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‘God Cannot Take His Eyes Off You’
Ask any priest, deacon, or religious sister or brother and they will share with you how they came to know of their vocation. The “call” comes from God, and God’s call comes to us from various events and people. For me, my mother, maternal grandmother, and the Sisters of Mercy were the instruments by which God called me to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
St. Mary Parish, my home parish in the small coal-mining town of Reynoldsville, Pa., was empty when I walked in to pray one morning in 1963. As I knelt in the pew, my eight-year-old eyes were drawn above the altar to the stained-glass window of a triangle with a big eye. I had seen it many times during Mass. Now, in the stillness of the church, it held my attention completely.
As the triangle seemed to grow bigger and bigger, a familiar voice called my name. I turned to see my first-grade teacher, Sister Jean Marie, a Sister of Mercy, sitting nearby.
She invited me to sit next to her. “Tony,” she said soothingly, “I notice you are looking at the Eye of God window. You know, some people say that is God looking at you and waiting to see if you will do something wrong. Don’t ever think of God in that way. Instead, remember that God loves you so much he cannot take his eyes off you.”
I will never forget that day. Sister Jean Marie’s words planted the seed of my vocation.
I have come to learn that knowing of the unconditional and unbounded love of God calls for a response, which leads me to yet another story.
My mother had a “special chair” where she would place me on occasions when she wanted to emphasize something important. On one such occasion, I had not wanted to go to Mass and was sent to the chair.
“Tony, do you believe in God and that God has given you everything you have?” my mother asked. “Yes,” I answered, in a rather snarly manner. “How many hours are there in a day, and how many days are there in a week?” she went on. “24 and 7,” I responded, again with an attitude. She asked me to do the math. “And what is 7 times 24?”
This took me a while because I was never good at math. I eventually answered, “168.” She nodded, and I silently congratulated myself on getting the answer right.
But she was not done. “And how many of those hours does God ask of you?” she asked. “One,” I quickly responded.
My mother looked me squarely in the eye. “Then don’t be cheap,” she said, “especially with God.”
From that day forward, I have never missed Mass.
I still believe, especially after 37 years as a priest, that God loves all of us so much that he cannot take his eyes off us. I have tried in earnest to convey that message, whether in the classroom, on the street, or in the pulpit, for it is true for every person. This is the Church that Jesus established, and we must assist one another along the way of love.
Father Anthony Mancuso, chaplain at St. Francis High School and diocesan vicar for priests, was ordained by Bishop Pierre DuMaine on Dec. 4, 1983. He is one of the first priests ordained for the Diocese of San José.