Deacon Ben Butler’s spiritual life took a turn when he started to realize all the blessings God provided in his life.
“I had a spiritual awakening,” he said. “I realized the blessings God had given me. I grew up in a good family, I did well in school, I had good jobs. I realized it was not my own doing.”
He also recognized his lack of response to those blessings, Deacon Butler said.
That led to prayer and study. Eventually, his journey brought him to the Catholic Church, and on Friday, June 12, his journey will reach a new milestone. He is one of five seminarians for the Diocese of Nashville who will be ordained a priest.
“It’s a little surreal,” Deacon Butler said of his upcoming ordination. “The six years of seminary, in retrospect, have gone by very fast. It’s an exciting time too because you realize you’re going to be celebrating the sacraments, which is an amazing thing.”
The ordination will be held at 10:30 a.m. June 12 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Deacon Butler will celebrate his first Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 13, at St. Joseph Church in Madison, where he has been assigned as associate pastor.
Deacon Butler grew up in Huntland in Franklin County. In 2006, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis on management information systems from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. After college, he moved to Arizona where he worked as a firefighter for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“It was an adventure,” he said of his time in Arizona. “It was awesome. Other than being a deacon and a future priest, that was the most fun job I ever had. Being outside, working with your hands, the fraternity with the other firefighters, that was a lot of fun.”
It was while living in Arizona that Deacon Butler experienced his spiritual awakening. That led to prayer and study. “I started to pray, to read scripture,” he said. “That coupled with reading early church fathers led me to the Church. … I came to realize it was the church Christ left to be his voice here on earth and continue his teaching. I saw that in Scripture.”
He entered the church in 2007 while living in Arizona. It was during this conversion, that Deacon Butler began thinking about the priesthood.
“As I was going through RCIA I started going to Mass regularly. That was when I first had the inclination there might be a vocation to the priesthood,” he said. “I wasn’t ready. It took me a couple of years to respond and enter the seminary. I didn’t feel like it was something I could do.”
After two years in Arizona, Deacon Butler moved back to Huntsville and made the decision to enter the seminary in 2009. He had two years of pre-theology study at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and has spent the last four years studying theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
After six years in the seminary, Deacon Butler said, “I’m more deeply rooted in the church.”
“I realized that all I can do as a priest is only in cooperation with God’s grace,” he said. “It’s my desire to bring people to God and also to bring God to people, especially in the sacraments. That’s why I wanted to become a priest. …
“In the time I had at seminary I really came to appreciate setting aside time for personal prayer and also really reached a deeper appreciation for the sacraments,” Deacon Butler said.
During his summers as a seminarian, Deacon Butler has worked in several parishes, including a summer traveling to parishes across the diocese with the Totus Tuus religious education program for children. “It exposed me to the parishes and to a lot of the people here in the diocese.”
He also spent a summer working at his home parish, Good Shepherd in Decherd. “That kind of solidified my response to the call of being a priest,” Deacon Butler said. “It was working with the people and the response I got from them, the positive affirmation.”
After his ordination, Deacon Butler has been assigned as the associate pastor of St. Joseph Church. He also will serve as the chaplain and teach religion at the parish school.
“I’m looking forward to being a parish priest,” he said.