A Great and Undeserved Gift

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN “TOGETHER IN CHRIST” BY PRO ECCLESIA SANCTA.

Br. Joe leads the opening procession at Mass at Saint Mark’s parish in Saint Paul.   Photo by the Religious of Pro Ecclesia Sancta

Br. Joe leads the opening procession at Mass at Saint Mark’s parish in Saint Paul.
Photo by the Religious of Pro Ecclesia Sancta

After the gifts of life and salvation, my vocation to the religious life is the greatest gift I have ever received. Each day I try to remind myself of this, that it is something God gives me, rather than something I give Him. For reasons known to Him alone, He has chosen me in a special way to dedicate my life to Him, to live in His service, in His house. As a nineteen-year old, there was nothing I had done to merit being called. Seven years later that is still the case!

From morning Holy Hour to the last moments of a long day, I am called to place my whole being in the hands of the Lord in absolute surrender. Each night, it’s an immense consolation to know that I gave my all to God and that I can rest in peace. Moreover, God takes that offering—with all its imperfections—and draws from it abundant fruit. I see how the gift He has given to me then becomes a gift for many others, including perhaps in ways I will never be aware of in this life.

Br. Joe leads a retreat for the Seniors of Chesterton Academy.   Photo by the Religious of Pro Ecclesia Sancta

Br. Joe leads a retreat for the Seniors of Chesterton Academy.
Photo by the Religious of Pro Ecclesia Sancta

For example, in my work with the youth I’ve understood that religious are signs of hope. We are called to be joyful witnesses to the truth, to remind young people that their lives have meaning, that they are made for greatness, and that Christ is the only answer.

In this and in so many other ways, I have had the joy of responding to God’s daily invitation to be an agent of change in the world. From cleaning the house and mowing the lawn, to organizing retreats and giving spiritual direction, I strive, dependent upon the grace of God, for my own sanctification and to help guide the souls the Lord entrusts to my care.

The religious vocation is demanding. Each day presents new—and familiar—challenges. It requires sacrifice and demands increasing generosity in self-gift. Sadly, for many people it’s a sacrifice that doesn’t seem worth it. But the world sees only what I give up; it doesn’t see all that God gives in exchange. They don’t see the sweetness of intimacy with God; or the joy produced in young people when they encounter His love; or the marvels that God condescends to work through those consecrated to Him. in fact, even what we give up becomes a sources of joy: by renouncing what the world craves—possessions, pleasure, self-will—we belong more fully to God, who alone can make us fully alive.