Who I am

I prayed, “Show me how You see me in your love.” That night, I believe He tenderly answered, “You are 'The Claw.'”

Welcome to article 23 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."

By Br. Josh, MIC

A frequent theme in religious formation is identity, knowing oneself. This was a theme during my novitiate and remains a theme in seminary. 

During the Marian communal retreat with Encounter Ministries in 2022, we were urged to meditate on God’s love for us personally and on our identity as children of the Father. Father Thad later told us in seminary that we need to come at all of life, “from that place of knowing ourselves as beloved.” 

During a recent seminary formation talk, an advisor urged the seminarians to prayerfully give some thought to names people have called us. This includes our birth, Baptismal, and Confirmation names, and any other name or nickname we’ve been called that has impacted us, either positively or negatively. 

'The Claw'
Earlier that morning, I prayed quietly in a way Encounter recommended, asking God to let me see myself as He sees me, in His love.

The moment our advisor asked us to think about names we’ve been called, a memory flashed to my mind. 

I was an assistant-leader for an Episcopal youth group when I was an older teenager, and our group went on a summer retreat to the woods. We waterboarded on a lake by our campsite, and I was terrible at it! I kept losing my balance and falling into the water, but I wouldn’t let go of the cord attaching me to the motorboat, so I would repeatedly get dragged across the surface of the lake.

The kids and adults laughed bemusedly at my crazy behavior and shook their heads. 

That evening, when we gathered around a campfire and picked nicknames for one another, they named me “The Claw.” 

They said, “It’s because you don’t let go.” 

Looking back at my life since then, with the hardships of my conversion to Catholicism and my persistence in choosing the religious vocation despite numerous obstacles and setbacks, I saw that this name really defines a key part of who I am. 

When I remembered this name, I felt a surge of joy. Later, I also remembered my prayer that morning and realized that this was the Lord’s answer. 

I prayed, “Show me how You see me in your love.”

That night, I believe He tenderly answered, “You are 'The Claw.'”

Polar bears and lilies
The next morning, while sitting in the chapel meditating, I saw a vivid image of a polar bear walking on a mountainous ridge, with sunlight reflecting brilliantly off the pure white snow. 

In fantasy games I’ve played with my siblings, the polar bear is a great warrior, and his realm is the place where heroes and brave souls find their home. 

The day after, a voice spoke in my mind during prayer: “You left behind your world and came into Mine. There, you found yourself.” 

I saw shining white lilies in my mind flowing all around my body like a river on the wind. The current of flowers wrapped around me like a garment, embracing me, and a thread of them looped around my head like a slowly rotating crown.

I also felt the thumping of Mary’s Immaculate Heart beating under my hand. 

The love cascading through me soon moved me to tears. 

An hour later, I went to Mass and the first reading was Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Horeb. Two verses jumped out to my heart: “God put Abraham to the test . . . Then God said, ‘Now I see how devoted you are to me.’”

In these verses, I felt the Lord speaking of His view of my life. 

Go down the mountain
The Gospel reading turned out, fittingly, to be Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. 

Father Tim preached, “A veil is taken away and now the disciples can see Jesus’ identity and a manifestation of His glory … We have to go down the mountain, but it is often in the valleys that we are most intimately united with His Pierced Heart.” 

Recognizing myself as “The Claw” would have been impossible without experiencing dark valleys. Golgotha and Tabor are intimately interrelated mysteries, and each carries a revelation of identity. On Tabor, Jesus was identified as God’s “Beloved Son,” and on Golgotha, He was called “King of the Jews.”

In drawing close to Him, we find ourselves.

Next: "Mirror Neurons in the Communion of Saints."
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