[This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of the Oracle]
Before Colin Faust deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, the 21-year-old Marine received a gift from his Catholic grandmother: a miraculous medal to wear around his neck, especially on dangerous foot patrols. Colin, baptized and raised Lutheran, thanked her and promised her he would wear it.
Three months later, when he stepped on an I.E.D. landmine, the miraculous medal was the only thing that remained intact. Colin’s body was broken. One leg was immediately amputated and the other badly mangled. His chance of survival was slim.
Without any connection other than it being a gift from his grandma, the miraculous medal hung around his neck during the next three months of indescribable pain from 40 surgeries, followed by two years of rehabilitation at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis and an Army medical base in San Antonio, Texas.
Colin describes his relationship with God at this time as lukewarm, and he slipped into a dark, confusing period in his life. There was so much for him to process, and he tried to do it on his own. He looks back now and better understands St. Augustine’s words, “The heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”
As he learned to live as an amputee in a wheelchair, Colin slowly came out of his depression. Waiting for him on the other side was Julia, a lifelong Catholic and now his wife of three years. The blessings began to add up, including what Colin describes as “an explosion of grace.”
“The Blessed Mother of God came to reap what she had sown years earlier on the battlefield in Afghanistan,” he says.
With the same fire and determination that drove the young Marine years earlier, Colin decided that he could no longer remain neutral in his relationship with the Lord. He pursued Christ and the truth with intensity. Colin ultimately read and studied and investigated his way to the Catholic Church, receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil in 2018.
Coinciding with Colin’s entry into the Church was the completion of his undergraduate degree in Business Administration. With a certainty that he had been called by God to serve the Church as a married lay man, he started looking for a graduate degree program that would help him realize this call.
He found that online programs were plentiful and attractive; however, he sought academic rigor and one-on-one interaction with professors and classmates on a campus. The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity was the perfect fit.
Colin dove into two years of reading, writing and research in the Master of Arts in Theology degree program. He found a community of students and professors who were engaged and pushed him to go deeper into his academics and prayer life. And, he forged new friendships built upon a common foundation of faith and intellectual curiosity.
“The greatest impact that The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity had on me is that I grew as a person and as a Catholic,” he says. “And, I have grown in virtue as a result of my time in this community. I am extremely blessed by this experience.”
Colin will spend the next 12 months completing comprehensive exams, a language exam, and a written thesis, in order to graduate in May 2021. He envisions God using him as an instrument to teach others one day, perhaps in a parish setting or in a high school.
“No matter how God chooses to use me, I am a living example of God turning a tremendous amount of pain and suffering into a greater good.”
What about that miraculous medal Colin received 10 years ago? It’s old and worn and kept in a safe place at home. It accompanied him through years of pain and suffering, including through all of his surgeries – with special exceptions given each time by his surgeons. He wears a newer one now that never comes off either.