A Call That Pierces Families

My choices to become Catholic and then to become a religious drove sharp, painful blows into my Protestant family. I believe Mary knew my parents and I would feel this pain again that very morning about my calling to become Catholic and religious. 

Welcome to article 20 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

I was Skyping with my parents from our Marian House of Studies, catching up with them. We laughed together as we thought about the perspective of young children looking up at their parents and drawing only what they see — two long legs with feet and a head looking down at them! We talked about dinosaurs, one of my great loves, and all my exercise plans. Mom and I talked about drawing. 

Eventually, the warm conversation drifted to another topic, religion.

Saint Jerome
I mentioned that a close friend of mine, Fr. Ignatius with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, asked me to look at his homily on YouTube and respond to a negative comment. The reason he contacted me was that he was talking about St. Jerome’s document, “Against Helvidius,” which builds a strong scriptural case that the Virgin Mary remained a virgin even after giving birth to Jesus, and the children she is thought to have borne later belonged to another Mary.

“Against Helvidius” was so compelling that, when I read it while Protestant, St. Jerome convinced me that Mary remained a virgin. Father Ignatius knew this.

In his homily, Fr. Ignatius explained Mary’s perpetual virginity to his audience on YouTube, and told them, “I recommend that you go online and look up St. Jerome and his ‘Against Helvidius.’ This letter that St. Jerome writes explains this with great clarity and with so much force, it will knock your Christmas socks off the mantle.” 

I chuckled at that.

However, a YouTuber replied to him, “In other words, Jerome took upon himself to change the Word of God. Heretic. No relations before Jesus's birth, means relation after His Birth. God does not confuse, Satan does through serpents like Jerome.” 

Father Ignatius asked me if I wished to respond to him, and I did. 

Mary’s perpetual virginity
I responded to the YouTuber, “I'd like to suggest taking a look at what St. Jerome says before condemning him. St. Jerome analyzes scripture in depth in ‘Against Helvidius,’ which Fr. Ignatius cites, while proving Mary's Perpetual Virginity. He responds to all the Scripture-based arguments against this dogma, using Scripture.” 

I proceeded to quote the relevant text from “Against Helvidius.” For example:

Might I not array against you [Helvidius], the whole series of ancient writers? Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and many other apostolic and eloquent men, who against [the heretics] Ebion, Theodotus of Byzantium, and Valentinus, held these same views and wrote volumes replete with wisdom. If you had ever read what they wrote, you would be a wiser man.

And this:

We believe that God was born of a virgin, because we read it. We do not believe that Mary was married after she brought forth her Son, because we do not read it. … You [Helvidius] say that Mary did not remain a virgin. As for myself, I claim that Joseph himself was a virgin, through Mary, so that a virgin Son might be born of a virginal wedlock.

Saint Jerome wrote “Against Helvidius” in a combative, condemning style, and I don’t care for that aspect of it. However, he makes strong scriptural arguments with masterful scholarship. That was what got me.

Here I am, Lord
As I told my parents about this, my Dad wiped his eyes a few times. He appeared to be wiping away tears. 

My conversion to Catholicism was very hard on both him and me. Talking about part of it brought back some of the old pain for both of us. Neither of us turned it into a debate, though. Those days are behind us. 

Later at Mass, as I sat on my chair in our chapel, our reader read the calling of Samuel. 

“Again the Lord called Samuel,” he read, “who rose and went to Eli. ‘Here I am,’ he said. ‘You called me.’

“But Eli answered, ‘I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.’”

When our reader read these words, I believe I heard Our Lady’s voice in my mind. “It is I who calls you.” 

My choices to become Catholic and then to become a religious drove sharp, painful blows into my Protestant family. I believe Mary knew my parents and I would feel this pain again that very morning about my calling to become Catholic and religious. 

My parents would not have suffered if they didn’t care about my faith. They suffered for the same underlying reason that I did: because they passionately love Jesus. 

Follow Me
If Mary hadn’t called, none of us would have suffered — but we also would not have been deeply blessed. Luke 6:21 says, “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.” 

Where do tears fall, when they are shed because we love God?

Through the Mass’s Alleluia verse, the Lord gently spoke to me that day. “My sheep hear My voice, says the Lord. I know them, and they follow Me.”

Next: "Public Speaking." 
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