For the longest time, Mason Fraley thought priests were closer to aliens than actual people.
“It took me a long time to get over the idea that priests are somehow from another planet, and more or less totally removed from ‘real life,’” he said. “Seminary and living with priests did much to disabuse me of that notion.”
Fraley is referring to the past 9 years of his life in St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, the culmination of which came last Saturday, when he was at last ordained a priest.
Raised in a nominally Catholic home, Fraley’s family attended St. Francis de Sales parish growing up, and he went to Catholic school largely for the private school aspect, he said. However, a theology course during his junior year of high school with Marc Lenzini had a greater impact on him than he could have anticipated, and thus set his path to the priesthood before him.
“[Lenzini] was very influential on me by illustrating how Christianity is reasonable for anybody desirous of the deepest sort of happiness, and how the invitation of Christ really corresponds to the essential questions of the human heart,” Fraley said. “The priesthood scared me because it was a radical way of life, but my experience of joy in Christ made me want only to share that experience with others, particularly in the uniquely privileged way as a priest. I relented and applied to seminary during my senior year of high school.”
Though high school marked Fraley’s true conversion that would ultimately lead him to the priesthood, the seeds for what it meant to be a priest were planted years earlier, when he served as an altar boy at St. Frances de Sales.
“My pastor at the time, Monsignor Frank Morfeld, was a very holy man. I was too intimidated to get too close to him, but his love for God in quiet fidelity to his priestly life was evident to me, even at that young age,” Fraley said. “I want to be holy like him, though I couldn’t have formulated the sentiment at the time.”
Fraley said that Monsignor Morfeld never explicitly invited him to become a priest, but he did invite him to consider it in his own subtle way.
“He would always give me part of the celebrant’s Host when I was altar serving, and I never saw him do that with any of the other servers,” Fraley recalled. “It was a beautiful gesture that I’ve never forgotten.”
Two saints in particular also helped to form Fraley’s vision of what it means to be priest.
“Servant of God Luigi Giussani taught me how to see the world with wide eyes, and Saint Josemaria Escriva has significantly formed my vision of the priestly heart,” Fraley said. “He was fond of saying things like, ‘we must have the doctrine of theologians, but the faith of little children.’ Not incidentally, both were very holy and zealous priests.”
Farley hopes to carry these qualities over into his own vocation to the priesthood. His first assignment will be as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Northglenn. As for what he most looks forward to about his priestly ministry, it is sharing the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Encountering the love of God in the sacrament through the kindness of his priests has been hugely significant in my own life, and I can’t wait to give that to others,” he said.