“God calls some men to be priests alone, some to be brothers alone and some to be priest-brothers. Each vocation is distinct and complete.”
Br. Conrad Richardson, f.b.p.
I first discovered the call to religious brotherhood when I was 21 years old. It took some time for me to realize what God was calling me to do. I graduated from high school in Denver, Colorado, just a year before Blessed John Paul II arrived for World Youth Day in 1993. I attribute the rediscovery of my Catholic faith and the starting point of my vocation discernment to that extraordinary event.
Before entering religious life I worked as a nursing assistant, caring for the elderly, the physically and mentally challenged and the terminally ill. I was beginning to see that I was caring for Jesus by caring for the least. As my prayer life grew, so did my desire to serve God and others. I volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in Denver who were caring for those dying of AIDS. This was my first experience of being around a religious community and my call to the vocation of brother was coming into focus during that time of praying and working along side the sisters. I admired their undying love for Jesus, each other and those for whom they cared. Before meeting the sisters I had an assumption that deep down they must be miserable due to all they had to give up and go without. The various religious men and women that I have met throughout my life are some of the happiest people I know.
In 1996, I contacted the Franciscan Brothers of Peace in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and was invited to make a "come & see" visit. Being with the Brothers felt like family and I felt like I belonged. After some time of getting to know the community and the brothers getting to know me, I expressed an interest in applying and was accepted. I began postulancy in February of 1997 and professed final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in October of 2001. Through a life of prayer and repentance, the brothers engage in various apostolates such as praying and sidewalk counseling outside of abortion centers, helping to feed and clothe the poor and homeless, ministering to refugees and providing sanctuary in our friary to men who are international victims of torture.”
God calls some men to be priests alone, some to be brothers alone and some to be priest-brothers. Each vocation is distinct and complete. My life as a brother is filled with great joy and of course there are hefty challenges as well. Let's face it, life isn't easy no matter what vocation we are called to, but I know that with God's saving grace and with the help of my brothers, I will continue to grow in love of Him and all those around me. May God be praised, both now and forever!
“God is so good to bring me to the vocation of lay brother. Poverty, minority, a simple life is exactly the cross I need in order to be recreated in God’s image.”
Br. Crispin Mary, CFR
I was eight years old when I first learned of the anawim, the name given to the humblest and most underprivileged of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. These were also the forgotten ones of Israel. They stood faithful to God’s ways and His anointed one, King David, when everyone else sold out and rebelled against the Lord. Because of their humility and faithfulness they always held a special place in the Lord’s heart and the Scriptures make continuous reference to them. I was absolutely fascinated with the anawim and I grew to look at them as a model of how I was to live my own Christian life.
Then as years passed, Saint Joseph and Our Lady entered the picture. How their great love captivated me! Their silence and hiddenness always led me to Jesus. Their whole life, in fact their whole being, pointed to Jesus and resonated with Him. Every blow of Joseph’s hammer, every floor Our Lady swept was not only consecrated to Jesus but was a witness to God’s love incarnate and was a fruit of God’s own love present in their hearts. I soon came to realize that this calling was the only vocation that spoke to my heart. Yet I did not know how it could be lived out until I discovered Saint Francis. Poverty, fraternity, minority, fidelity, obedience are the keys to the Holy House of Nazareth where one can make his home with Jesus, follow the lead of Our Lady and be an apprentice to Saint Joseph.
God is so good to bring me to the vocation of lay brother. Poverty, minority, a simple life is exactly the cross I need in order to be recreated in God’s image. Now I am an apprentice at the Holy House of Nazareth in the South Bronx where the pursuit of a prayer life, gestures of fraternal service, simple living—and yes, even doing things like cleaning out the drain pipes at the shelter—is the path to Heaven!
"Living now as a vowed Brother is a great gift…. I consider it the greatest joy of my life."
Br. Patrick Reilly, B.H.
The first time I felt God calling me to a vocation was at a Steubenville Youth Retreat of 3,000 high-schoolers in Alexandria, Louisiana. I felt God stirring deep within my heart, calling me to give Him my whole life. I remember getting back home and having a conversation with my dad in the car. "Dad, I think I'm being called by God to be a priest." That's probably not the best way to 'break the ice' for a vocational conversation — and I think the skid marks on the road are still there to prove it.
Later on, during my college years at Florida State, I got to know a solid community of Brothers who serve campus ministry at FSU: the Brotherhood of Hope. My faith and prayer life deepened through their mission and mentoring. Eventually I lived with them and other college men in a summer household for men's formation and outreach training. I can remember leaving their house after that summer and thinking, "There's no way I could do what those guys do!" But God's plan for my life was bigger than any of my plans. While I had initially thought it might be priesthood, there was something that kept attracting me to the way the Brothers prayed, the way they talked to others about Christ in their evangelization, and the way they lived a deep fraternal bond through their common life.
Living now as a vowed Brother is a great gift, knowing that I'm following what God has been calling me to. It's a summons to hold nothing back from Him, and to give everything to the One who gave everything for me. I consider it the greatest joy of my life.