I was born on April 8th, 1964 in Gary, Indiana. I was baptized on June 21st of that same year at the local Evangelical United Brethren Church. As a child I only remember attending the United Methodist Church. Initially my family attended church together, but as I grew older they would just drop me off for Sunday School and the church service.
As a child I had a very primitive view of God. I saw God as an old man on a throne in heaven who watched over everyone. And I believed that I had to be saved or I would go to Hell.
As a teenager I was confirmed in the United Methodist Church. But in High School I began drifting away from the church. I wasn’t getting anything out of the church services and I was dissatisfied that there was Communion only two Sundays of the year. I left home for the first time at the age of 19, and I fell away from the church. I hung around with my friends, partied, and had a good time.
At that point in my life I was living in Crown Point, Indiana. I worked in my Grandfather’s bakery. In the morning we made donuts and in the afternoon, I delivered them. My Grandfather was very hard to work for, so after a year I found a job in a restaurant as a cook. Then I went to Buffalo Grove, Illinois and worked for Burger King. In 1990 I moved to Chicago.
Internally, I felt God was nudging me to go back to church. I was very attracted to Catholicism as I felt it was more God-centered than the United Methodist Church, and it seemed to me that the preaching in the Catholic Church was really based on the Gospel message of Jesus.
I was really going through a conversion process at this time in my life. Some of the folks I worked with at National Louis University attended the Episcopal Church of the Atonement and told me about their parish. So, I invited myself to try Atonement. By the end of the first liturgy, I knew I was home. I felt I was being redeemed and I asked forgiveness for all the things I had done wrong.
I should point out that back when I was in the United Methodist Church, that they saw being gay as an abomination. I remember asking God for forgiveness for my being homosexual. It wasn’t until I came to Atonement that I stopped seeing being gay as dirty or as something I needed to ask God to forgive. I was now able to see that being gay is how I was born, and that Jesus loves me as a gay man.
My time at Atonement and in Chicago was interrupted when I moved to San Francisco. There I worshipped at Church of the Advent of Christ the King Episcopal Church. Connected to this parish was an Episcopal Community of Franciscans. I found myself drawn to their way of life, and I sought to join them. I became an Inquirer.
While I was with them I worked in soup kitchen. In doing that ministry I knew I was doing God’s work. Deep down inside me I knew I needed to help and take care of others. Working in the soup kitchen helped me to do that. However, I was only with the Franciscans for six months.
When I was invited to test my vocation as an Aspirant, I felt a tug in a different direction. I was a friend with Br. Thomas who was a member of the Companions of St. Luke. I visited their abbey in Iowa, and I felt an attraction to the Benedictine way of life. So I did not become a Franciscan. I wanted to join the Companions of St. Luke, and I spoke with their abbot. I returned to Chicago and to Atonement to discern my call as an Benedictine.
During my discernment, I realized I made a mistake in not accepting my invitation to test my vocation as an Franciscan and have regretted this mistake for the past 11 years. I never forgot about Franciscan Life. God continued to call me to the Franciscans.
At Atonement I was always aware of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory but there was a new religious community forming at Atonement, called the Community of the Mother of Jesus. Although I still felt the tug of a religious vocation to the Franciscans, I pursued a calling to join the Community of the Mother of Jesus. I had felt for a long time that the Blessed Mother was helping me to be more devout, and to know a real peacefulness in my heart. So I asked Br. Stephen if I could join. I went through the application process and was named a postulant. Br. Jonathan and I entered the novitiate together. We were the first “class’ of novices to become noviced together.
I find that my life as a CMJ was one of peace. It helped me to be more patient with myself, the policies, and people, at my place of work.
I wanted to grow in my vocation to be a good monk. I prayed the office, although sometimes it was a real struggle to find time to pray. Sometimes to make time, I would ride the bus past my bus stop and go all the way to the end of the line, just so I would have extra time to finish my prayers. I especially enjoyed the CMJ Daily Office. It helped me to stay alert as I prayed, since I have to make choices about which texts I wanted to pray.
I suspect that many gay men find themselves attracted to a religious vocation because they can experience a real sense of community, and not feel so isolated. I know it does that for me. It gives me a purpose in life, and structure. It gets me praying right away in the morning and keeps me praying during the day. I find I am better able to do God’s work because I am not hiding who I am: I can be openly gay, and be very involved in the life of the church and the religious life.
As a novice in the CMJ, I found out that people were curious about this “monk thing” that I did. People at work asked me questions about my vocation, and about when I would take vows. Having their affirmation also helped me to live my vocation, as well as to be more patient with others in my workplace. I thank God I was called to a vocation in that Community and that now I find myself called back to walk in the way of St. Francis. With the Franciscans, I feel a deep-seated need to live in community with a structured prayer life, and to live a life of service to those on the margins of our society.
I want to bring to the community a strong faith in God and a need to help others in need.
I realize I have much to learn about living the Franciscan lifestyle. I entered into this community with an open mind and willingness to be formed in the way of St. Francis.
I am prepared to give my life over God as his servant.
Robert Gee will be noviced on Saturday, September 14, 2019 and will take the name Brother Gregory, SSF.