The following story is one I sent Brother Finnian, SSF in England who runs a blog on religious vocations. My story and more can be found at: https://religiouslife.video.blog/blog-feed/
Where to start telling my vocational story?
I should first begin by stating that for almost as far back as I can remember, I did not want to be a friar in the Episcopal Church. Instead, I saw myself as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. At St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Kokomo, Indiana, I first learned about God and the role of the priest. The idea of priesthood was a very special calling for a young man like me. Being a priest meant you were set aside by God since the beginning of time to lead a flock of your own. As a priest, you were granted tremendous respect and responsibility. Being a member of a religious community did not seem a correct fit for me because I saw myself primarily conducting parish work and caring for a flock of my own. I could not see myself cloistered in a monastery while the world seemed to pass me by. I wanted to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of others and in the life of a parish.
Pictured above: That's me when I was in high school. I'm the one with the big hair, fourth altar server from the right.
I came very close to entering seminary after high school. At the behest of my parents and much to my dismay at the time, I went to secular college instead.
Pictured above: That's me at Monument Valley where I did my final semester of student teaching before I graduated Indiana University.
I eventually earned a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in middle and high school social studies. I put my desire to become a priest on hold, yet I maintained some ties to the Roman Catholic Church. It was after I began working as a teacher in West Lafayette, Indiana I eventually reconsidered the priesthood seriously again.
Pictured above: My first full time job one year after I graduated college.
However, every time I would get close to making the final “push” towards the priesthood, I would find myself doubting my vocation. I unexpectedly found myself hesitating, as I became increasingly aware my personal views and beliefs were not in full alignment with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Over a period of time I came to understand I would likely struggle to teach certain teachings in front of a congregation.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have a profound love and respect for the Church; I did, and to this day, however, feel a very strong appreciation to the Mass and the Divine Office. Even when I was struggling with specific doctrines or teachings, I continued to enjoy learning more about the Mass, especially as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council. I appreciated the contemplative nature of the Latin Mass along with its reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament. When I made the decision to no longer attend the Roman Catholic Church, I knew from past experiences about its similarity in structure and services with the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Around the same time I began to leave the Roman Catholic Church, the idea of living in a religious community began to emerge in my mind as well. I don’t know what attracted me to the life of a monk or of a friar. I believe it was the devotion and respect I had for many religious individuals I encountered growing up. Their devotion and total surrender to God’s will seemed to me a more perfect way to live the Gospel. There was something uniquely appealing to me about a person giving themselves totally to the will of God and divesting themselves of their possessions. I began to reflect on the Gospels and what Christ had to say about the conditions of discipleship, particularly the passage in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” or in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Over a period of time I began to see the life of a monk or of a friar as a vocation in life in which I could be comfortable.
In the life of St. Francis of Assisi, in particular, I see the man I’d like to be. In him, I see a man who followed the Gospel and spent time actively helping the victims of poverty, sickness, and discrimination. Saint Francis was an active participant in building the Kingdom of God. When one is engaged in active ministry, one is a foot soldier for Christ and represents Him and His love to others. I am very attracted to active ministry and doing what I can helping the poor and those most in need. For many without hope, a member of the Society of St. Francis can be a physical manifestation of Christ and His Love for the world.
To the Franciscan community and the Anglican Communion, I hope to put to use my storied history with the Roman Catholic Church in order to bring healing and understanding between it and the Anglican Communion. I also hope to use my educational background for those in need, such as those without a high school diploma or recent immigrant to the United States. With those who suffer emotional distress, I hope to bring my own experiences with anxiety and depression.
Choosing the Franciscan life has become one of the most important activities I have ever undertaken. And it’s only just beginning.