Call it a prophecy, a premonition, or an emotional impulse borne of raw emotion and too little sleep, but on the day he brought his infant son, Francis, to be baptized, Dr. Keith Marotti was overcome by a sudden thought. “I just have a feeling,” he remembers telling his wife, Hope. “This one’s going to become a priest.”
While the Marottis put little stock in that prediction, they never forgot it. It seemed particularly poignant several years later, when young Frankie, now six years old, drew a picture of his family seated in the front pew at Mass. In the sanctuary stood the priest, reverently elevating the host, with the words “Father Francis” beside him.
Two decades later Rev. Francis Marotti (’07) would, indeed, consecrate the Eucharist in his family church — as a new priest at his first Mass. A day earlier, on June 23, 2012, he had received the Sacrament of Holy Orders from the Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo (Mich.).
Despite the early intuitions, throughout his youth and childhood, Fr. Marotti did not expect to become a priest. “Going along in high school, I didn’t take my vocation or life very seriously,” he says. “I didn’t consider anything weighty about our faith or about the world.”
That would start to change when, following the lead of his older brother, Richard (’03), he attended the Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program between his junior and senior years. That experience convinced him to enroll as a freshman at the College the next year. Maturity soon followed.
“It came all of a sudden during sophomore year,” Fr. Marotti recalls. “We were reading St. Augustine, both in theology and in seminar, and then later we were reading Dante. I remember those having a big impact on me. They woke me up to consider the priesthood more seriously.”
“When you start studying the great books and are around students who are obviously more serious about life than you are, it really challenges you. There is just no way to get through it without being forced to consider your vocation,” he says. “I thank God for the College. It really saved me from that kind of complacency with life, of just kind of going along. I can’t think of how I would have come to the position in life where I would discern my vocation so seriously as I did at Thomas Aquinas College. That’s why the Lord put me there.”
After his graduation in 2007, Fr. Marotti spent one more year discerning the priesthood while teaching high school theology in his hometown of Kalamazoo. The next fall, he entered the Diocese’ seminary program and began four years of studies at the North American College in Rome. In his final year there, while a deacon, he twice had the honor of chanting the Gospel at papal Masses, first on the Feast of the Epiphany, and then at the Easter Vigil.
Today Fr. Marotti is the parochial vicar at St. Philip’s in Battle Creek, Mich., where, in addition to his regular priestly responsibilities, he ministers at the parish high school, facilitates a youth discussion group, and serves as the chaplain at a neighboring hospital. Being a priest, he says, “is even greater than I had imagined, because you can never really understand what it is to celebrate Mass or to perform the other sacraments until you actually do it.”
On the day after his ordination, Fr. Marotti began the morning by baptizing his niece, then offering his first Mass at his family parish. That afternoon, he and his family celebrated at a party in his parents’ home, where an enlarged copy of Father’s prescient, 6-year-old artwork hung on the living-room wall.