With the Olympics now underway, I finally caught up with this remarkable story of one of the Canadians who carried the torch earlier this month:

oco.jpgThe Olympic spark has been ignited within the soul of Vancouver seminarian Noel Oco, one of those carrying the Olympic torch through Vancouver prior to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympic flame is both meaningful and symbolic for him, Oco said. “Everyone who competes in the Games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Currently serving at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish with Father Ron Thompson, his spiritual director, Oco is just months away from becoming a member of the Carthusians. He hopes to make his final commitment with a vow of lifelong poverty and silence.

Oco gained the privilege of carrying the torch after winning an essay competition. “No matter how powerful the Olympic flame is and what it represents, the flame inside each of us is greater than that flame. What the Olympic flame does is reflect off each of us and inspire us to live up to the ideals of the Olympic movement,” he said.

His message to the world concerns vocations: he wants to inspire others to discern their own vocations, whatever they may be.

Oco never thought of becoming a Catholic priest when he was young. Although he grew up Catholic, he was not really paying attention to what the Church was all about: “I just went through the motions.”

However he met atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and people of other faiths who challenged his Catholicism to the limit. “I used those moments of being challenged to search deep within the actual teachings of the Catholic Church to understand what it was to be a real Catholic.”

Before long it became clear to Oco that most people who have something against the Catholic Church are simply misinformed and do not know the official doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Determined to pursue God’s will, he worked at a variety of jobs that captured his interest.

None of them were good enough, however. “I needed more meaning than just earning a good salary,” he said.

It was when he entered the Canadian Forces Army Reserve that he learned to live and rely on daily prayer. “I prayed for God’s strength to help me pass the three-month boot camp. With the Lord’s help I succeeded without any problems,” he said.

During his time in the Army he deepened his spiritual life. “I enjoyed the sense of adventure, the discipline, the structure and the camaraderie among the many friends I gained, and with whom I shared my faith one-on-one whenever I got the chance.”

One night, in bed after an exhausting weeklong joint military training with the British and U.S. Army, he hit a plateau.

“I realized that I was driving my life in circles; it felt as though I had already been around the block and back. I re-evaluated my whole life. What else should I be doing? Where else should I explore? What else should I learn? How else should I grow in my faith?”

There’s more at the link.

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