Calling All Workers!

Many times, if not most of the time, homilies on the parable of The Workers in the Vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) are focused on the end of the parable, the wages received. We hear mostly on equality of wages for all laborers, pay based on hours worked or abilities, etc. and then on the last line “Thus, the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Mt.20:16).” But how often do we reflect on the beginning of the parable, the gathering of the laborers?

God, in His infinite Wisdom and plan, preforms the talents and vocation we will receive to complete His will perfectly. He then creates us and brings us into the world. Like the landowner in the parable, He calls us to work in His vineyard. We must then discern this calling and out of free will answer either yes or no; do we go into the vineyard to work or not?

God bless those who answer yes right away and begin working in God’s vineyard. Sometimes it is more difficult for others and they put it off, not answer right away or just ignore the calling altogether. Others may never hear the calling because they are so attached to the things of this world and want complete control of their lives, therefore seeking a false sense of freedom. This is why it is important to keep our hearts open to God, free from attachment to things of this world and its distractions and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, so that we can hear God’s calling and begin our work for Him.

We may not always know exactly what God wants us to do or why, but God will disclose that to us in His time. We need to be open to His calling and then go with the pace of the grace to labor in His vineyard. As long as we have God in our hearts, we will be able to produce good works and He will bring to perfection our fruits of labor.  

The end of this parable, however, should still be reflected upon. Once you have said yes to God, and you have finished His work, you will receive the same wage as the others, no matter when you began. That wage is eternal life!

God will always find us in the marketplace and call us to work in His vineyard. Will you be ready and willing to labor?

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Brother Am I

I returned to St. Andrew Abbey on Sunday June 12th, 2011. In less than a week I was to be invested as a novice. Before the ceremony at Vespers on Friday, the entire community went on retreat at Loyola Retreat House (We are in partnership with this retreat house). In addition to the community retreat, I had my own side retreat to prepare me for investiture.

The 4 days were so spiritually fulfilling. It was refreshing after being away for 4 weeks and a great way to transition back into the monastic life. I was so prepared for the next part of my journey, thanks to the conferences by Fr. Meinrad, OSB of St. Benedict’s Abbey (KS), my Novice Master and the other monks.

The day came for the ceremony. I spent the entire day in prayer and meditation. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for 5:20pm Vespers. When the ceremony began, I was presented to the Prior and I requested permission to “Seek the mercy of God and the fellowship of the community.” Once granted permission I stepped up to the Prior who then proceeded to give me a tonsure (the cutting of my hair in 5 places, forming a cross). I then received my novice habit and then my religious name.

Receiving the religious name is the most anticipated part of the ceremony. This is not only the name I would be called from now on, but it is also the Patron Saint God has assigned to me to guide and protect me the rest of my life. The name I received was Saint Paul the Apostle. I was so excited and thankful for receiving such a great Saint! I pray that St. Paul will accept me and guide me to a purity of heart that will complete God’s will.

I am now a novice and will continue my formation for 1 year and a day. At that time, God willing, I will profess simple vows.

Praise be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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Postulancy

I entered St. Andrew Abbey in Cleveland,OH on January 13, 2011 and began my postulancy. So, what is postulancy? Postulancy is the beginning of the formation into the monastic life and usually lasts from 4-6 months, participating in prayers and work with all the monks. It’s a time of discernment and a time for the monks to continue to get to know you and discern if you are truly being called to their community and the monastic life.

I attended classes daily and read many books between work and prayer. The schedule set up for postulants and novices is designed to immerse you into the rhythm of the day. The classes and the books I read assisted in deepening my faith and learning more about the monastic way of life. At the age of 43, conversion of life, part of formation and continuing through the end of life, was a bit challenging. There were a lot of battles with my inner-self, some were extremely painful. But God had prepared me for this time, prior to my entering into the abbey. He had taught me to trust Him and always turn to Him during these times. So, I did. As always, He brought me peace and strength to overcome these trials. Lesson learned; the struggles we endure each day are part of God’s plan in preparing us for the future to complete His will.

 I chose a Spiritual Director and Confessor to assist me as I made this journey to becoming a monk. Together they provided complete guidance in my discernment and as I transitioned into the monastic life. Over time, we agreed that I was being called to the monastic life at St. Andrew Abbey.

I completed my Postulancy in 4 months and submitted my request to continue formation in the novitiate (next step in formation). They sent me home for 4 weeks while the community prayed about my request. While away, I received notice the community approved my continuation of formation in the novitiate. I was to be invested on June 17th, receiving the novice habit and my religious name.

I am so thankful for the graces God has bestowed upon me during this journey. Praise and glory to the Lord our God!!!

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Final Perseverence

My previous posts have been about the past 2 years of my discernment for a religious vocation with the Order of St. Benedict to become a monk. Throughout this year I have visited St Andrew Abbey in Cleveland, OH and have come to know the monks and their way of life. With much prayer I felt God was calling me to this vocation and abbey.

I began the application process in August and had one final visit to the abbey in November. On Monday, December 6, St. Nicholas’ day, I received the greatest present ever. Fr. Gerard, the abbey Vocation Director, called and said they had accepted me!! I am to begin my postulancy January 17th. I was so overwhelmed with joy it was hard to keep talking with him!

It has been such a wonderful, spiritual journey and I thank God for it all. He has taught me so much, especially patience and trust. I can’t thank my family and friends enough for their support and prayers. I just ask that everyone continue praying for me as I begin a new chapter in my journey.

May God Bless You All!!!

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Discernment

While searching for a new job, I started to attend Adoration and reconciliation every week.  I tried to push the thought of becoming a monk out of my mind, thinking there was no way God would choose me for this vocation, but it wouldn’t go away.  I continued researching different orders and still felt a strong desire to learn more about the Order of Saint Benedict. The call to become a monk only grew stronger, as did the draw to the Benedictines, with my continued prayer and research. By this point, I was praying more than I ever had before. I still tried to push the thought of joining a monastery out of my head, but it continued to grow.

I finally contacted a priest friend in December, 2008, who happened to be a Benedictine monk. Father Bartholomew (Bart),OSB took the time to meet with me and tell me more about the life of a Benedictine monk. He explained their vow of stability, continuous conversion of heart and their dedication to prayer and work. We discussed a typical day of a monk and the different ways I could apply my talents. We also discussed the different monasteries and which ones I might want to contact for more information and to visit. Benedictine monks do not move around, they stay with the same community for life, so he told me it was important to find a community that would fit me and I would be a good fit them.  We went over the process of becoming a monk and how it would take up to 4 years before becoming a permanent member of the community.  He encouraged me to continue with my discernment and prayers, especially attending adoration and praying the rosary.

I was finally able to get a job with the same company that let me go during the downsize. So I moved back to Florida and started my new position in April 2009. While I was there, I continued going to mass and adoration. I spoke with one of the priests about my calling to a monastic vocation. He was a younger priest and had only been ordained for a few years. He spoke to me about his calling and time of discernment. He was very encouraging and introduced me to St. Philomena. He advised me how important it was to ask for the Saints’ intercession during discernment.  I had already been praying to St. John the Baptist and St. John of God. After reading about St. Philomena, I began to dedicate myself to her as well and pray for her intercession.

All the monasteries I was considering were up North, so I prayed I would get another job up there in order to begin visiting the monasteries. Four months into my new position, I was hired for a job in Columbus, OH. Praise God! I moved to Ohio in Sep of 2009 and moved in with my Aunt and Grandma. Once I was settled in and working, I contacted the monasteries I had been looking at to begin the first step of the process. After speaking with Father Gerard, OSB at St. Andrew Abbey in Cleveland, OH, I decided to attend a Living with Benedict weekend in Feb 2010 (It just so happened to be the weekend of my birthday, too!!) It was a great experience as I was able to see how and where the monks lived, their daily schedule for prayer and work, as well as gain an understanding of the Rule of St. Benedict. It was a great spiritual weekend and I was extremely moved by the life of a monk. Over the next 8 months, I continued to visit St. Andrew Abbey, getting to know the monks and letting them get to know me. I even spent a whole week following the postulants and novitiates in their daily routines and staying on the same floor with them, getting the full experience of a monk.

After two years deep in prayer, I am currently a candidate at Saint Andrew Abbey and I intend to begin my postulancy in January of 2011. I thank God for His mercy and giving me a second chance! I also want to thank all of my family and friends for their prayers, patience and support during this journey, especially Rosario and Cecilia. I love you all!

 

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An Unexpected Call

My knowledge of the Word continued to increase and my love for God grew tremendously. I learned of the Liturgy of the Hours and began praying the psalms throughout the day and evening. I also dedicated myself to Mary and prayed the Rosary daily. I was never so at peace in my life and no longer had that feeling of emptiness. God was fully a part of my life.

My faith was soon tested, though. My Great Uncle Lou, whom I visited quite often and had much love and respect for, had been battling cancer for a year and passed away on July 5th, 2008. He was 96 years old. Two days later I lost my job on July 7, 2008, due to a company downsize. At that time the unemployment rate skyrocketed across the country. I decided to move to South Carolina with my parents to begin my job search.  It was a difficult time, but throughout my search, I trusted that God would direct me. I continued to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary. No matter how my days went with applications and interviews, I always felt the comfort of God, knowing He was going to provide.

I went to Michigan for a job interview, and on the way home to South Carolina, I saw a beautiful sunrise in my rearview mirror (above picture).  Even after the disappointment of the interview and the frustration of my situation, I thanked God for the sunrise and all of the blessings He had given me. I glorified and praised God, and said aloud, “God, I just want to praise you and glorify you all day, every day for the rest f my life.”  At that moment I heard the words, “Become a monk.” I was shocked to hear those words. I had never considered religious life, but I spent the rest of the drive home praying about it.  As I mentioned before, being without a job had been difficult, but the entire time I tried to be patient and put everything in God’s hands.  The words may have been a bit startling at first, but at least it was a direction.

When I arrived home in South Carolina, I began researching the different orders; Franciscan, Benedictine and a few others. There was something about the Order of St. Benedict that drew me to them; their life of Prayer and Work, Ora et Labora, and stability. However, I was still in disbelief that God would call me to such a vocation, someone who had been so unfaithful. I tried to push the thought out of my head and ignore it all. I continued with my prayers and job search, not spending too much time thinking about becoming a monk.

 

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Going Home

The more I spoke with Rosario and Cecilia, I became more interested in going back to the Catholic church. Soon after in 2005, I began attending Mass on my own and more frequently. In one of our conversations, Cecilia brought up the purpose of our life; to know, love and serve God. I really started to focus on this. I began spending time in prayer and reading about the Church, and attending bible studies, all of which increased my faithfulness and my love for the Lord. My relationship with Christ grew stronger with each year, as did my desire to know Him more.

The routine of going to Mass was no longer a routine, it had meaning, it was truly a celebration. A celebration with all the angels and saints present, remembering the Last Supper, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and becoming one with each other. I even started to attend Mass during the week and would make it to morning prayer whenever possible. Through prayer, at church and at home, I began to know God more which led to an increase in love for Him. Every day I yearned to have that time alone with God.

The biggest challenge for me in the beginning, before receiving Communion and returning to the church, was the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All of those years not being faithful to God scared me. The priest was extremely helpful and walked me through it. I poured out my heart to God, asking for His forgiveness, pleading for His mercy. I felt this big weight lifted off of my shoulders. I knew God had forgiven me. He truly is a merciful God! I remember the tears as I did my penance, joyful in being accepted by God. I was finally home!

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