Recently, I was praying my Roman Breviary while walking a beautiful autumn evening around the Highline canal trail, just south of Denver. I was born in the city-limits of Denver. I grew up in the city-limits of Denver, and ever since I was 12 years old, I loved maps and riding my bike around the Highline Canal. Now, 30 years later, I find myself still on the same trails. This autumn, as I walked the above trail praying the old Divine Office, I thought a lot of what has happened in twelve years since my ordination as a Catholic priest. As I walked and thought, I remembered an event that happened on this exact trail about 14 years ago, just before my ordination as a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Denver. I remembered it pretty well, but I decided to go back to my digital journal to refresh my memory. Now, keep in mind that most of my journal entries are inspirational quotes, not “Dear Diary” entries about my own life. However, this is a case of a remembrance of a past real-event that I came across that I will share here, verbatim from my Evernote journal before my ordination as a Catholic priest. I normally don’t share my journal, but here you go:
In 2008 or 2009, I was riding my bike through the most peaceful time and place of my life—the Highline Canal trail through Cherry Hills where the rich homes don’t bother me at all, and where the mansions remind me of those homes prepared in heaven. Girls ride horses and say hello. The path is gravel and none of the sounds of the city are allowed to penetrate. It’s usually my only experience of peace in this city. It’s even an experience of heaven. Families are there. Baby animals like goats and sheep can even be found behind small fences of the big homes. But one day, as I was riding, I slowed down on the path for a very large bullsnake—5′ or 6′ long, like nothing I had seen in Colorado. As I was slowing, a father and son of about 5 years old came riding behind me, with the son in the front. I looked back without turning my back on the snake, put my hand back and told the son to stop. The Dad, still behind several feet, raised his eyebrows, surprised that I would talk to his son like that… But he gave me a chance, and looked at me. I said: “Right there.” I pointed in front of me: “Bull Snake.” The Dad was now surprised not at me but at the size of the snake, and perhaps surprised I was there between the snake and his son. I probably didn’t save anyone’s life, but something happened. Later that day, I was given the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding for what happened: I understood that such was my vocation—to stand between the serpent and the family. How I love families. Now I understand why I am not called to have one. I am called to stop just another child from running right into the snake. I am to protect many families who simply can not defend themselves… Not because I’m better or faster than those fathers (the young father of that son on the trail was surely faster and stronger than I) but simply because I was placed there by God, as a real protector and lover. “Happy the heritage that falls to me.” “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”—Rev 12:17 .