MEET THE PRIEST
Meet the Priest: An Interview with Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., Saint Benedict Institute’s New Chaplain
Where are you from and where did you go to college?
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I went to Claremont McKenna College where I double majored in philosophy and economics so as to be able to feed body and soul upon graduation.
When did you know you wanted to be a priest?
The basic desire to do whatever was most important in life was there since I first had any ambitions at all. The calling to priesthood didn’t explicitly start to emerge until senior year of high school and I managed to resist it until my senior year in college.
Could you say a little bit about your faith journey?
Growing up my family went to Mass every Sunday (even on vacation) and my father would pray with me every night before we went to bed until I was in about fifth grade. Despite the somewhat pious upbringing and a strong sense of duty I would not have described myself as personally pious. I did not protest going to Mass but I cannot ever remember looking forward to the experience or feeling anything when I prayed. In fact, from about the age of five I became very interested in money and girls—two obsessions left unabated until senior year of high school.
When I was a junior in high school I began reading some of the works of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, which I happened to find on the bookshelves in my room. It was a revelation. For the first time in my life I encountered intelligent people who wrote intelligent things about theology and I experienced the beauty of truth. That started to awaken things in my heart that had been dormant for a very long time. At the beginning of senior year of high school I made a good, long overdue confession. It felt great but that was quickly followed by a short and intense period of spiritual darkness that wrought the deepest part of the conversion. As the darkness lifted what remained was desire to pray, to go to Mass, and to love God in general.
What is your favorite Scripture verse?
One of my all-time favorites has to be Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand by the ancient road, ask the pathways of old, ‘Which is the way unto good?’ and follow it and you will find rest for your souls.”
What is the biggest challenge young people face?
That’s like asking, “Who is the most dishonest person in government?” So many choices. A top contender would be a culture that promotes disconnection or superficial connections between people as opposed to deep and lasting friendships.
What Catholic devotion is most fruitful for you?
Offering Mass. If I could keep only one spiritual practice in my life it would be that. It grounds everything else.
What advice would you give a young person thinking of a religious vocation? Marriage?
Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things you will be faithful in great ones.” Do the little stuff right every day and the big questions will sort themselves out. That means daily prayer, Mass at least once a week, regular confession, and works of mercy.