Life Changes, and the Marvellous Hand of God

The last couple months have been pretty hectic for me, personally. Long-time readers of the blog know the basic backstory. Late April to Mid-May was finals season for me, in my last semester at Georgetown Law. Four of my five classes for the semester had writing requirements, instead of tests. I did this intentionally, because I liked the writing-requirement classes better, wanted to improve my legal and scholarly writing, and felt that it would be more flexible with working part time at the firm I do staffing for. At times, this got chaotic: I presented on three of my four papers with a 36 hour span (I had a Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening, and Wednesday evening presentation), and accidentally sent my professors in one class the paper for another class (they were great about it, finding it funny). On May 23rd, I graduated. This isn’t enough to become a lawyer, though : I must now pass the Missouri state bar exam. So with that in mind, here’s what’s happened in the last 5 days or so:

On Friday, Father DeCelles announced he’s been moved to St. Raymond of PeƱafort, about 25 minutes away. This is a devestating blow for all of us at St. Mary’s, particularly those of us in Men’s Group, and the army of 110 (!) altar boys he oversaw. It’s the second priest we’ve lost this year: in January, the Bishop moved Fr. Belli, after only about six months at St. Mary’s, to a new assignment out in Leesburg, about an hour away.

Both moves, while sad, made sense. St. Mary’s is a solid, orthodox parish with a stable hand at the wheel in the form of our pastor, Fr. Kleinmann. Packing the parish with so many of Arlington’s best priests is like putting all of your best pitchers in the same game: the crowd loves it (oh, how we loved it!), but it’s probably not the best idea. Just as there are other games to pitch, there are other parishes to tend to. And frankly, those parishes probably need our priests more. Plus, in his new role, Father DeCelles will be the equivalent of a pastor (technically, it’s a two-year trial period before he’s formally installed as pastor: he likened it to being a pastor without the job security), instead of assisting Father Kleinmann. And, of course, it’s the will of the Bishop.

Plus, and this is the real silver lining, St. Mary’s is receiving in place of Father DeCelles a young priest named Father Mick Kelly. When I say “young priest,” I mean I went to his ordination two weeks ago. Or as Father DeCelles put is, his hands are still wet with chrism oil (you can see his hands being chrismated here, from his ordination). Two friends-of-a-friend who were in a Bible study with him describe him as holy and devout, so I’m looking forward to his arrival. For a new priest, having Fr. Klienmann as a pastor would be a real blessing. So in a very real way, everyone benefits: Father DeCelles gets promoted, Fr. Kelly gets a good parish and great pastor, and St. Mary’s trades one orthodox priest for another. It’s change, and change is hard, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably change for the better.

On Saturday, I got sick with a nasty head cold.

On Sunday, I called my dad, it being Father’s Day and all. He suggested one of the reasons I might be sick was overwork, trying to balance working part-time with the stresses of studying for the bar. Reminding me that I was planning on flying in to Kansas City for Fourth of July, he suggested I just make it a one-way. Later that day, one of my friends introduced me to this ad for South Carolina’s Attorney General’s race, in which the opponent is attacked for having failed the bar. This was just the reminder I needed. Thanks, Jake.

On Monday, still sick, I decided that my dad was right, and after talking and praying on it, decided to take him up on his offer. This is huge for me. It means I’ll be flying to Kansas City on July 2nd, and won’t be back in D.C. until… I have no idea. And it means that I’ve now given myself under two weeks to pack up, clean up, and vacate my apartment — a month earlier than originally planned (our lease expires at the end of July, and both of my roommates are about to start either grad or law school). I mentioned this Monday night to one of my two roommates, saying that it was probably not enough notice to even try and find anyone for the month, so I’d just go ahead and pay the rent as if I were still living there. (I let the other one know a little later).

Yesterday, I formally submitted my resignation at work, effective July 2nd. I’ve worked with this firm since 2001, and so even though none of the co-workers I currently work with are people I even knew when I started here, it’s still a bit hard to say goodbye. It is, I hope, only for a time — my goal is to work for this same firm as an attorney once I pass the bar.

That brings us to last night. I became suddenly aware that the normal social networks I have through school, work, and church had all become suddenly disrupted. Whatever this fall may look like, it won’t look like spring did. My life is likely to have a new cast of characters. I had been bracing myself for Father DeCelles’ departure. Now I find that I’ll be leaving St. Mary’s before he does. The whole thing still had (and sort of, has) a surreal quality.

Last night, then, something wonderful happened. The first roommate I’d spoken to about my plans yells for me to come to the living room. He then mentions that he has this friend, who has a lease starting August 1st, who needs a place to stay for the month of July.

I, of course, happen to have such a place. I haven’t finalized everything yet, but this is an amazing blessing. First, I won’t be out the nearly $800 I would be otherwise for rent. And second, it’s an amazing comfort, because the sheer odds of that working out so quickly, and so perfectly, without me ever lifting a finger to make it work, suggest that the path I’m going on is the one God intends me to go on. And that means so much more to me than the rent does. It’s just an invaluable comfort. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!


  1. Joe! I’m sad to hear you are leaving, I was just getting started on reading your blog. You will be missed at St. Mary’s. Best wishes on the bar and Cary and I will continue to follow your blog!

  2. God bless and best wishes to you.

    Acts 27:25 is always a help to me in uncertain situations.

    Will be praying for your health and guidance through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    May the Immaculate Heart of our Mother Mary guide you always in ways that are pleasing to our Lord and may St. Thomas More assist you in your legal career. Amen.

  3. Thanks so much, to all three of you. To be clear, I don’t plan to stop blogging while studying for the bar. I’m going to try and find a way to fit it in. It calms me, and centers me on what (and Who) is important. More likely, I’ll have to pull myself away from blogging towards memorizing obscure estate law. In any case, that’s just my plan. Ultimately, I plead James 4:14. We’ll see what happens.

    Kerath, thanks for the prayers! It’s good to hear from you, by the way. I was just talking about my love for St. Thomas More last night. Apparently it’s considered “poor logic” to argue, “Thomas More said Luther was wrong; therefore, Luther was wrong,” but it doesn’t make it any less true. And the humor he kept through it all — for example, moving his beard off the chopping block, while explaining that the beard hadn’t done anything capital — is just wonderful.

    Meaghan, I’m going to miss you guys, and hopefully I’ll be back soon. I really like your blog. Now that you’re back from your trip, have you thought about converting it into something more permanent? There’s all sorts of online Catholic evangelism going on, so play to your charisms: Conversion Diary, for example, isn’t likely to be mistaken for Catholic Answers’ Quick Questions, and both are quite different than, say, Ed Peters’ In the Light of the Law.

    Bill, thank you! If you’re looking for good Catholic blogs, see what I said to Meaghan. There’s so many you should be more specific: are you looking for prayerful meditations, moving personal encounters, systematic analyses of the Faith, etc. Try some of the blogs on the right sidebar — it’s basically a collection of blogs you might want to read instead of this one. In addition to those, Frank Beckwith does great stuff at Return to Rome; Trent Dougherty, who along with Beckwith, makes Catholicism look good at Baylor, contributes to a philsophy and religion blog. Beyond those guys, there’s countless more to choose from. It’s truly amazing.

  4. Joe,

    Sorry to hear that you will be leaving DC, though grateful to hear that you are actually studying for the bar exam…between blogging. It’s a tremendous shame that we did not hang out together more during your time here; intelligent Catholics who believe in more than just a vague well-meaningness are few and far between–perhaps more so at Georgetown Law. Stay in touch and stay active in your faith–but don’t post anything (more) on your blog that will ensure that you don’t find work in our profession. If you end up back in DC, you should send me an email–‘cuz I have no intention in hell of going to Missouri!


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