By Santonio Hill

A God Dream

“Damn son, that’s crazy. Who would’ve known I may not have had the chance to ever see you.” ...

“Damn son, that’s crazy. Who would’ve known I may not have had the chance to ever see you.” 

That’s 21-year-old me speaking to myself as I stare into a mirror. My jaw had dropped to the ground when my mom told me I was almost aborted as a baby and now there I stood. Goood gracious, it was wild. When she told me, I was in the seminary studying to be a priest and in complete awe of the path my life had taken me.

But let’s rewind to give you some scope on where I’m coming from.

I was born (barely) and raised Catholic in a household of all women—my Grandmother, mother, and older sister. My dad sadly was absent for the majority of my life but I’d see him from time to time. 

We went to Mass but I was of the notion that God started and ended on Sunday. 

Even when I went to youth group my crew of cool friends and I would still talk about whatever we wanted, and it was usually not church stuff. I was constantly cracking jokes and trying to work on my pickup lines on the homeschool girls.

When I was 12, my mom told me to put a list of my dreams on the wall above my bed. It was basically my prayers on a rocketship to God. At the top of my list, I put a beautiful strong woman to marry, plenty of kids, and a big ol’ house (Nahm sayin). The second thing on my list was to get drafted by an NFL team. I wanted to make millions and get out of my small tumbleweed town, and football was my ticket out.

It took blood, sweat, and tears (Literally! I had multiple surgeries on my feet during high school and another two years of recovery) to finally make it on the field with the varsity team and by then I was a senior and time was running out for me. I had NFL aspirations on the forefront of my brain every practice, game, class, workout, and meal. I began getting recognition from scouts and I was finally offered a full ride scholarship. I was so close to the NFL I could taste it.

One Sunday after Mass, my priest, Fr. Scott, tracked me down and asked me what I was going to do after graduation. I eagerly told him about my football plans and he followed by boldly asking me to consider the seminary to become a priest. I cut that conversation off quicker than chopping down trees in Fortnite. I then made the vital mistake of telling him that I’d sleep on it.

That night I had a dream where I was in a long line of little league football players, all suited up and ready for a game. Then all of a sudden, I was naked, clearly not ready for a game. The group of us made our way through mountains, hills, and valleys leading to a castle similar to Hogwarts. Inside I saw a Bishop seated at a table with two priests flanking him. I stepped up and they handed me a paper to sign. Maybe they just want my autograph or it’s some sort of signing bonus for the league, I had thought. I eagerly signed it without reading the fine print. They took it, stamped it and said, “Congratulations, now you’re a priest!” I inwardly freaked out, screaming in my head, “WTF did I just get tricked into?” They handed me a bunch of books and sweaters and told me my locker was down to the right. I found my locker, put my things inside, and woke up.

“Yeah right,” I said to myself. “The day I become a priest is the day I become terrible at basketball.”

Why basketball? I still don’t know. I was pretty good at basketball but football was my sport. God was listening closely that day to my “prayers”, though. The next night, I dreamt again but this time I was playing basketball. The game was 5 on 5, televised in a jam-packed stadium. I was the star player so my team kept passing me the ball and relying on me to score for us. I devastatingly missed every shot.

I woke up utterly flabbergasted. Things were getting weird. I had to see if I was actually bad at basketball. Before I caught the bus in the morning, I went out to my basketball hoop and took 10 shots. I missed every last one. The athlete in me couldn’t give up that easily, though, so at lunch, I went outside to the courts and made every shot I took. I just knew I wasn’t going to be some ol’ lame priest. There was no way I was going to give up a full ride scholarship, potentially making millions, getting married, buying a big ol’ house, and having plenty of kids.

It was then that I stopped to really think about what happened to me in the past 48 hours. 

I had no idea how to pray or discern, so I went back to my priest.

When I tracked down Fr. Scott the next Sunday after Mass, we talked about the priesthood. The one thing that stuck out the most was, if you do God’s will you’ll be most happy in life. He knows you better than you know yourself. I was still unsure but definitely intrigued.

When I got home that day, I went to my room and stared at the crucifix on my wall. How was it possible for one man to die just so I could have life? He’s the reason I have blood going through my veins and air pumping in and out my lungs? I didn’t fully understand the fact that Jesus came to save the world but I had never heard anyone refute the fact. “Since this Jesus, God-man died just so I could have a shot at life,” I said to myself, 

“I might as well give Him the first shot at my life to see what He wants me to do with it.”

I went to my priest the following Sunday and told him I would be turning down the scholarship and was willing to sign up for the seminary.

Even though my father hadn’t been around, my grandma really instilled the notion that God the Father would never let me down, no matter how bad things seem. At the time, I really didn’t want to go to seminary but I believed that God would look out for me. And it turns out, He was.

Seminary changed everything. I didn’t have a relationship with God when I started, but after 4 years of being there, I had plenty of practice engaging God in prayer. And not just praying in the chapel but keeping God in mind throughout the day. It taught me to be faithful to God.

I changed my thoughts on life; putting God first always and not myself. The crazy thing about God is that when I do something for Him, it’s really for the betterment of myself.

I wrestled a lot with God about being a priest and with the help of my spiritual director I decided to discern out because I didn’t have the peace in my heart. It’s been so dope welcoming God into my life. I have no regrets.

When I made that decision in high school, I didn’t even understand that it was eternal life and my soul that Jesus came to save. I assumed that it was my physical life and, boy oh boy, Jesus did save my physical life as well. But it was all the things that “weren’t supposed to happen” that God used to lead me here.

I was not supposed to even be alive to write this. I was not supposed to be playing football due to the surgeries. I was not supposed to receive a scholarship. 

God looked out for me in those areas but He did even better than that. God spoke to me through dreams. I responded by taking action in the direction He suggested.

Life has taken me all over the world and right out of the tumbleweed town.