Reverence the Resistance

22 May

The rite of ordination

In a few days, my little brother, Evan, will become a priest. I’ve had six years to get used to this idea, but even now it’s difficult to comprehend. The first time I saw him in his cassock, my jaw dropped. It was shocking to see him dressed that way, but I was also shocked by how right it looked on him. For one reason or another, our family has always known that this is the path Evan would take.

Tucked into a file folder in my parent’s basement, stuffed with childish drawings and school compositions, is a picture. The page is divided into four portions, and my mother had each of us kids draw our own picture in one of the portions. Brendan drew a rocket, Colin drew a house, I drew a ballet dancer, and Evan drew a church. He was just two or three years old.

A few years later, when Evan was seven, my mother remembers praying with him on our porch: “He and I were talking about Jesus and I led him in prayer to ask Jesus into his heart. I don’t know why I was inspired to do this because I didn’t do it with my other kids, but I believe it was the Holy Spirit. Evan remembers this as important first step in his conversion.”

It was not always that obvious or easy. In high school at St. Thomas Academy, Evan heard a speaker from the Serra Club who came to talk about vocations. He remembers hearing a speaker say, “Somewhere in this room, God is calling someone to be a priest,” and he remembers thinking, “Oh, crap! It’s probably me.” He was not looking for this and it scared him. But God gently placed people in his path that made the idea of the priesthood a constantly percolated in the back of his mind.

By the end of college, he joined the FOCUS missionaries as a way to begin discerning. This is when I noticed the biggest change in him. He was able to speak with frank friendliness to college students about his faith. He learned to listen to, respect and encourage them wherever they were with regard to faith. When he finally entered the St. Paul Seminary in 2006, I knew he had found his true home.

Even with all this, I still had a hard time as seeing Evan as anything other than my little brother. We didn’t talk in depth very often about the Church, since it was always a given in our family. I never really knew what his faith was actually like. Then, while studying in Rome in the fall of 2010, I wrote Evan a letter after attending an Ignatian retreat. It was an intense experience for me, and I wasn’t sure how to process it all. I began to doubt the truth of what I had encountered in prayer and meditation, lapsing into a state of worry and sadness. Late one night, I confided everything to him. I feel certain that the Holy Spirit guided me in this. I held nothing back from him, pouring out my heart to Evan and sharing all my fears with him as only a sister can.

I had to laugh when I opened the twelve-page, single-spaced document that arrived in my inbox a few days later. What a response! In those pages, my little brother became a spiritual guide and counselor. He began by thanking me for opening up to him, “I know what an encouragement it can be to discover that one is never alone in the spiritual life, both in terms of sufferings endured and graces received. When sharing these things with another, it also can help us to see our own experiences in prayer more objectively, for we are very often the worst judges of our own spiritual lives, at times thinking we have advanced when in fact we have regressed, and at others assuming we have fallen further away from the goal when in fact we are nearer it than we have ever been.”

He reminded me that in all that time of worry and sadness, Christ had never left me. Rather, Christ had taken all of it upon Himself. “To think that even in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives, in those places in our hearts of which we are most ashamed and afraid—yes, precisely there—Christ is living in us! And this is not only the case with our human frailties and weaknesses, the things we suffer through no fault of our own; it is true even of our sinfulness. This is shocking; it is literally incredible; it is too good to be true; it is the paradox of the cross.”

We resist seeing Christ in our weakness and sinfulness; we want to see Him in our triumphs. Evan shared with me a statement that will remain as a mantra to me forever. He told me that, while on an Ignation retreat himself years earlier, he had met a blind Jesuit who told him to “reverence the resistance.” Evan explained, “In the spiritual life, we will often find ourselves resisting Him, holding on to some sin or area of weakness and shame, taking one step backward to take two forward. That is nothing new or surprising. But what is often counter-intuitive is that we should not beat ourselves up about this, but rather we should ‘reverence’ this resistance we find in ourselves—because God Himself reverences it. He does not force Himself on us before we are able to receive Him; rather, He slowly, lovingly expands our hearts (an experience that can be painful at times), bit by bit, until we are able to receive His fullness.”

Imagine how I felt receiving such beautiful and encouraging words from my little brother! While he’ll always be that little boy who teased me, played with me, fought with me, and laughed with me, I now see the man who preached at my wedding, proudly wears his Roman collar, and who gave his entire life over to God with a joy that is astounding to see. It is a joy that comes from reverencing the resistance.

On Saturday, May 26th at 10:00 am at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Deacon Evan Koop, along with Deacon Ben Little and Deacon Nick VanDenbroeke, will prostrate themselves on the floor and receive the hands of Archbishop Neinstedt, welcoming him into an ancient and blessed brotherhood. If you have never witnessed an ordination Mass before, I strongly urge you to come. The following morning, Father Evan will say his first Mass at 10:30am at the Church of St. Rita in Cottage Grove. Please come and help us fill the church in support of Father Evan Koop.

-Allison Hendrickson

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One Response to “Reverence the Resistance”

  1. Brodo May 24, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Evan is truly a remarkable person, and I feel humbled and privileged to know him. He will be a great priest and an incredible asset for the Church. Our archdiocese is already blessed with so many wonderful priests! I have known him since high school, and he has consistently been one of the smartest people I know. I can’t wait to see him ordained and attend his first mass. Laetare indeed; let us rejoice!

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