The Ultimate Christmas Gift

When Fr. Chris consecrated the Blessed Sacrament, there was a particular intensity, for me. Jesus came to Earth at that moment, made Calvary present for us, gave us His Life – and Br. Alex and Br. Ryan gave their lives back to Him. 

Welcome to article 15 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 

On Dec. 16, 2023, I sat on a pew at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in a church full of Marian brothers, priests, and their family members. Brother Alex Pumphrey, MIC, and Br. Ryan Asensio, MIC, were making their profession of Final Vows in the Congregation. 

It was moving to watch. These young men had reached the place I have been seeking for so many years, a blessed place of self-gift to God and to the Immaculate. 

I didn’t know Br. Alex, but I was with Br. Ryan for a year while I was in novitiate in Washington, D.C. He was always a strong, supportive, warm presence.

Self-gift to God
The men declared, “I . . . vow to almighty God, in the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, according to its Constitutions, the three vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience forever.” 

I heard Br. Ryan’s voice crack with emotion as he recited his vows. He normally seemed a pretty “chill cucumber,” a man who keeps his feelings under the surface, so this was the first time I saw him express so much feeling openly. He was taking Final Vows, the point of no return in self-gift to God. This was the fulfillment of what we Marians seek.

I noticed Fr. Thad, our prefect of formation, weeping with joy among the priests watching the ceremony. 

Wedding day
“It’s their wedding day,” our provincial superior, the Very Rev. Chris Alar, MIC, told the congregation. “These fine, talented young men could have been wonderful husbands and great employees. Instead, they have given their lives directly to God.

“We thank their families in a special way for giving them to us, for letting them go," he concluded. 

When Fr. Chris consecrated the Blessed Sacrament, there was a particular intensity, for me. Jesus came to Earth at that moment, made Calvary present for us, gave us His Life – and Br. Alex and Br. Ryan gave their lives back to Him. 

Could there be any exchange of Christmas gifts better than this? 

Three Comings
“There are three comings of Christ,” Fr. Chris told us in his homily. “Jesus came at Christmas, He will come again in His Second Coming, and He comes in the Eucharist.” 

In the early Church, Christians developed religious orders to give their lives more radically to Christ, after the Roman Empire stopped martyring them. Now, Brothers Ryan and Alex gave their entire lives to God in an unbloody way at the Mass, in the same moment that Jesus gave His Life for them. 

The Mass supernaturally makes present Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, gathering the whole Church to that precious moment as it were “frozen” in time, so that the Church can be literally present with Jesus in the Paschal Mystery throughout history until He comes again.

I mentioned to Fr. Chris afterward what stood out to me during that Consecration. I remarked, “It was a life for a life.” 

At the moment Jesus gave His Life, our men gave theirs back. I was not used to seeing that during a Mass.

“That’s a good point,” Fr. Chris agreed. 

Breaking new ground
After the Mass, I talked with Br. Ryan and he shared with me that he is going to Mexico. He will be studying at a seminary there. We don’t have any Marian community in Mexico yet, so his mission is breaking fresh ground. 

He joked that his plan was to recruit lots of young vocations and start a new Marian house. 

Whatever he does in Mexico, he is certainly beginning his new life for our Lady with a grand adventure. 

I wish him and Br. Alex all the best, as well as Br. Patrick Lynch, MIC, who professed his Final Vows in Argentina on Dec. 8. My hopes and prayers are with my spiritual brothers.

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