Read: My Vocation Story by Rich Budd, Director of Marriage & Family

This week is National Vocations Awareness Week across the Catholic Church in the United States. Each day this week, we’ll bring you a vocations story starting today with Rich Budd, Director of Marriage & Family Life for the Diocese of Lansing, on his path towards marriage and fatherhood. Rich has been married to Maureen for five years. Together they have three children: Eleanor (4), John Paul (3) and Benedict (1). Here’s Rich’s vocation story:

“My vocation story is an education in love. It began, ironically enough, in the seminary. I grew up in a faithful Catholic home which cultivated my love for God and so when it came time to pursue my vocation, I naturally concluded that to really love God I had to go as radical as possible and just give my life away. I decided that anything less wouldn’t be authentic. It didn’t matter that the idea of a life without spouse and children was distressing to me, didn’t Jesus say “anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”? (Matthew 10:28).”

“I loved seminary and that time positively affects my life to this very day. Everything changed, however, when a spiritual director told me that my vocation was first about how God chooses to love me before it is about me choosing how I want to love God. I realized that while seminary life was deeply satisfying, I was not experiencing the love of God in any specific way. And so, after some more time discerning with spiritual direction, I left seminary.”

“Seven years later, now living in the Washington, DC Metro area, I met my wife online. And that meeting almost didn’t happen. I had a membership on a dating site and after several months of disappointing encounters, I decided to cancel my subscription. When the first of the month came around however, the service charged me yet again. I called customer service to alert them to the error, and their solution was not to reimburse my money, but to give me an extra month of service. Great. Now, instead of being done with online dating, I had two more months of the service. As Divine Providence would arrange, I met my wife during the free “extra” month the service provided me.”

“Through the hours of phone calls and FaceTime chats while we dated long distance, I learned that Maureen was someone deeply in love with the Lord, profoundly committed to living a life of discipleship, filled with a passion for life, and could listen to the ramblings of an idealistic heart like mine with sincerity and interest. After a year of long-distance dating, phone calls, weekend trips, and many tearful goodbyes, I proposed on the very first feast day of St. John Paul II, my personal hero, our mutual patron, and truly a saint of the family!”  

“Marriage in many ways was not what I expected, but it was exactly what that spiritual director told me those many years before about a vocation. In my wife, I experienced the love of God in ways previously unknown to me. He confirmed my vocation by revealing his own love through her and taught me what being loved by him was really about. I knew that I was in no way deserving of the love my wife freely bestowed on me and that revealed even more so about God’s reckless love.”

“My understanding of God’s love transformed from being more of a transactional relationship – I behave in such and such a way and God, being a fair judge, pays out my eternal reward – to this profoundly humbling experience of receiving the other in the intimate vulnerability of life and being invited to respond in kind. The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or The Divine Mercy changed for me, now I experienced those images of Christ as invitations to the kind of profoundly vulnerable love I had only ever experienced in marriage. Just as my wife committed herself to a shared life with me and shared her heart in ways she shares with no one else, so the Lord makes the same offer of love to me. Nothing has changed me more than encountering the vulnerable offer of love from our God and his constant, reliable, and patient invitation that I respond with vulnerable love in return.”

“Lastly, since the vocation of marriage is ultimately a vocation to fatherhood or motherhood, God is continually showing me about his love for me through my children. Whether it was holding my daughter in the NICU and wondering if she would survive or wrestling with my son in the backyard, my repeated reflection has been, “If I am capable of this kind of ache for love of my child, I who am sinful, and proud, and selfish, what must God’s love for me be like?” As the kids grew from babies into energetic toddlers and children and started destroying my peace and my house, haha, God has invited me to parent them the way he parents me.”

“So, you see, my vocation is an education in love. It began with a very self-assured and self-directed path to love God how I determined I should and instead has been a journey of the Lord educating me about how he loves me and wishes me to communicate his love to those entrusted to me. God knows I’m far, far, far, from the end of this education, but I’m grateful for what he’s revealed to me and I pray I can be docile to the ways in which he wishes to mold me into his image for years to come.”

 * For more information on the vocation to marriage, contact the Diocese of Lansing Office of Marriage & Family Life click here.