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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 25, 2020
By Ben Riley
Have you been on a vacation, family trip or gone camping when everything went wrong? Maybe the luggage got lost, it rained the whole time or the car broke down. But isn’t it interesting that these seemingly horrible occurrences end up being the stories we constantly share around the dinner table or campfire?
Usually, it’s because in hindsight, we can see the positive things that have come out of seemingly horrible circumstances. In the summer of 2013 I was working at a Boy Scout camp in northwest Arkansas. The camp program I worked in was a weekly excursion where we took the group of scouts out of the camp to tramp around the Ozarks where we would backpack, mountain bike, rock climb, cave and white-water kayak.
The second week of camp, I was leading a group of 12 scouts on a mountain biking trip when one of them fell and cut open his leg pretty badly. He was screaming bloody murder when I washed off the cut, but then we saw that the cut really wasn’t that bad. He led the group the rest of the bike ride and had a blast. A few weeks later we were planning on spending the entire day teaching kayaking skills, but a thunderstorm ruined our plans.
We often cannot see how the Lord is working in our lives until after the fact, and while we are all facing a great multitude of challenges right now, we may one day come to recognize the grace that has come out of them.
In the wake of COVID-19 we have all experienced many unexpected and unplanned changes in our lives. For some of us, these occurrences have been tragic, resulting in the illness or death of a loved one or family member. For others, the effect of COVID-19 has been more of an inconvenience and has led to a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. Personally, my experience with the virus has, thankfully, been more of a nuisance than a tragedy.
On my birthday, March 17, the rector of St. Meinrad Seminary announced the end of our in-person classes. So instead of celebrating my birthday like I had planned, my day was spent packing and cleaning up my room. Once I returned to Little Rock, the next few weeks were spent writing final papers and completing online exams. The last and most disruptive effect of COVID-19 was the postponement of my diaconate ordination and the effect this delay would have on my summer ministry at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith.
Now that my diaconate ordination is days away, I can see, in hindsight, just how the Lord was working even through these unfortunate circumstances. Those three days I spent packing before I left St. Meinrad were some of the most impactful of my seminary career. The fourth theology students, the senior class, had to say goodbye to their classmates much earlier than expected. The love and brotherhood that they showed each other was beautiful to witness.
Finally, my ordination date being postponed turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was ready to be ordained in May. I felt spiritually and emotionally ready to approach that point of no return, but the extra time I have had to dedicate myself more fully to the Liturgy of the Hours and my personal prayer in this time of quarantine has proved to be very beneficial, and I now feel even more sure of my decision than I did in May.
I couldn’t be more excited. We often cannot see how the Lord is working in our lives until after the fact, and while we are all facing a great multitude of challenges right now, we may one day come to recognize the grace that has come out of them. Please know of my prayers for all of you and your families, and please continue to keep me and my brother seminarians in your prayers as we approach our ordinations.
Ben Riley, a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, is a diocesan seminarian, attending St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. He is scheduled to be ordained a transitional deacon Aug. 14. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.