Reflections on My Religious Life

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July 29, 2015
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July 31, 2015

I grew up in Denver Colorado in a pious Catholic family, the middle of three children.  Both of my parents considered the possibility of entering religious life when they were young people, so the thought of a priestly or religious vocation for us children was always present alongside that of the married state.  I attended the parish school, and then went on to an all-boys Catholic preparatory school run by the Jesuit Fathers.  It was there that I first met religious order priests, and it was there in high school that I first seriously considered becoming a priest and a religious myself.

I did well in school, and I was very involved with many activities such as music, theatre, tennis, and so forth.  As I was completing my high school education, I was enthusiastic about going to college, and I dreamed of many possible areas of interest for my future – medicine, academia, music – and my attraction to the priesthood as a potential vocation faded into the background of my life.  I continued to practice the Faith through my college years, but I did not actively pursue religious life or seminary life right away.

In His divine providence, God brought a few very significant people into my life during my college years.  The first was my academic advisor and mentor, a woman who is the expert in the English-speaking world on the history of the Norbertine Order (the Canons Regular of Premontre).  I had never heard of the Norbertines until I began to study history under the tutelage of this professor.  I became intrigued by the idea of the canonical life, the blending of the priesthood with the monastic observance of life in an abbey.  Then I met a living, breathing Norbertine priest from one of the abbeys on the East coast (Daylesford Abbey in Paoli Pennsylvania).  He came to give a retreat to the Catholic students at my college, and I began a relationship with his religious community, visiting on a number of occasions over the space of a couple of years.

As my college years unfolded and I began to wonder what was to become of me after I completed my bachelor’s degree, I kept thinking about all the consecrated religious whom I had met throughout my life.  They were always the happiest people I knew!  I began to ask myself what would make me happy, not with some kind of passing happiness like a young man finds in college, but with a happiness that endures.  The searching of Saints whose writings I was reading – St. Augustine, for example – became my search, and I began to ask myself when I would find rest for my restless heart.

As I finished my degree in Classics/History/Political Science, I applied for and won a very prestigious scholarship to continue my education at Oxford University in England.  It was a pie-in-the-sky dream come true, and it seemed to be God’s holy will for me that I take this blessed opportunity in the direction of an academic career.  I found in Oxford everything that a young man with an academic and cultural bent could hope for – invigorating studies, cosmopolitan friends, wine, women, and song – and yet my heart was still not at peace.  I was living next door to a church staffed by the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, and I began to attend Mass there, first every Sunday, and then even more frequently.  God began to knock more and more persistently at the door of my restless heart, and I began to consider answering His call.

My earlier interest in the Norbertine Canons Regular revived, and I found myself visiting Norbertine houses in England, then in Belgium, and finally back in the United States.  I decided to take a leave of absence from my studies at Oxford to discern more carefully my vocation, and at the suggestion of a number of priests who knew me well and whom I trusted, I finally visited St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California.  When I visited there for the first time in the autumn of 1999, I just knew that I had found my home.

I have been a member of our monastery since August 2000.  I made my final profession in August 2006, and I was ordained a priest in June 2008.  Now I am the novice master, the master of the junior-professed, and the vocations director.  We have a large, young, and thriving religious community with many worthy vocations and a magnificent canonical life.  Each day I have the amazing privilege of donning the white habit of our Order, of singing God’s praise in the Divine Office throughout the day, of offering the Holy Sacrifice at the altar, and of serving my brothers and sons in the house of formation.  I give thanks to Almighty God that He has called me, unworthy as I am, to such a life.

This story is part of the CLINIC activities celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life.  The Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section of CLINIC has asked current and former clients to share their stories of how they entered religious life and what their religious vocations mean to them.  For more information on RIS and immigation assistance offered to foreign-born priests, nuns and religious workers, visit:  https://cliniclegal.org/programs/RIS 

Source: Catholic Charities