Priest thankful for second chance at vocation

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is holding National Vocation Awareness Week Nov. 2-8 to raise awareness and encourage prayers for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Father Jim Thermos nearly missed his vocation.

“Looking back I realize it came very close to passing me by,” he said.

In reflecting on his own calling to the priesthood and journey to becoming the director of the spirituality year for St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Father Thermos, 52, shared how God gave him a second chance.

When he was a young boy in Illinois, Father Thermos said he aspired to the priesthood.

“I used to take little missalettes from church and have Mass with stuffed animals,” he said. “I went through young life anticipating and wanting to be a priest.”

His family moved to Lakewood when he was 10 years old and they became regulars at St. Jude Parish. A visit to Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden introduced him to a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“I became really close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and really felt a call to be his priest,” he said.

He explored this calling by visiting the Priests of the Sacred Heart and Divine Word Missionaries (or the Society of the Divine Word). After graduating high school, Father Thermos entered the SVD’s seminary college in Epworth, Iowa.

He was sent to the Caribbean Islands to do mission work, but became unsure of his vocation. He left seminary and attended the University of Colorado at Denver to earn a degree in real estate and finance.

“I worked for a little while and decided to do mission work. I went to Houston to work for children with AIDs,” he said. “I came back from there and I worked for nearly 10 years doing social services for children.”

While a volunteer at a soup kitchen, Father Thermos said another volunteer urged him to read two pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church daily.

“I read two pages a day but very quickly was reading five to 10 pages a day because I found life there,” he shared.

He became inspired after reading about the Trinity. He read sections on the sacraments and the priesthood—it was what he had envisioned as a child.

“I rediscovered my vocation,” he said.

He got in touch with St. John Vianney’s then-vocations director, Msgr. Michael Glenn, who invited him to a “come and see weekend” at the seminary.

“I met with him and he told me about the spirituality year that was starting. It sounded like something I very much wanted to do,” Father Thermos said.

The spirituality year promised a time for seminarians to deepen their faith and commit to a life of prayer. And they got to read the catechism.

“I remember saying during the year, ‘This is a nice year, Lord. I could do this year again’ because I really enjoyed it.”

He continued in the seminary and was ordained May 13, 2006 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

After his first assignments at the Cathedral Basilica and Mother of God parishes, he was asked to return to the seminary. He spent three years as a “house father” for seminarians and is in his fifth year of directing the spirituality year for first-year seminarians.

This year Father Thermos is directing 26 first-year seminarians, the largest spirituality year class.

It’s a year he enjoys leading over and over again. The priesthood, he said, is “everything to me.”

“Being able to pray the Mass and hear confessions is a privilege and joy like no other,” he said. “What I’m most grateful for is I feel like I’ve had a second chance.”

He added, “It’s just very fulfilling because I’m allowed to be close to people and be in communion with people on the most important part of life, which is our life with God.”

 

Annual Seminary Appeal
Seminarians will visit parishes across the archdiocese starting Nov. 1-2 to appeal for donations to the seminary appeal, which support the operating funds of the two seminaries. The appeal is crucial to forming seminarians and ensuring there are priests in the Church to provide the sacraments for future generations.

Donate: By cash, check or credit card through a brochure or online
Visit: http://sjvdenver.edu/support-sjv-today/annual-parish-appeal/
Questions: Call 303-282-3441

 

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.