The idea of God calling me to be a priest was hard to understand. I believed in the existence of God. I prayed to him, but I was not like any other Catholic. I had many questions that I could not answer. Would God think that it was boring hearing the same mass in thousands of Churches across the world? The same with prayers… Were the prayers from people genuine when they used a prayer that our ancestors wrote? Did they pay attention to the words and mean what they were reciting? Why did people not pray from their hearts in words of their own?
It did bother me when I did pray to God that he did not talk back to me. People tried to explain to me that God spoke through the Bible, nature, people and other ways. This was not an answer I could accept. I thought in a way that it was rude of God that he never spoke to me in a way I could understand. I felt as if I was not good enough and God did not like me enough. Despite that he never spoke to me, I still could feel his presence. I figured that this had to be good enough.
This led me to think a lot about what religious orders were telling me. They thought that a person was called by God to be a priest. How could this be when we could not hear God's voice? It meant that we had to interpret God's voice in other ways. I disagreed with the vocation directors that told me that it was God that was calling me to be a priest. I thought it was a person's free will to dedicate his or her life to the service of God. Maybe the decision to be a priest could be both things. It could be a call from God or a person calling God.
I believed that as a teenager, I should start my life in a religious order. I know that I was only 13 but this was something I wanted to do. I did not have the patience to wait. I also knew that I would not change my mind. I used to pretend that I was a priest in my bedroom and lead a mass for the teddys I could find. I did this a lot when I was a teenager while my brothers were doing other things such as sports. It may sound a bit foolish and a waste of time but it did show my desire to give my life to the service of God.
Grandmother would smile every time I would be frustrated that I wanted to join the priesthood. She would tell me that I had no patience and needed to work on this. She was right. If you are to be a servant of God, you need to have patience. Patience is needed with people and being a spiritual leader. It is needed when a priest does social work or fights for basic human rights. My grandmother could see this and could see my lack of patience. She told me that I did not have to live with a religious order to prepare for the priesthood. I could use my teenage years to work on myself and my spirituality. Once again, she told me that it was important that I experienced life as a teenager. My grandmother thought that I wanted to enter the priesthood to be secure and not worry about things such as my economy and what job I would do.
My grandmother also questioned my motives for joining the priesthood. She asked me did I want to have a special status in society. Did I want to work my way up in the ranks of the Church hierarchy? Did I want to be remembered as a saint? She told me the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a rich man's son that was destined to be a great soldier. He gave up his riches and lived in poverty where he lived off the food that people would give him. In other words, he was a beggar! He built a small church and got permission to start a religious order where its members had no possessions and humbly served the Lord, My grandmother thought that I could learn a lot from him. I admired him and his life. The problem was that I do not think that I was humble and strong enough to follow his example.
When I was 14, I was speaking with a religious order of religious brothers. They originated in France and were called the De La Salle Brothers. I like their work and their community spirit. This time, I was not told that I should wait until I was 18. They told me that I attend one of their schools as a border. It would be the first step in joining them. My dad questioned it, as he wondered if it was the first step to becoming a De La Salle Brother, then why should he pay the tuition to be a border? I did not even think that this could be a scheme just to get an extra border. I thought this was the first step to the religious order. I begged my parents to let me go. Dad thought it was expensive, but mom persuaded him to let me go to boarding school.
The school was about a 3-hour drive from where we lived in a town called Waterford. It was a huge school with 1500 pupils. About 100 of these were boarders. The building was huge and old. When you entered it, there were high ceilings and a smell of polish. It looked like an old victorian boarding school that you would see on TV. This would be the place I would be for the next few years. I thought I would be recognised as an aspirant or some other title and status for someone that is taking the first step to the priesthood. This was not the case. I would be the same as any other boarder at the school. I was told that I would not get any special attention. I began to think that Dad was right. They were more interested in the tuition that he paid than me!
The other pupils came from elite families that were rich and had a lot of status and power. Most of them were snobbish and spoiled. I was immediately treated like an outcast. My father's job was not important enough. It was also because I was very feminine. This was nothing that I was ever teased about before. I was always very much like a sissy and girly. It was how mom treated me. It meant that while the other boys at school were very boyish, I was gender fluid. This was not so good at school. I was teased and bullied. This was extremely hard for me. I was never teased in my life. Now I was being called names and being told that I was weird. In a school full of boys, I was ignored when not being bullied. This was in a way worse than being bullied. Not being able to speak or be with others was torture. Not being liked or wanted was enough to ruin my self-esteem.
I was depressed and feared every day what bullying I would experience and how lonely I would be. After a few weeks of this, I decided that I would get some advice from one of the Brothers. A Brother is a man committed to living the Consecrated Life in response to a call from God. As a male religious, he is a lay Christian committed to Christ and the Christian community through vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Religious priests are called to the celebration of Mass, the administration of the other sacraments, and often the administration of a parish. Religious Brothers are called to other ministries: care of the sick and poor, education, health care, journalism, fine arts, and justice works. The De La Salle brothers dedicated their life to education.
There were several religious brothers that I could speak to. It was not that I wanted any special attention. I just wanted some advice on how I could survive at the boarding school. I found the brothers very cold and distant when I tried to speak with them. In my mind, they were the adults that were supposed to take care of us. I could not speak with them. They were just as snobby as the boys that were at the school. It was as if the brothers just cared about our academic skills and the routine of a boarding school. They did not think that preventing bullying was their responsibility.
The brothers did expect me to go to mass every day. This was not compulsory for students, but for me, it was more expected. The mass was always before everyone woke up, and being a teenager, it was hard for me to get up so early. I loved the peace of the mass. It was also funny looking at others that seemed to be dozing off. At times, I did not like when the headmaster would check to see if I attended masses. It made me think about why I was supervised this way and why I could not take responsibility for my spirituality. It was like a big brother atmosphere, where it was expected that I participate.
Despite that I was expected to participate in the masses, I never did get a chance to discuss spiritual things with the brothers. They told me that I was an aspirant and they promised they would help me prepare to enter the religious order. This did not happen. The brothers did not even speak to me unless they were telling me what to do. This made me wonder if they even liked me. I thought that if I became a De La Salle Brother and was responsible for boys that lived at a school, I would be a person they can come to in good times and bad times. I would not be an adult that was distant and always appeared to be in a bad mood.
I finally did meet two friends. Both of them did not have friends, so it was like we formed our group. This did not mean that I was no longer teased and bullied. When the other boys saw me together with one of my new friends, they thought that we were gay. They reasoned that I was a sissy and the only reason I would want to be with other boys was that I fancied them. My new friends told me not to listen to the allegations. I could not do this! Coming from a very conservative and religious family, being gay was wrong and a sin. I did not think I was gay. I liked girls! I also was ready to give a vow of celibacy for the rest of my life. Being in any sort of romantic relationship was not something I wanted or even thought about. It hurt a lot when someone called me gay. At the same time, I knew if I showed how hurt I was or denied it, then the teasing would become worse.
I was at the boarding school for a few years. At this time, the headmaster only called me into his office once. He wanted to know how I was. At this stage, I did not trust him enough to tell him about the bullying and how hard it was to be there. I do not think he even wanted to talk about that side of my school life. He was more worried about my grades and if I said my prayers. I do not know why he even worried about my grades. I got very good grades and was an honour student. I also expected him to talk about what would happen when I finished school. This made me wonder if they even wanted me in their order.
When I was finished at school at Waterford, I made a decision not to join the De La Salle Brothers. The brothers I met there did not give me a good impression. They may have been religious. They may have been good at educating. They were not friendly or compassionate. They did not help me when I most needed it. I was sure that many others felt as if they were neglected by the brothers.
The question was if I still wanted to dedicate my life to religious service. ns18.104.22.168da2