Giving God a Blank Check

By Br. Stephen, MIC

I am a cradle Catholic, but my faith did not stay in the cradle. I grew up in Houston, Texas, to a devout family who believed in Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton's maxim, "The family that prays together stays together." We often prayed the Rosary together in the evening (and it put me to sleep as a boy). After 9/11, I began to take prayer more seriously. Mom would take us to Friday Mass at our parish, and the pastor would lead the Stations of the Cross afterward.

Though I felt drawn toward the priesthood since around the age of 14, at first, I had other plans. God seemed to approve for a while. But I eventually realized that, like a good fisherman, He was just giving me a little slack before reeling me in.

I worked at a Catholic bookstore before college. People would ask me if I was considering the priesthood. I always said "no."

At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I started attending daily Mass. Although I can point to many times when I grew in faith, the most decisive was on Dec. 8, 2013, the day I consecrated myself to Our Lady using Marian Fr. Michael Gaitley's book 33 Days to Morning Glory. I was able to make my faith fully my own by giving myself away completely to Mary. After I consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I said, "Lord, I honestly don't know what You want, but if You want me to be a priest, I'll do it." Every major decision I have made since was in light of my Marian consecration.

Through the 33 Days consecration, I discovered the Marian Fathers. Though I considered different religious orders for about a year and a half, that book jumpstarted my discernment. I still remember the moment I received the call to the Marians. It was the summer after my junior year in college. I was weeding in my front yard, thinking about long-term careers. Suddenly the thought came, like a job offer: "Maybe there's an opening with the Marians." As soon as I considered it seriously, I became really excited. The exact words in my mind were, "Could that be for real? Could God be so good that I could work with people like Fr. Gaitley and Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, spreading devotion to Mary and Divine Mercy?" The practical side of my mind kicked in with the words, "Well, there's only one way to find out!" So, I looked up their website, and applied for a "come-and-see" retreat. After graduation in 2016, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I entered postulancy.

Since joining, I have come to better appreciate the little things in life and to approach daily challenges with peace and goodwill. Saint Augustine has been credited with saying that "a genius is one who observes the obvious." Little details in architecture, in music, in gestures, etc., can tell us a lot about mankind. This, in turn, helps us to see the humanity of Christ and His mother and to imitate their response to the little things. The point is, one does not have to be a "genius," as we understand it, to appreciate the little things. Though I frequently miss obvious details, I try to cultivate awareness, especially in regard to other people.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a model of this. She gave herself over more completely to God than anyone. She said "yes" to becoming our mother, a mother who knows our feelings, our likes, our dislikes. When we consecrate ourselves to her, she gives us a share in her life, in Christ's life, and promises to take care of the details of our lives.

I feel that my vows as a Marian brother are only a more specific, public expression of the private commitment I made when I consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you want to see the full power of Jesus working through Mary, don't hold anything back. Offer Mary not only your gifts and talents, but your weaknesses and sins, as well. When I consecrated myself to Mary, I offered her my ignorance. I did not know the path God had for me, so I offered - not a heroic promise - but a simple "I don't know." But I've learned: if you give God a blank check, He'll give you powerful graces, working through the gentle hands of his mother, Mary.

Brother Stephen, MIC, is finishing up his second year of temporary vows with the Marian Fathers and spent the year studying at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

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