My “Call-Story”

Adoring Jesus Christ - the Great High Priest © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011

John Howard, a soon-to-be seminarian in England, invited me to pen my call-story (the story of my vocation) to put on the website that he runs: http://www.catholicpriest.me.uk/. As far as I know, his website is the only religious vocation discernment site run by teens for teens. My good friend John Bender (of http://www.writingsofaboydiscerninggodscall.blogspot.com/) also moderates this site. It has been an inspiration for me and has given me many resources which have aided me in my discernment. I hope all of you check it out and pray for him, as he is entering the seminary this year.

Though I was a little reluctant to post such a personal piece, after prayer and reflection, I accepted John’s offer. This the following is the piece that I sent:

 What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it. You will, as a result, satisfy your heart, better than with something towards which you yourself are inclined. – St. John of the Cross O.C.D. (1542-1591)

  Hello, my name is Ken. I am 15, and I live in Colgate, Wisconsin. My call  story is not one of an earth-shattering conversion, nor has it been sparked by one of those “amazing mystical experiences.” I have – since about the age of 3 – experienced an irresistible draw, rather than an audible call.

  As I mentioned, it all started for me at the age of 3. My (then Lutheran) Grandpa had a great love for Catholicism (not to mention, his Catholic wife), and he often took my family and I to Holy Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. There, I squirmed in the pew, sang very loudly, banged the kneelers, stole the holy cards from the missals and had great desire to be a Carmelite priest. My young mind had a strong curiosity for what happened “up there” at the altar.  After we would come home from the Basilica, I would dress up in my “vestments”- which consisted of a black, XL men’s tee shirt- pull out my “Mass Kit,” yell for my congregation (Mom) and “say Mass.” It was unexplainable, I was irresistibly drawn to the altar – I wanted to say the Mass, I wanted to be a priest.

 As I grew older, my desire and spirituality grew as well. I am greatly indebted to my parents, particularly my mom, who did-and still do-everything in their power to foster my vocation. Indeed, I am also deeply indebted to many a priest who shared with me: his call story, his prayers, his admirable guidance and amiable example.

 If you have not noticed, a reoccurring theme in this story is the Basilica of Holy Hill. The Discalced Carmelite Friars, who serve at the Basilica, have had the most impact on my discernment. Their spirituality, legacy, and charism are like a magnet to my soul.

  At about the age of 7, I had pretty much made up my mind that God wanted me to be a priest. My family had started going to (almost) daily Mass, and my vocation, already rooted in Holy Mass, experienced newfound nourishment. I was then puzzled with a new thought, does God want me to be a diocesan priest – like my pastor – or an ordered priest – like my good Carmelite friends? I prayed on this question for quite sometime and found myself drawn to Carmel.

 In this day and age, I see that there is great confusion in the differentiation between the fundamentals of career vs. vocation. I have sadly seen many take their vocation – their call from God – and try to turn into a 9-5 job. I realized that I had a vocation, and that I wanted to live it in such a way as to safeguard it from the temptation of turning it into a career. I wanted a tangible brotherhood to assist me in my prayer and duties. I prayed on this, and found myself drawn to Carmel.

 Around the beginning of my teen years, I started to serve Holy Mass and once again experienced newfound nourishment for my vocation. I was the closest of “un-ordained” to the altar. Fr. Redemptus Short O.C.D. said it best, in a conversation with me. He said “When you serve [Mass], you take the place of the angels.” I truly felt at home when I served. I had arrived, I was here; this was where I belonged. The experiences which occurred when I served Holy Mass, spurred me to pray and discern with more zeal. It was unexplainable.

 Last year, I met with my spiritual director for the first time, christening a new leg of my discernment journey. We discussed my draw to Carmel and my aspirations. Father gave me a book, God the Joy of My Life the life and diary of St. Teresa of the Andes. As a read this book, I realized this was what I wanted. Her life was, in some ways, much like my own – yet her sanctity was far above mine. St. Teresa exemplified the virtues of long-suffering, humility, and joy. She found herself in Carmel. When I finished the book, I knew that I belonged in Carmel. I just knew that I was called to be a small, insignificant, humble friar – not called to perform astounding miracles, not called to change the world, but to joyfully suffer the cross of humility and to pray.

  Many people now ask me, why the Discalced Carmelites – they’re a contemplative order? We need you on the front lines in the war against paganism; not shut up in a monastery praying. My answer is simple – the active are the hands, the contemplative are the heart. If you chop off the hands, the heart bleeds out. However, if you remove the heart, the hands are useless. Both are necessary, and I am drawn to be the heart. My answer continues as I point out that we are called to holiness, to be close to Christ and his mother. How can you get any closer to the Blessed Mother, and thus Christ, than by wearing her garment – the brown scapular -the habit of the Carmelites? 

 So please pray for me, the Lord (and my family) knows – I need it. Please pray that I stay on the path of holiness, discerning and not straying. Please pray for an increase of vocations, for “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” Above all, thank God for calling mere men, to serve in persona Christi. Thank you and may God Bless You!!!

15 Responses to My “Call-Story”

  1. michael says:

    I loved readimg your letter.The world needs many people like you especially
    when all of us realise how satan is knitting his work to crash more people into hell.`
    m
    My name is MICHAEI i am writting on the feastday of ST MICHAEL, so it is fittng
    that i woukd write my youthful invocation to this great saint.
    It was thaught to me by my dear father and mother.
    The invocation ;
    St MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL ,defend us in battle;be our protection against the
    malices and snares of the devil. We humbly beseech GOD to rebuke him;andyou
    .O Princeof the heavenly host,by thy divine power thrust into hell satan and the other
    evil spirits who roam the world seeking the ruin of the souls. AMEN.

  2. Max says:

    What an incredible gift it is to be Catholic! I will be praying for you in your discernment, and I hope you will do the same for me.

    God bless,
    Max

  3. Peter Lee says:

    Dear Kenny,
    I will continue to pray for your vocation. Holiness or Death!
    Peter Lee, New Jersey

  4. Dear Kenny,
    Well-written and a beautiful explanation for your attraction to both the contemplative life of the “heart” and the apostolic service of the “hands.” In our life there is always a holy tension between these two, and love must be the impetus for both. St. Teresa of Jesus, when writing about whether contemplation or action is most important in the Carmelite life, says that the monastery should be called the “house of Martha.” Teresa goes on to say to her nuns [and friars!] who prefer prayer to ministry or ministry to prayer: “True humility consists very much in great readiness to be content with whatever the Lord may want to do with them and in always finding oneself unworthy to be called His servant. If contemplating, practicing mental and vocal prayer, taking care of the sick, helping with household chores, and working even at the lowliest tasks are all ways of serving the Guest who comes to be with us and eat and recreate, what difference does it make whether we serve in the one way or the other?” (Way of Perfection, 17.6)
    God bless and keep writing… (I’ll try to follow my own advice!)
    Fr. Michael of the Heart of Jesus, OCD

    • KJ JMJ says:

      Dear Fr. Michael,

      Thank you sincerely for your encouraging words. It is quite a challenge walking the tightrope of contemplative life and apostolic service; you said it so well: “there is always a holy tension between these two.” Let us thank God for giving our beloved St. Teresa of Jesus the answer – “True Humility.”

      God Bless You,

      Ken

  5. Mary G says:

    Dear Ken,
    I am not sure how I ended up here, looking for Novenas. My heart has always been drawn to Carmelite Spirituality, so I kept reading and then moved by your story, more of a shock! (Jesus shocks me a lot! ) You are 15?! I am just joyfully shocked reading your words, my heart pounding like crazy and happy tears and sad. You see, my son who is exactly your age, I thought was being called to the priesthood when he was knee high, because of things he would say and things said to him by priests and his fascination with the Mass and a picture he drew in 3rd grade when instructed to “draw a picture of yourself when you are grown up and in a job”. His picture was a priest holding up Jesus in the Eucharist. And he tittled it “Me in my office when I am old”. I cannot tell all the details, but he is now agnostic and not receiving Holy Communion , not wanting to be Confirmed and very confused about who he is. Would you pray for him? His name is Christopher, he refers to himself as “Chris “. I have a feeling that your prayers would be very efficacious for him! Thank you and may the Fire of God’s love remain always in you! Amen.

    • KJ JMJ says:

      Dear Mary,

      How the Spirit works in strange ways! Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. Yes, the Carmelite Spirituality very beautiful. I will certainly be praying for your son. With God, all things are possible. I will also pray for you. God Bless You.

      KJM JMJ

    • M.A. JMJ says:

      Dear Mary,
      Our whole family will pray for Chris! We wrote his name in our family prayer book. Mother to mother, my heart and prayers are with you. Recall the good bishop’s advice to St. Monica “the child of so many tears will not perish! God will not turn his back on so many tears shed by a mother in love for her son.” St. Augustine too had gone astray, and the love and prayers of an extraordinary mother secured for him God’s favor. Our Lord loves you and your son very much, as does Our Lady. She shares you pain, just as she shares your hopes. Together we’ll pray for Chris. I’ll ask our dear Carmelites to offer a Mass for him. He’ll be o.k.
      Thank you for the kind words and prayers for my son, as well.

      ad Jesum per Marian,
      MA JMJ

  6. Michael Miller says:

    Thank you for writing about God’s call in your life. I give my life to Him as best I can as a lay hermit but have a great admiration of the Carmelite tradition which has given the human race so much of God’s goodness. As you work so hard to know what He wants, please pray that I may do what God asks, instead of making the mistake of doing what I want. Please pray for me to be faithful, as I will pray for you to be what God desires. You already love Him much, and I know He loves you even more. Thank you for your witness to the young people of this time. Whatever you do in life, may God give you the grace to live a holy life, and may He fill you with His love.

  7. Praying for you. May God’s Holy Spirit counsel you in your discernment. Blessings from an Aspiring Discalced Carmelite in Florida!

  8. God loves to surprise those He loves. I had forgotten altogether about you and your site, but first thing I see when checking my email is your message! I have read all of St. Teresa of Avila’s works, and now, for the second time and have begun reading the Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. One notices changes doing such things, and this time is no different. I have a profound respect for Carmelite Spirituality and really hope you will find the joy you seek in pursuing your Carmelite calling. Please remember me in your prayers if you would. I am not in my teens, and I wish I had had the good fortune you have met when I was your age, because Jesus would have been much more pleased with me. God bless you. Brother Michael of the Cross, Lay Hermit Intercessor +

  9. annebender says:

    Kenny, I was googling “Fr. Redemptus Short” and was surprised when I found this and realized I had not read it before. It’s excellent!!! Thank you so much for the holy example you set and for listening to God’s call. You are going to be a magnificent priest one day! Happy and Blessed New Year to you and your family!

  10. Linda Nelson says:

    Hi Kenny,
    My name is Linda Nelson, your OCDS sister and I too was drawn to Holy Hill at a very young age. You are so blessed to have parents who foster your vocation. I will pray for you!! May God richly bless you on your journey. This is a great website!! Keep up the good work for the Lord.
    God Bless,
    Linda Marie of the Cross

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