by Abp. Hovnan Derderian
As a newly-ordained young priest, my first few months as a pastor in Toronto were not easy. In the beginning, I felt lost and inexperienced, but eventually a “new” life and identity started to develop in me, which was different from the life in the monastery or the university. I had many lonely days. As I settled down in the parish, I felt that God was leading me step by step, and sometimes He was talking to me through others.
One evening, while on my way back home from a pastoral visit, I stopped at the church. I parked my car and as I was walking toward the church door, when I noticed a person praying in the car. I approached and said hello to him. I don’t remember the details of my encounter with him, but one thing impressed me the most at that moment: the word prayer and praying received a new meaning for me.
There are many times when I feel so grateful to my congregation, because by serving them, my prayer life is renewed in my heart constantly. In fact, by being a pastor of a congregation, I started to feel closer to God. While in the seminary we were educated in religious subjects and liturgics, they did not make a “real” connection. Those years became meaningful only when I started serving God and His people. Every individual, through his spiritual life, inspires others. The praying young man in the car established something special in me by reminding me to make my heart a permanent dwelling place for God.
In these pastoral experiences, I see God himself as the source of the spiritual drawing force. God reveals Himself to us everywhere and it is up to us to see him through our faith and to listen to him through those praying young people. Inspired by these experiences, my soul thirsts for Christ’s word.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mindYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39).