I was now 18.
I remembered the story that my grandmother told me about Saint Francis of Assisi. I admired him as a person that had a deep relationship with God and was simple and compassionate to the poor. This was the type of person that I wanted to be.
I visited the Franciscan monastery in Dublin and told them that I wanted to be a monk in their order. When I visited them, we were led into a small room with simple furniture. There was a huge wooden cross on the wall. I was impressed that it was not some fancy room, but rather a room that had a few chairs and a small table. There were religious pictures on the wall. I could see that these monks took their vow of poverty seriously.
A monk came in to speak with me. He told me a monk had three focuses in their life. The most important was prayer and strengthening one's faith. He also told me about their social work. He told me that he tried to help the homeless, while others helped the poor or those that experienced problems such as domestic violence. I was so excited when he talked about social work. This was something that would interest me. I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others. He also told me that living in a community with other Franciscans was important. The other monks were like his brothers and family. This also appealed to me. I would appreciate living with others that dedicated their lives to God and did social work.
The monk warned me that the life of a Franciscan was very hard. Only a third of the men that joined were ordained. Many could not deal with the strict lifestyle. Many couldn't deal with having any material possessions. He asked me if I could own anything. I came from a family that was not poor, and I needed nothing in my life. If I joined him, I would have to give up everything and live a very simple life. He knew that young people like me had idols. I admitted that I was a Madonna fan. This made him smile and tell me that there would be no place for Madonna as a Franciscan.
It seemed as if he thought I would not be good in the Franciscans. He used a lot of time explaining where it would be hard for me. As he spoke, I was thinking if I could lead such a structured, strict and simple life. In a way, I knew that I could. It may sound foolish, but the one thing that worried me was if I could stop being a Madonna fan. I would always love her music and her courage. Could I have a life where it would be hard for me to like her music? Could I just decide that I was no longer her fan when deep down I knew that I always would be? It would be deceiving others if I said that she was no longer important to me.
On my way home, I decided that I would join the Franciscans, I was sure that I would mature so I could think that Madonna was no longer important. When I told my parents, I wanted to join the Franciscans, they were delighted. My mother gave me two letters that I received from other religious orders. One was from the legionaries of Christ and the other one was from the White Fathers. The legionaries of Christ invited me on a weekend. They also wanted me to take my brother with me. I decided to go which confused my mother. She could not understand why I would go if I already decided to join the Franciscans
The legionaries of Christ were a religious order that mainly worked in South America, They were influenced by the structure the military had. They considered themselves soldiers of Christ. We were told that there was a war between good and evil. One could not be soft and humble. We had to consider the idea of being missionaries like a soldier in a war. One had to be very direct and authoritative when proclaiming the Gospel. It was a fight for every single soul. This confused me. It was the opposite of the approach the Franciscans had. It was less simple and not as humble. I could not see myself as a soldier and forcing people to accept Jesus as their saviour.
It seemed as if the legionaries of Christ did not want me anyhow. They were more interested in my brother. My brother was always a charmer and could make people smile. He had always been very outspoken and lively. I knew that I would never be a legionary of Christ. This being said, I was very jealous that they were more interested in my brother. It made me ask myself if I was being called or if he was being called by God. My brother had no intention of being a priest. And this seemed to make the legionaries try harder to get him to join them. In a way, this was good. I was on the sideline watching their aggressive approach to recruiting my brother.
At the end of the weekend, I was called into the office of the superior. Unlike the Franciscans, his office was very posh. He told me that the legionaries did not want me. I was not masculine enough. I was not dominant enough. He told me that my voice was too high and when I spoke, it was not loud enough. No one would take me seriously with such a low and soft voice. When he told me this, I had tears running down my cheeks. I do not know why this happened. It just showed how soft I was.
I was depressed after this weekend. I was rejected by the legionaries. I had no intention of joining them but I did not like the rejection. My brother told me that the rejection was a blessing, as he did not trust them. He did not like their aggressive ways and he thought that they showed no respect for people. There was another boy that weekend. He was from Northern Ireland. He was told that he was not wanted, because he was overweight. This confirmed that faith had nothing to do with a vocation with the legionaries of christ. Years later, it was revealed that there was a lot of child abuse in the order. Even their founder was accused of child abuse.
When I came home, my grandmother wanted a serious talk with me. She thought that I was shopping for the best religious order. I was told that nothing good could come from this except me being confused. She also questioned if I was being called by God or not. It was hard to hear my grandmother tell me that she thought I would never be a priest, as she thought that this was not my destiny. She reminded me that I could still have a good life and make the world a better place. I did not need to be a priest. She wondered if I wanted to be a priest to escape the real world. I told her that I was determined to be a priest. I knew I was being called. This is what I told her. Deep inside me, I was questioning if God even wanted me to serve him.
I joined the White Fathers. They were a missionary order that worked in Africa. I had a good impression of them. They were not as simple as the Franciscans and not as aggressive as the Legionaries. I moved to their house in Dublin. The students had their own part of the house. I would be with two other men. They were my age and I was so excited. After years of waiting and waiting, I finally was in a religious order. I would be there for 7 years and then I would be ordained.
When I joined the order, we had to take a psychological test. I had to answer a few hundred questions and then tell what some ink stains represented. I treated this as a game and I did not take it so seriously. It was only afterwards that I did take it seriously. My Spiritual director told me that the tests showed that I was gay. This reminded me of the allegations and gossip that I had to endure at boarding school. I denied that I was gay. I thought it was unnatural and a sin. I would not condemn anyone that was homosexual, but I would think that they were sinning.
This was not a good start in my time as a student for the priesthood. It put me in a constant confrontation with the spiritual director. He accused me of being gay and I could not forgive him for this. It made me not trust him and thought that he was an idiot. He was sure that I was gay. This hurt every time he implied it. Even if I was gay, what difference would it make when I would take a vow of celibacy? I would avoid anything romantic or sexual for the rest of my life. It seemed as if the spiritual director could not accept this reasoning.
It was at this time that I became a rebel. Maybe it was because of the constant conflicts I had with the spiritual director. Maybe it was because I was so bad at being obedient. I also think it's because I wanted some freedom. I have always been under my parent's care or the care of the boarding school. I was now a man and wanted to have some control of my life. My first step as a rebel was when I highlighted my hair. You would think that this was no big deal. The spiritual director made a huge deal of it. Despite I tried telling him that highlights did not make a difference as to who I was. I was branded as a rebel from that day!
The worse thing I have done was at a memorial for a deceased priest. The other students suggested that we tried an experiment. They wanted me to see how it was to get drunk. I had never drunk before and thought that I could control myself. I went through with the experiment. I drank a lot of whiskeys and at some stage, I do not know what happened. Everything was black and the next day I woke up with a hangover. Needless to say that I was called into the director's office.
Another time was when we were doing a talent show for Charity. I dressed up as Madonna and mimed one of her songs. I was showing a lot of skin and the dance was very sexual. This shocked everyone. The spiritual director called me into his office for an explanation. I could not give him one except that it was fun. The director told me that it was as if liked provoking people. I could not disagree there. This was probably one thing that he said that was true.
I did not consider myself a rebel. One of the best things I knew was to sit in the prayer room by myself and pray and meditate. It made me feel much closer to God and it was my opportunity to spend some time with him. This was a quiet room and gave me a good time to lock everything outside. I was not a saint or rebel when I was there. I was myself. I felt as if God accepted me for who I was, and not what some psychiatrist said I was.
There was a housing estate behind us. There were two girls and one boy that hung around the gardens a lot. I never knew why they did this. Maybe they thought the priests would be kind or maybe they were waiting for a priest to kick them off the property. When I saw them, I was not mean or told them to get off the land. I took the time to speak with them. They would tell me about their life such as family, school and friends. At times they would ask me to tell them a Bible story. They loved when I would retell one of the parables that Jesus told us. I just changed them a small bit so they were modern.
I could not believe it when the director called me into his office. He did not approve of me getting visits from the children. He wanted to know my motive. This confused me so much as to what could be wrong with conversing with a few children. It was hard for me to understand when he tried to explain that some people could have the wrong conclusions about why I would spend time with the local children. I must have been very innocent as I had no clue what he was implying. I just told him that we could remember in the Bible where Jesus enjoyed being with children.
It was about then that I noticed the priests had problems. They did not hang around with us students and lived in another corner of the house. They all seemed depressed and lonely and hardly spoke with each other. They would sit in the lounge and sit in silence while the TV would run in the background. I noticed that many of them ate too much or drank too much. It was sad when I realized that some of the priests were alcoholics.
Was this the future that I wanted?ns22.214.171.124da2