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.
- Read the first installment of Michael’s exclusive series here.
- Check back to “Faith, Hope & Love” on Sunday, July 17 for the conclusion.