THE BEGINNING OF my conversion was in 2004 at the Sanctuary of Saint Pio, when I was almost 22 years old. During that year, I really started to feel the love of God in my heart and the desire to leave everything to follow Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Before that year, I lived a normal life. Studying and working in Italy and Germany, I was superficial in my practice of the Catholic faith, but God was always first in my life.
On my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2007, I really started to know much better the Gospel and the life of Jesus. After this great experience, I spent a year in a monastery in Rome with the Benedictine brothers. I was seeking God’s will for me and discerning my vocation and mission in the outside world.
I went back to the Holy Land five more times. Finally, after many years of prayer and studies, I entered the Seminary of Our Lady of the Divine Love in Rome, studying at the Lateran University and doing different kinds of mission work with the poor, the sick and all kinds of people.
Why am I saying yes? I feel the love of God in my heart. I know that there is nothing greater than the love of God and to be His friend. I can say that God saved my life and He is still saving my life every day, protecting me and guiding me in the right way. I can say that Jesus saved what was lost because without Him, we all are lost in this world.
So that’s why I said yes, and I try to do my best to say yes, again and again, day by day. I am very thankful to God because He is giving me the greatest gift that I could ever receive: the gift of the Sacred Priesthood, the gift of becoming an Alter Christus, to act in persona Christi and to follow Him, to imitate Him like His first disciples, to practice His commandment of love and so to remember Him celebrating the most holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, to perpetuate this act of thanksgiving and mercy, which is the greatest miracle.
During my seminary experience, I learned a lot, not just in regard to theology and philosophy, but also how to practice virtues because I think that the seminary is like the time that Jesus was together with His disciples, teaching them and showing them how the kingdom of God is and what we are called to do. The time in the seminary is like a living Gospel. Sometimes we experience the desert, but after that, if we believe and persevere, we will receive the Holy Spirit and it will be like a rebirth in Jesus Christ. It is also the time to experience the brotherhood in the name of Jesus, really like the first Apostles that left everything to stay with Him, to learn about His word and then to be sent to all the world.
So it is a very important time of formation, first of all, spiritually, but also to learn the teachings of our Mother Church. It is the time to leave everything to follow our Master, trying to change our lives, to convert our hearts to conform them to Him as much as we can. During this time, we have many tests and trials. But if we really feel the call of God, we persevere until the end and we know we will be with our Lord on the cross and in His glory.
So this I want to say, especially to all my brothers that feel the call to the priesthood and are discerning this mission of God: There is the way of the cross, but the glory and the love that we receive, starting in this world, and then much more so in heaven, is greater than any suffering endured in this world. We are not from this world and we don’t know what is best, only God knows. If we give our life to God, He will do the best with us. Only He can give us the happiness, joy and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit, from the eternal love of the Father and from the Son.
Deacon Linardi will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn on June 30.