Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting Called to the Big Leagues

Hello Blog World

Welcome to my second attempt at blogging. To anyone who read my one post last go around, “Wecome Back!” And to everyone else, like I just said, Bienvenidos...Benvenuto.....Salve....Welcome.

Last year I attempted to start one through my Archdiocese but was only able to churn out one post all year. Pretty impressive I know. I just wasn’t ready to take on all that the “Blog-world” entails. But after a year of blog reading, apprenticeship, and thinking about about blogging, I am ready to give it another go.

My goal is to post once a week---preferably on Sunday. We will see how that goes. Really, I was inspired to try “Blogging” again after an experience I had a week ago today. It was a big...unexpected I wanted to be able to share with my family and friends. This experience was I didn’t deserve, but one I will never forget. It really reminded me of how Good, God is. Blessing us always with things we don’t deserve or even ask for at times. I too reminded me of what an honor, privilege, and, above all, a GIFT it is to be studying in Rome to be a Priest. Studying for the priesthood is something that scared me for a long time....something I tried to run away from...but the Lord kept knocking. I now I find myself happier, more at peace, and purposeful than I ever thought was possible. My very fear...God has taken and transformed into the happiest days of my life. May his name be praised now and forever!

Before I share this experience, I want to throw out some basic info just in case I have some “New Readers” or people who happen to stumble upon this. My name is Victor Ingalls. My Dad’s name is Donald. My Mom’s name is Anna Lee (aka Shaq aka Wally...explanation for a later post). I have two beautiful sisters--Courtney (27) who is pregnant with her first child (Connor Griffin)...and the first of the next generation of my Mom’s side. She is married to Jeremy Lewis of Ocala, FL. I am proud to say, they met on “”! Hahahaha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, it couldn’t have worked out any better. My little sister is named Charlotte (aka Chuck) and is a senior at the University of The #2 in the Nation Ranked Alabama Crimson Tide! Studying History and Spanish. Roll Tide!

I grew up in Montgomery, AL. Went to Saint James School from 1st -12th grade. Spent four years at Furman University where I studied “Religion,” “Pre-Medical Studies,” and Spanish. It was there I began to respond to a “Call” to become a Catholic Priest. I had felt this call, in some way, since I was 15. During my senior year, I applied and was accepted by the Archdiocese of Mobile (covering the southern half of Alabama) to begin priestly formation under their care. The fall after graduating from Furman, Archbishop Lipscomb sent me to begin my studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. I spent two years there and in April of 2008 was asked by Archbishop Lipscomb to move to Rome, be formed at the Pontifical North American College, and take classed at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I arrive in Rome in late July of 2008 and have been abroad ever since (except for 3 days last November for my sister Courtney’s wedding). This summer I spent six weeks in China with Maryknoll (America’s Catholic Missionary Society) in a missionary/pastoral immersion program. And now I have just finished my first week of classes of my second Academic Year at the Gregorian. Needless to say, I have had to pinch myself most mornings this past see if any of this is real! What incredible things the Lord has planned for us if only we say “Yes.”

And that brings me to 10:15AM of this past Saturday. Saturday being our one free day of the week, at this time I was just waking up. Suddenly, the ringing of my dorm phone penetrated my morning stupor. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello.

Matt Kuhn: Victor, this is Matt Kuhn.

Me: OK....

MK: {with intensity} Look I am down at St. Peter’s Basicila. We are having practice for the Canonization Mass tomorrow. Six servers didn’t show up! We can’t start practice until we have enough people!

Me: ......


Me: Uhhh....Yeah...I mean...YES!

MK: OK. I don’t have time to explain it all. I need you to get at least five other guys and get down here.

[At this point, my brain finally caught up to reality and I, in an instant, shifted into Game Mode]

Me: OK. Question. What should we wear?!

MK: Clerics.

Me: Where should we me you?!

MK: The top of St. Peter’s steps.

Me: How much time to I have?!

MK: As little as possible.

Me: ....OK....Hold on...I’m on my way!

What ensued can only be described as “Madness!” Without showering, shaving, or really even thinking I threw on some clerics and started running up and down my hall, banging on doors, and yelling at every seminarian in my path.

Before long I had drawn six other guys into this frenzy and we found ourselves speed-walking/jogging to St. Peter’s Square. Normally a walk that would require about ten minutes was accomplished in about five.

Sweating and out of breath, we ran into our first obstacle in our path--the Swiss Guards. Since Matt had just spontaneously called us on his cell phone, the Guards had no idea that we were coming. They told us we would have to enter through the normal line and go through security. One look at St. Peter’s Square and we knew this was not a viable option. Literally thousands of pilgrims were in town for the Canonization of five saints the next day. So we did the only thing reasonably left to do: gathered in a mob and started flailing our arms towards our buddies up on top of St. Peter’s Steps.

Long story short, a Benedictine priest finally came and got the Swiss Guards (who were only doing their job) and let us into St. Peter’s. After about a twenty minute practice, we were given special tickets to come back the next morning at 8AM to get vested for Mass. Walking back from the Square, the reality of what had just happened to us finally started to sink in. One minute we had been minding our own business, waking up to a lazy Saturday morning, and the next we were at St. Peter’s Basilica preparing to serve alongside the Holy Father himself.

We each spent the larger part of the rest of that day calling our families and friends and relating how we each had gotten “the call.” The Mass was going to be televised by ETWN starting at 3AM Central Time back in the United States. So our families back home, from Montgomery, AL to Orange, CA got their VCRs, DVRs, and popcorn ready.

The actual experience of the Mass the following day was incredible. It is really hard to put it all in words. I will reflect on a couple aspects, but I over the next couple links if you want to check it out. The whole ETWN broadcast is at this website in two parts, which you can download and watch.

Part 1

Part 2

The Mass originally was planned to take place outside in St. Peter’s Square to accommodate the masses of pilgrims that came to see saints canonized from their homeland--France, Spain, Poland, and Belgium. There were also several thousand American pilgrims who came largely in support of to be St. Jean Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and St. Damien of Molokai--a Belgian, missionary priest who spent most of his life serving the lepers exiled to the Hawaiian island of Molokai. After becoming a leper himself, he refused to leave the people he loved and lived out the rest of his days serving the lepers of Molokai.

However, at the last minute, the Vatican officials decided to move the Mass inside of St. Peter’s Basilica because there was about an 80% chance of rain on the forecast. That meant that we would be serving INSIDE St. Peter’s Basilica, processing right over the ground covering St. Peter’s bones....just before Peter’s successor, Benedict XVI, followed us down the aisle.

As we waited for the Mass to begin, the Papal MC ushered us into the chapel containing Michelangelo’s famous Pieta. Behind the glass that protects this masterpiece, the drama of Mary holding her Son was clearer than ever before. We all stood speechless for a couple minutes, just soaking it all in. Then the MC had us form a line in front of the altar and gave each of us a vestment we were to present to the Holy Father to wear for Mass! A shock swept over us, as we realized we might be meeting the Holy Father in a matter of minutes.

Just to the right of the Pieta Chapel is a smaller chapel where the Pope vests before Mass. I was the last one in line, holding the Holy Father’s Pallium which would be the last thing he would put on before processing into the Basilica.

As I stood to wait my turn, I feel like I received a special grace. In that moment, I felt a special unity with all of my family and friends. I had a deep sense that it was because of their love and faith that had brought this great grace into my life...along with so many others. Too I felt really struck by how mysterious and generous God’s love is for us. I had not done anything to be standing in line, about to hand the Pope his pallium. Less than twenty-four hours earlier I had just been sleeping, without any plans for the day, without any effort at all. And then, just like that, I was called up from Single A to pinch hit in the Big Leagues. Such is His love for us. Even as we sleep, the Father delights in us and pours upon us his richest blessings. We must only open our eyes in faith to see the wonders occurring in our midst. In that moment, I felt I was being given a special grace to see in a clear way what is always happening in my life--being showered by God’s love. Truly when, with the eyes of faith, we really SEEK the Lord, we find out what it really means to LIVE (see Amos 5:4).

Having this clarity, I asked the Lord to share my blessings...especially those of that Mass... with all of my loved ones. I asked that they may in some way share in the richness of the moment at hand. Then came my turn...

I took a couple of steps forward into the Pope’s chapel. I came within about five feet of the Holy Father and was met by two of the Master of Ceremonies who were helping to vest the 80 year old Bishop of Rome. Here is what I saw.

The entire time Pope Benedict XVI was facing an altar lit by two candles, with his gaze fixed on a crucifix hanging just above the altar. As the MCs helped him vest each garment, Benedict prayed the ancient “Vesting Prayers” in preparation to celebrate the Mass. There is a special prayer assigned to each garment a priest is to wear, which helps the Priest to meditate on the Mystery at hand and to begin offering his entire Self in union with Christ.

As I watched the Holy Father pray in this way, a part of me--namely my ego--really wanted him to turn, look at me, shake my hand, and say something inspirational. But not once did Benedict’s gaze betray the crucifix before him. I will never forget that image. It spoke volumes to me...about what really mattered...about what that day was all about--not me...not my ego....something else...something so much greater...something deserving of all our attention, all of our praise, all of our love. I found myself praying something like this, deep in my heart, “May the Cross of Christ never leave my gaze, so that I May never forget how greatly I am loved and by what measure the King of Kings gazes back upon me.”

I will share one more reflection, then I should probably go to bed. The Gospel Passage for Mass that day was the following:

Mark 10:17-30

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother."
He replied and said to him,
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
"Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God."
Peter began to say to him,
"We have given up everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."

These final words of the Gospel pierced my heart that day like a “double-edge sword.” Again, I was overwhelmed by God’s Providence and Goodness. I always had feared giving my “Yes” to the Lord...leaving behind MY plans and MY goals to study for the Priesthood. But by his grace, I was able to say “Yes” and at least allow the Lord to get the ball rolling. And there I stood, feeling that I had, indeed, received “a hundred times more now in this present age” than I ever could have imagined for myself on my own.

So, Thank God for this blessing and all his many blessings. I hope you may share in this blessing and others that I hope to share on this BLOG.

Let me know if there is anything you would be interested to hear about, or if there is anything in particular I can be praying about for you.

I hope that in reading this, you may share in some of the graces I received that day, in St. Peter’s, serving for the Pope, receiving the Eucharist, and witnessing five new Saints given to the world as shining exams of Gospel Living.

Until next week.

Keep it Real.

Play for Keeps.



  1. Victor, thank you for this amazing first post. I am touched deeply by your reflections and love that we get to peer into life at the Vatican through your experience. Thank you for sharing and keep 'em coming! We miss you dearly and pray for you vigilantly.

  2. Good Job Tron!!! As always I am proud of you little bro bro :)

  3. that is awesome! i felt like i could picture everything as you wrote it!

  4. That's awesome Victor. As you might imagine, Molly sent me the link to your blog. I think you've set the bar a little high with your first post though. Might be a little tough to follow that one up.
    Glad to hear things are going well,

    Sean Magee