Michael Bowes is preparing to receive the Habit of Mary this July 8th. Here is part 1 of his story:
I am just a few days away from entering the novitiate for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians.
Before saying yes to the longing in my heart and entering religious life, I led a comfortable life. I worked for a Catholic charity as a web designer and was an avid Xbox 360 gamer.
Upon sharing my excitement with my fellow gamers about finding the Mercedarians, I was bombarded with many questions, mostly out of curiosity, but the consensus boiled down to “Why in the world would you choose to live that life?”
I had to explain that I wasn’t actively choosing anything and that I was merely saying yes to the call I heard from God. You see, a lot of people look at a vocation as a life decision and they begin to balance it out in comparison to their current life and situation, weighing the benefits, imagining the difficulties and asking themselves if they can really give up all their possessions.
We don’t choose a vocation to Christ as a career choice; it is not our choice to make. It is a call from Christ and only he can give it.
So how does one discern a call to serve Christ?
Imagine logging into your email account one morning and finding an email from God telling you that you have a vocation and you discover the exact place that he wants you to enter.
Wouldn’t that be simple?
Why? Because that would take away our freedom to choose when, where, and how we follow Christ. Part of our journey to religious life and pursuing a vocation is the path that we choose to take.
I heard recently someone say that God must not be calling people today to be priests and religious since there are so few vocations. The lack of vocations is not from God calling less frequently; it is from more people refusing to answer his call.
For many years I ran from the longing in my heart to follow Christ. I was so involved in my own life; I selfishly put God to the side while I pursued material things that I expected to bring happiness.
When I least expected it, I would again feel God calling me. It would come as a spiritual aspiration or I would have a desire to visit church and spend time in adoration. It’s like a persistent tapping on your shoulder: You may get distracted and forget about it, but the tug to pursue this feeling never goes away.
After running from my vocation for many years, I found the Mercedarian Friars online in 2008 and contacted the vocation director. After a few emails and a phone call, I was invited up for a visit.
Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly a few days before my vocation visit. I emailed the vocation director and told him about my loss and that I would contact him when I was ready.
I can’t explain what happened, but I forgot all about the Mercedarians and two years passed by.
In January of 2010 my mom went to the March for Life. Amid hundreds of thousands of people, she ran right into the Mercedarians. I hadn’t told her about contacting the Mercedarian Friars two years prior; she had never heard of the order.
She was so excited about seeing a group of young men all in their habits, and somehow she felt this was a group that I would be interested in.
Upon getting back on the church bus and heading home, a woman from our parish grabbed my mom’s arm and told her that she believed I was going to enter the Order of the Mercedarians.
Mom called me and told me about the group she had just seen. I remember thinking to myself how familiar their name was. I checked my gmail account and was shocked to find my last email to them in 2008 – and how I had forgotten to contact them back.
God works in mysterious ways and His plan was already in motion, long before I realized it.