The heat of August hung over the pine forest of East Texas like a blanket. I was in a sleepy little town, Crockett on business and for some reason was drawn to the lonely little mission styled church on 4th Street. Saint Francis of the Tejas a lonely outpost of the Catholic Church. Here he is, Father Peter a bright eyed little Irishman and he was very pleased to have a surprise visitor ask for a confession at midday.
We sat on a pew in the quiet blue toned light of the church instead of the traditional "confessional."
I asked how he came to be in this tiny parish in the middle of the "Baptist Bible Belt."
Father Peter was a former pub owner and had an overwhelming conversion one night and knew he was called to be God's priest. He goes the next day to the officials of the closest seminary and is quickly ushered away. You see Father Peter was completely illiterate. How on could a man who can neither read nor write even consider priestly training which requires several college degrees and study in Latin, Philosophy, Theology, Biblical History, etc.
Father Peter starts to learn to read and write, but it is a slow process for a grown man and he still has the pub to look after. He goes back to the seminary. "No you cannot be a priest." Nine times over many years he is turned away. He studies Holy Scripture, The Catholic Catechism, St. Augustine, Thomas Merton, and he waits for an answer to his prays. It looks hopeless.
One night he angrily storms into the local church, shuts the door and locks it. He shouts every curse word he could think of at God in an angry holy rage. Why God would you call me so strongly and I can not do this thing!
Two weeks later he is tending bar on a cold and rainy night. In walks a tall old silver haired "man of the cloth." He orders a Guinness and ask for Peter. "Peter, I hear you want to be a priest." "Yes, Father I do." The man was father Kelly. He arranges for Peter to move to the Diocese of Tyler, Texas and he is excepted at seminary and after years of struggle he becomes a priest in 2009. My guess is that he is about 60 years old. He got his call at age 30. A thirty year journey. What a story for those who have ears to listen and eyes to see.