'Everyone Wins But the Devil'

When he was about 6 years old, Allen visited his neighborhood firehouse in Muskegon, Mich., where the firefighters helped him to slide down the fire pole and climb into a big, red fire engine. He was thrilled. Afterwards, smitten with visions of future heroics, Allen promptly declared he wanted to grow up to become a firefighter.

He shared this dream with his great aunt, Sr. Geneva Marie, OP, a Dominican nun.

"It would be cool to be a fireman and save people from fires," the young Allen told her, to which she responded, "But it would be better to be a priest and save people from the fires of hell."

Cue the pregnant pause.

Cue the gulp.

Cue the homemade chasuble and zucchetto, because instead of playing "firefighter," Allen would now "play Mass," dressing up as a priest.

"My great aunt's words greatly impacted me, and I never forgot it," said the man we now refer to as Br. Allen, MIC, a seminarian pursuing the priesthood.

The boy who wanted to save lives has become a man who seeks to save souls. But in the middle of that timeline - between boyhood and manhood - was Br. Allen's adolescence, a period marked by two experiences that helped form him.

The first was being made fun of by some of his peers, of feeling rejected, of questioning his own self-worth, and subsequently asking God in prayer, "How come, if I love You, I have to suffer?"

The second was discovering the Divine Mercy message and devotion. This was 2000, and the great apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, had just been canonized. Through St. Faustina's revelations, which serve as the heart of the modern Divine Mercy movement, Br. Allen found the answer to his prayer - namely, that his suffering was not for nothing.

"The focus in St. Faustina's writings and in the Divine Mercy chaplet is Christ's Passion, His suffering and death on the cross, and you're offering that with Him to the Father," Br. Allen says.

He quotes from the chaplet:

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. ...

"That small prayer contains the core of our faith," he says.

When classes would let out at 3 p.m. each day in high school, Br. Allen would spend the bus ride home praying the chaplet. It was the Hour of Great Mercy after all, the hour we memorialize Christ's death of the cross.

"When I prayed the chaplet," he says, "I was able to relate to Christ in a more intimate way by offering up my own suffering, my own feeling of abandonment with Christ's own feelings of abandonment on the cross. Through the chaplet, I was able, in a new way, to understand that He knows how we feel; He's there with us; and He has experienced the stuff we go through."

As a vowed religious with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, Br. Allen sometimes has the opportunity to speak to youth groups, knowing full well that so many of them struggle with the same things he once struggled with.

"I want them to know they are not alone and that God loves them and that there's nothing they have done or can do that could change that love," he says. "When you accept His mercy and seek to turn from sin, everyone wins but the devil."

Please help us educate the Marian priests of tomorrow.

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