“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
It begins and ends with you simply talking to God. It is an indispensable and essential element of our Christian life. For only in prayer do we come to understand the true calling of God’s will in our lives. Prayer has many different forms, and often many different ways of doing it, but in essence it is a way of connecting your soul with that of God.
How often I failed in my duty to God, because I was not leaning on the strong pillar of prayer
Prayer is still a little known means; however it is the most effective way to reestablish peace in our souls because it allows us to get ever closer to God's love
Every single grace comes to the soul though prayer
Prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours
Here are some tips on how to improve your prayer life
How to know your call
Develop a daily prayer life. Only in prayer do we get to know God’s will for our lives. Consider starting a devotional like praying the Rosary, Novenas, or Lectio Divina. Make sure you leave some time for silence as well.
Lets face it, we tend to agree with ourselves. This is why we need to have someone accompany us in our discernment. A spiritual director will help guide you in understanding the movements of the Holy Spirit in your journey. They will help unravel what is going on with your discernment by giving you an outside point-of-view. Spiritual directors can be a priest, or a religious. You can have a qualified lay person to direct you but this is not advisable since you also need the perspective of someone who is living the life you are aspiring to be.
We need constant renewal in the grace of God. Going to the sacrament of confession allows us to look deeply into our lives and see where we are lacking and where we can grow. This is especially true when you are discerning since it teaches us humility before God. It is recommended to go at least once every 2 – 3 weeks.
Listen to what your heart is telling you. Affective prayer, which is an essential part of Franciscan Spiritually, helps us to raise our heart to God. Sometimes we are too preoccupied with intellectualizing our discernment that we forget the movements of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Listen to it. Listen to how God is moving your heart.
We are all called to be part of the body, and as such we are given specific gifts as how to live and glorify the kingdom of God. Each vocation, especially the Religious, are given a specific gift called Charisms. They define who and what the Order does. St. Francis’ charism of poverty and living the Gospel is what defines the Franciscan movement. You should take time to know where you are drawn to, what God wants you to do for His kingdom, and then seek the group or Order that live that charism.
Pay attention to your own life journey. As in Jeremiah – God has already foreknown what He wanted for your life – and He has guided you from your birth up to now. Look back and reflect on those signs as they will also point to where He wants you to go. It should also be said that we should not completely base our discernment on ‘looking for signs’ because we often want to see the signs we want to see and miss the signs God is giving us. Lastly, focus your life to this aspiration and live the Catholic faith to the fullest. Avoid vices and earthly distractions to the best that you can. Live the life you are striving to live.
Obstacles to Discernment
Our own fears about the ‘call’ can hinder us from completely being open to the movements of the Holy Spirit. This fear leads to doubts, anxieties and often will cause us to run away or set aside the call.
To discern is to have the humility to let go. This includes the idea that we are in control of everything. Two things that can happen if we try to be in control: We lead our discernment to where we think ‘it should go’ – meaning we try to shape the outcome of our discernment rather than letting the Holy Spirit unfold it for us. Second, we try to control everything around us, whether for or against the discernment, because we are afraid of not being in control of our lives or destiny.
We call this the Order of Perpetual Discerners. There are many who take the initial step to discern but somehow cannot find it in themselves to take the final plunge. Some are afraid that they may not be ‘in the right place’, while others are simply afraid of the unknown. They continue to endlessly discern with the expectations that one day it will all be revealed in full clarity as to what they needed to do. The uncertainty is part of the trust you must place in God as Jesus Himself is calling you from the wilderness (Mk 1:3)
There is a Franciscan saying which embodies a big part of St. Francis’ spirituality – ‘Sine Proprio’ – meaning nothing of one’s own. This a radical call to let go of all things. Whether it is material and worldly goods, prestige and honors, your job or potential to make something big in your career, desires for the world or family, even your own sin. Do not let these attachments hold you down because God has promised you even more if you follow him. To say yes is to let go. Let the example of our Blessed Virgin Mary be the model of your yes: let it be done unto me according to your will.
We are all sinners. We are often times incapable. We all have doubts about why God is calling us. Yet, He is still calling you! Do not let this feeling of unworthiness or incapability be a reason not to answer the call. God equips those that He calls. He will not let you take this journey alone, but promises to walk with you every step of the way. You are the sheep that the Shepherd left the 99 others for because he know your worth more that you can ever imagine (Lk 15:3-7). Think how the apostles abandoned Jesus in his final hours, or how St. Paul persecuted the early Christians – yet they became the pillars of our faith.
Perhaps one of the hardest obstacles is not having the support you need in your discernment. There are times when our friends simply do not understand. They think this is the end of your life! Even more discouraging when your own parents and family members do not support what you are doing. “But who is going to give us grandkids?” or “Why did you go to all the schooling only to throw it all away for this..” These can be very painful words to hear especially from those who are dear to you. You must pray for their own conversion so that they can accept your calling as you do. Your yes is not simply saying yes to a job, but to a life of giving to others, which in essence is saying yes to God’s family.
The Lay Brother Vocation
Who are you? I am a Capuchin Brother!
The Capuchin lay brother has always been admired within the Order. They are often referred to as the guardians of the charism of the Order. It is in their humble service to the fraternity that allows us to reflect who we are as brothers of St. Francis and of Christ. They embody the life of both a Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-41) exemplifying the Capuchin life of penance, contemplative prayer and apostolic ministry.
It is often mistaken that the vocation of a lay brother is somewhat incomplete. You would often hear words like, “why don’t you go all the way and be a priest” or “he chose to remain a lay brother” or better yet, “he is just a lay brother”. These words not only betray St. Francis’ call that all of us be brothers but even more so minimizes God’s own call for the gift of his complete vocation. A brother’s consecration to God and his religious life is what makes his vocation complete. Since it’s founding in the early 16th century, the Capuchins have resisted the idea of separation between the clerics and the lay brothers. The value of the brother is not within his position or title, but in the life he is giving to animate the charism of the Capuchins in his community.
The life of a Brother
It is worth noting that more than half of our Capuchin Saints are lay brothers. They lived their holiness in the simplicity of their calling; humbly working as porters (door keepers) of the friary, infirmarian for the sick or questor (beggars) of the Order. The freedom from sacramental ministry allowed these brothers to tend directly to those they encounter daily, whether in the streets, at the hospital, the entrance of the church or simply in front of the friary door. Their selfless giving, openly lending a hand, an ear and heart is what makes them so close to the people. Today, lay brothers are able to bring their own personal experiences from the world, whether professional or trade, to further the mission and work of the Order towards the marginalized. We have brothers that are doctors, nurses, mechanics, teachers, dentists, psychologist, social-workers, carpenters, farmers, tailors, cooks, administrators, tech-savvy creators, designers, social-media gurus, chaplains, missionaries, retreat masters, preachers and many more serving all around the world.
If you are called to live a consecrated life but not necessarily feel called to the priesthood, consider being a consecrated lay brother – be a Capuchin brother!
Capuchin Lay Brother Saints
St. Felix of Cantalice
St. Seraphin of Montegranaro
St. Bernard of Corleone
St. Crispin of Viterbo
St. Ignatius of Laconi
St. Felix of Nicosia
St. Francis Mary of Camporosso
St. Conrad of Parzham
The Ordained Brother
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord..”
Some brothers, by the grace of God, are further called into becoming priests for the Church. He may discern this calling along his journey or know from the beginning that this is where God is leading him to be. It is often referred to as a vocation within a vocation. A Capuchin priest’s primary calling is to the life laid forth by the example of St. Francis, to live the Gospel as a brother to all. This makes him different, in a sense, to his Diocesan brother priest, in such that his sacramental ministry is rooted first in his identity as a Capuchin Franciscan – a contemplative prayer life, in simplicity and fraternity.
“For I have come to serve not to be served…”
Unique in that a Capuchin priest’s sacramental ministry is not only focused on the pastoral needs of a parish, but more so to bring the sacraments into the fringes of our society, especially the marginalized. This allows him to serve the Church in a much varied way. Some of the ministries our brother priests are involved in:
Capuchin Ordained Brother Saints
St. Francis of Assisi
1182 – 1226
St. Joseph of Leonessa
1556 – 1612
St. Lawrence of Brindisi
1559 – 1619
Doctor of the Church
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
1578 – 1622
Protomartyr of the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith
St. Angelus of Acri
1669 – 1739
St. Ignatius of Santhia
1686 – 1770
St. Leopold Mandić of Castelnovo
1866 – 1942
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
1887 – 1968