'DON'T DOUBT HOW GOOD GOD IS. HE WANTS TO GIVE YOU EVERYTHING AND HE WILL.'
an interview with
Fra Rosario Joseph Mary
What were your misconceptions about Religious Life before discerning it?
I thought that being a Priest meant that you couldn’t have fun so the Priesthood was not an option for me. I used to like the things that a lot of young men like such as music, sports and entertainment. My idea was that the Priest life was a ‘boring one’. My mistake was that I thought happiness would be found in worldly things and that ‘the world’ would give me happiness and did not know that happiness comes from God. Later on I discovered that true happiness comes from doing what God wants and not what we want and that the ‘fun’ I was looking for, which was to be happy can only come from being united to his Sacred Heart.
Who inspired you on your journey?
My Mother was a great source of inspiration. She is very prayerful and would always tell us about Our Lady when we were growing up. She taught us how to pray the Rosary and made us know how much Mary loves us, how much she’ll protect us, and how close Mary wants to be to us. When I was about 7 or 8 years old I felt the calling to become a Priest but in my teenage years I forgot about it and then became a little bit of a ‘bad boy’, however I never stopped praying the Rosary and going to Mass.
During my time at College I learnt how to pray and sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I believe this brought me so much undeserved mercy from God because some years later I had a big conversion and I could hear that calling to the Priesthood again that I heard when I was a child. I started to have devotion to St. Joseph who worked many miracles in my life, I wanted to go to Mass whenever I could not just on Sunday, I would go to Adoration whenever I could, would go to confession regularly (having also a Spiritual director) and was inspired very much by what I saw in the Traditional Latin Mass (I did not know how much good silence can do to the soul). It was there I met a holy Priest called Fr. George Dangerfield who was an excellent preacher, he also helped me desire to become a Priest for on the journey I was making I realised God is calling us all to be holy.
Jesus became my inspiration, Jesus in the Eucharist, I wanted to become holy, I didn’t want to sin and I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to become Jesus’ best friend and didn’t ever want to let him down. I wanted to love like he loved and was inspired by his Sacred Heart. I started to read the lives of the Saints and was inspired by them, in particular St. Padre Pio who died in 1968 and other Saints who lived in the 20th century like St. Josemaria Escriva who died in 1975 (you can even see video footage of him on YouTube). I realised that the Saints are not just a picture on a holy card or a statue in a Church of someone who lived centuries ago, there are Saints even today. I travelled to Italy when I was 24 to stay with some Franciscans and it was there that I believe I met a living Saint – it was someone who knew St. Padre Pio personally and who was very similar to St. Padre Pio. Meeting that ‘living Saint’ in Italy inspired me greatly, after that, the rest is history.
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
One concern of mine was whether or not I had the strength to live that life, even though I knew God was calling me to it, could actually do it and live it? I knew I was not perfect and many of my weaknesses and defects were very evident to me and it wasn’t so long ago that I was living a life that was not pleasing to Jesus. What would I do? The answer was I would remember what my Mother always told me “Go to Mary”. She would take care of everything I lacked, she would help me and give me strength no matter how weak I am, if I trust in her and have hope, hope that I can receive the strength that is needed to do what God is asking me to do, he who never fails will not fail me either if I am faithful to him and believe in his power. I believed and I received the strength and I overcame my fears and entered the religious life with even greater hope.
'Jesus became my inspiration, Jesus in the Eucharist, I wanted to become holy, I didn’t want to sin and I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to become Jesus’ best friend and didn’t ever want to let him down.'
How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you had perceived it?
As mentioned before I now realise that true happiness is found in doing what God wants you to do not what we want to do. God knows what’s best – he’s God. We think we know better than God and that we can make ourselves happy and we think that what God wants us to do will make us unhappy, will make us sad, will take away our happiness. Imagine there are two doors. On one door is written ‘What God wants’ on another door ‘What I want’. We think that to enter the door that has God written on it and to remain in that room is only going to bore us whereas the door that says ‘My own satisfaction’ that is where we want to go because we think it is a place of pleasure, delight and happiness. We are deceived.
What if in entering the door of ‘Do whatever you like’ it at first appears like a happy and safe place, there is even a person who opens the door with a big friendly smile on their face. Then the door shuts. Do you know who is inside that room of ‘Do what you like’? The devil. The devil offers to us earthly joys that don’t last and that separate us from God. I realise how much we are deceived by the things of this world, things that are beautiful to the eye, beautiful to our ears, things that give us a certain sensation (I had wanted to get involved in the music industry hoping to have my own record label, was also an artist and had even wanted to become a boxer).
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
I didn’t realise that God has a sense of humour! It’s almost as if ‘God can laugh’ within your soul. He brings joy. Imagine you had a friend who is very funny, always joyous, they make you smile they make you laugh. How much joy do you have when your in their company? Well, what if God is that friend? To be in God’s company brings you joy. To be God’s friend will allow you to be in his company. To know God, love God and to serve God in this life that is what brings joy. To know him – to know how loving he is, how much he did for me, how much he suffered for me, how much he wants to be my friend. This should make us smile when we know God wants us, he’s calling us, he wants to be close to us, he wants us to be in his company and wants us to be his friends.
It brings joy when we are able to give to God, to say “I love you God” and “I want to serve you” “I want to help you” I want to make others know you” and “I want you to be loved by others”. Part of my vocation is also about wanting to bring Jesus to others and to bring others to Jesus, wanting to save souls, wanting to bring as many people as possible to that true and eternal happiness which is only in heaven which we can even taste and have a glimpse of on this earth. I have also found joy through helping others and through sharing God with others. Joy does not mean that there is no suffering for we have to imitate Jesus also in his Passion and death, to be like him on the Cross to save others, but through all of this Mary is there to help us and she is also the ‘cause of our Joy’.
'God wants us, he’s calling us, he wants to be close to us, he wants us to be in his company and wants us to be his friends.'
What have been the highlights of living out your vocation?
In the religious life there are different stages before you actually become a Friar (which is what I am, it’s similar to a Monk). There is a very important stage before becoming a friar called the Novitiate. It’s basically an intense year where you learn about the religious life, you learn how to be a friar and learn all about the obligations and responsibility that you have, it’s basically the year where you learn and train how to be a friar (we also learn about our particular charism, which means the particular ‘gift’ that that Religious Order has been given to give to the Church and to the world, as a Franciscan I was learning about the Franciscan life and our particular offering of ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary).
During that Novitiate I received so many blessings, so many graces, so many gifts from God. At the end of the Novitiate you make what is called your ‘First Profession’ as there are vows that you make and ‘profess’ (it’s a bit like a marriage but a marriage to God). This was the highlight of my vocational calling – when I actually became a Friar, when all the work of preparation and working towards that aim had been realised, I was now a consecrated religious and because of our special offering of ourselves to Mary I was now totally her property also, I was hers.
What would you say to someone else considering Religious Life?
Go for it! Don’t hold back. Don’t doubt how Good God is. He wants to give you everything, and he will give you everything if you trust him. What is this ‘everything’? It is his very self. He will give himself entirely to those who trust him. He is everything. He is love, he is peace, he is joy, he is eternal life. Eternal life is for those who do what God has asked them to do in this life, for those who do not say ‘no’ to God but for those who say ‘yes’. If God is calling you make sure you say ‘yes’ and trust in him – he doesn’t want to give you anything that is bad, on the contrary, he wants to give you his Goodness for God is Goodness itself and he wants to give himself to you.
Firstly, I would advise that you pray very much the Rosary and ask Our Lady to help you. Grow in love and devotion to her because God has given to her everything we need to fulfil his plan for us – he has given to each of us a mission. Pray to the Holy Spirit to lead you to a good Priest who can give you good advice and who could even become your spiritual director (one who directs you in your spiritual life).
Lastly, I would say “do not fear”. Do not fear because you have weaknesses, if you realise “I’m still that sinful person with all their inclinations and bad qualities”. Go ahead and hold the hand of the Mother of God, she will be there with you every step of the way. Never let go of her hand and speak to her always. She will take you to Jesus, will make you realise all that he is asking of you. I would recommend consecrating yourself to Mary. You can ask your Parish Priest what this means or a Priest who knows about Mary and devotion to her, she will take care of everything for you.