I know—it's not a Rite) with my then-girlfriend. I tried much too hard to learn and read on my own without proper direction.
In the meantime, my girlfriend was returning to the (Latin) Church and God was certainly doing His own work within her. I, on the other hand, was gradually drifting away from my spiritual well-being, but still held on because I knew I had to. Little would I know that God had a pretty big idea for us.
I was still in law enforcement at the time and still serving in the National Guard. During the next few years, we would split our time between the Church where I served Mass and the Ukrainian Church nearby. A few years had passed, and Lucy (now my fiancee at this point in time) was clearly reaching a point where she began living her life for the pleasure of God, began engaging in spiritual reading, and was really becoming the ideal Catholic woman! I was so proud and happy, but I noticed that I had hit a wall in my own faith, a sort of writer’s block for the soul.
Due to a variety of circumstances, we had to transition to the Ruthenian Church. This is when the story gets good. I cannot pinpoint how, or why, but suddenly, deep within me, while hiding in the back during my first visit, I just knew—this is it. This is where we need to be. Now, it all seemed complete—we were finally learning more, understanding, meeting so many people, reading, praying, being involved—it was all wonderful. Then, my law enforcement career came to a sudden halt right before our wedding. It was like having your whole life planned out and it all being taken from you—imagine the irony.
Suddenly, I was separated from the only line of work I had ever served in. I lost what would be considered great benefits and a rather luxurious salary Thank God for that, because I found that wall that was holding me back. In my lowest of lows, my fiancee was there for me (of course), but she was there in a different way—it was to point me to God and to His Church. It was during this time that I finally learned that I am a sinner, that I am unworthy of so many things, that I require Our Lord’s mercy every waking moment, and that He wants me to be united with Him. He taught me that I must rely on Him, that I must give my total self to Him, and that I must pray to Him. I learned how to really, really pray, not just recite empty words, but learn how to push through the struggle of prayer, and how to understand the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins—all of it—as an instrument to succeed in prayer of the heart. I suppose like so many others, it was only in my “darkest hour” that my heart became open.
My time became immersed in Jesus alone. Because of my fiancée, I finally learned how to know God, and I came to find this in Orthodox spirituality—the faith of my grandmother, Anne, who was a wonderful Orthodox woman.
I often say I wish I discovered the Eastern Churches earlier in life, but I see why it had to wait. I think God needed to remind me not to follow the ways of the world, and to show me what He really wants of me. To say that I am undeserving of a wife of 24 who supports her 26 year-old husband in discerning the priesthood is an absolute understatement. After visits to the seminary, to Pilgrimages, to financial planning—all with her—I can certainly say we are on a tough journey filled with uncertainty and blind corners. However, with the guidance of our pastor, vocations director, and so many wonderful people we have met on the way, we happily make our way on this search for God’s plan for us, knowing that we have now what we didn’t fully have before—faith, reverence, and fear of God—together.
Please pray for us, and be assured of our prayers for all of you. God love you!"
- shared by Michael Fiocca
Thank you, Michael! We will be praying for you and your family through this journey