As a postulant, Michael Bowes composed his vocation story. He is now a novice in LeRoy, NY. Here is the second installment of his journey to the Mercedarians:
During my discernment with the Mercedarians I found a holy spiritual director who helped guide me on my journey. Father Jack Fullen. He passed away shortly before I made my second visit with the Mercedarians.
In the weeks leading up to my first visit I asked Father Jack how I could see God working in my life and what kind of signs He would give me if this was the right place.
Father Jack explained to me the slight difference between the natural and the supernatural worlds and how they work together. He told me that sometimes God lifts the veil between these two dimensions and we are given a quick glimpse of God putting the puzzle pieces together to lead us to Him. I didn’t really understand Father Jack at the time, but I would soon experience a first-hand glimpse of God’s hand in my life.
I made my first visit to the Mercedarians in March 2010 and had a wonderful time.
On my last day I spent an hour in the chapel praying and asking God for direction. I felt He was inviting me to apply and I decided to ask for an application.
As I was getting up to leave, I felt rather bold and asked God for three signs that this was indeed the place He wanted me enter.
I know we shouldn’t ask for signs, but after so many disappointments with previous communities and vocational discernments I wanted to be sure this was the place.
One of the signs I asked for was that I would receive confirmation from an outside source not associated with the community. What little faith I had! And what a surprise God had in store for me.
All three signs were mere days from being answered.
When I arrived home, I told my Mom over dinner about the monastery and how excited I was with everything I saw and experienced.
Mom asked me where the novitiate was and I told her Le Roy, N.Y. Mom inquired further if the Mercedarians there were called “the Fathers of Our Lady of Mercy.”
I told her no, that she must be mistaken and confusing the name with another religious order.
Mom insisted that there was a group in Le Roy called “the Fathers of Our Lady of Mercy.” I was sure she was confused.
To settle our argument she told me to hang on for a few moments while she went upstairs to get something. She returned carrying a card and handed it to me. I flipped over the card to discover the signature of the Mercedarian Vicar Provincial, Father Richard Rasch.
I turned over the card and looked at it: It was a mass card. I slowly turned and looked at Mom and asked her where she got the card from.
“I have been having Masses said for you through this group since you were born,” she told me.
My knees wobbled and I felt like my legs had just turned to jelly. Here was my big sign!
For 29 years, Mom had been having Masses said for me through the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and neither of us had realized this was the same order I was now in application with.
A few months later, as I waited for the council to vote on my application, I had another confirmation from God regarding this order.
I was helping my Mom move books she had brought home from my late grandmother’s house. One of the piles I was attempting to move toppled over and the books cascaded across the floor.
One book spun out of the middle and slid into my mom’s foot. It was faded tan and ragged with age.
Mom bent down and picked up the book. Her eyes lit up and she let out a slight gasp. She opened the first page and then asked me to come over and look at what she found. The name of the book was “The Magnificat” and it was published by the Mercedarians.
This book was more than 30 years old. Inside, we found notes written in pencil with dates. One of the notes was written on Dec. 25, 1980 – when I was just 3 months in the womb. Mom had said this novena to St. Raymond Nonnatus, who is the patron saint of the unborn and is one of our great Mercedarian saints. She dedicated me to him before I was born.
Apparently this book ended up on my grandmother’s shelf, where it sat untouched for 29 years until that perfect moment that God chose to reveal it to us. has everything planned out for us and He reveals these things in His own time.
On June 2, 2010, I was accepted into the Mercedarians and on Aug. 20, 2010, I entered the postulancy.
In the months leading up to my entrance I was tormented with second thoughts and questions if this was really what I was supposed to do.
You would think with all the confirmations I had, there would be little doubt in my heart.
It was not so.
I did doubt and I wondered if I was going to be missing out on a family by entering religious life. My fears and doubts were quickly quelled as I felt God tell me about the family that I was going to be a part of. I was soon going to have more brothers, sisters, and fathers than I could ever have imagined. This message was a welcome sign. It helped me surmount a persistent stumbling block.
I find that God gives me sufficient grace to live a holy and celibate life for him. I unite myself with Jesus and I ask the Blessed Mother to keep me pure in mind, heart, and body. In doing so, I do not find the struggle with the celibate life to be difficult.
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.
On September 15, 1987, Blessed John Paul II reflected on his call to the Sacred Priesthood here’s what he had to say:
I am often asked, especially by young people, why I became a priest. May be some of you would like to ask the same question. Let me try briefly to reply.
I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely, for it remains a mystery, even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God? Yet, I know that at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me, “Come follow me!” There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest.
And you can probably tell, I am deeply grateful to God for my vocation to the priesthood. Nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God’s people in the Church. That has been true ever since the day of my ordination as a priest. Nothing has ever changed it, not even becoming pope.
Pope John Paul II, Los Angeles, September 15, 1987
Here Br. Scott Brentwood, O. de M. tells his vocation story which leads him from a small Virginia town to becoming a friar in an Ancient Order.
I spent my early years in the mountains of Virginia in a little corner of the world that still maintains a unique atmosphere of tranquility and lack of modernization all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had everything from trees to open fields – as rustic as one can get – but a community that was very aware of its codependence on one another. Everyone knew everyone, and the stereotype of “small town life” very much applied. The best comparison I can make is Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show…which is actually a 20 min. drive from where I lived.
Being in the “Bible-Belt,” faith was a very strong and present reality of every day life. Everything started and ended with a prayer, and even when prayer in school was no longer permitted, the students still said them without the prompting of the Administration. The Catholic presence, however, was VERY small and almost non existent. In my house, religion was important, but not too important. We were not as religious as other families, but I would not say it was lacking. We said our prayers before and after meals as well as before we went to bed, but it was not a major part of my growing up.
I began to consider a vocation to be a priest when I was fourteen. I was working at a government institution where the government distributes alms etc. to people who are poor. Before I worked there, I thought most people only abused the program. I thought they did not need the help but took it because it was available. When I worked there, I discovered that this was true. One time, however, I helped a family that really needed help, and afterward I tried to find a way to help others in more than just material ways. At the time I did not know about the religious life, and my only real understanding of priestly life was that of the Diocese. When I was seventeen, I decided I would pursue a priestly vocation. I talked with the Vocation Director for the Diocese in Virginia. He told me that the Diocese does not accept anyone until they have finished at a university. I went to Old Dominion University. It is a large university of 30,000 students. I made many friends, and some of these friends also wanted to pursue a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. When I learned about the religious life, I felt that this mode of life was what God wanted for me. I liked the idea of living together with others who wanted to work for the same cause. I looked into different religious congregations, but I did not find any that I wanted to join.
During the last year at my university, a friend of mine visited the Mercedarians. When he returned, he told me I should visit them. I said no. I did not want to spend more time looking at congregations because I had looked at them before and did not see any that I liked. That September, a hurricane came to Norfolk, the city of my university. Everyone was evacuated from the university. My family was eight hours away, so it was impossible for me to go home. I asked the same friend if I could stay with him in his apartment downtown. He said I could stay, but he was leaving to be with his family. I stayed in his apartment alone. The electricity died the first day, and the only activities I could do were study Biology, Pray, and look at the walls. I spent more time looking at the walls than I did studying or praying.
My friend visited many different communities. When he visited the communities, he always took cards of their saints etc. so he could remember to pray for the communities. He would put them in the edges of other pictures. When I was looking at these images, the images for the Mercedarians seemed different. I thought I would call them and ask some questions I had. I did not want to visit because the closest house was in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia was eight hours from my university by car. When I called, I asked many questions. I was happy with the answers. I visited the next November. I returned to Philadelphia the next January before returning to my university. For my break in the spring, I returned to Philadelphia to complete the testing necessary for the application. I graduated from my university in May, and entered the Mercedarians in August.