Recently we went on a one-day retreat with the Confirmandes from Ealing Abbey and participated in a Q&A panel. Some of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were along as well to provide some answers about vocations in particular. Since we didn't have enough time to get to all the questions written by the students, Br. Barnabas agreed to mail us some answers to post on our blog. Thank you to the students for their honest questions and thank you to Br. Barnabas for his loving answers.
When did God call you?
I first had an attraction to Religious Life when I was 18. However it was only 5 years ago that i realised He may be calling me to it. I was 28 then, I'm 33 now.
Why do friars not shave?
For a few reasons: in imitation of Jesus and St. Francis who had beards; as a sign that we're consecrated (ie. not available); and because we come from the Capuchins who have beards (when they began, they had to hide from the authorities so they disguised themselves to look like some monks they were staying with, who had beards - this is where we get our long, pointy hoods from, too).
Why do you want to give up everything you've earned for someone you can't see?
It was a little easier for me since I didn't earn much before :) But sometimes the things you can't see are more real than the things you can. You can't see the sun when it goes behind the clouds, but it is still there. You can't see love, but it's real. You can't "see" God, but He is real. Seeing isn't the only way to encounter people. When you encounter a love that overwhelms you, everything else almost becomes meaningless in pursuit of that love. The things that we give up as brothers really are passing away, the things we hold on to last into eternity.
Do you ever feel like you're wasting your time?...no offense.
Funny enough, it's the other way around for me. Before I entered, I often felt that I was wasting my time. I really struggled with the idea of earning lots of money, getting a good career, even studying (important as it is), simply because I thought that when I died I wouldn't be able to take any of these things with me, and hence in my mind they seemed a "waste of time." Now at last my whole life is spent preparing for eternity. My worship of God, relationships, love of neighbor - these will count forever. At last I finally feel that I'm not wasting my time.
What do you do when you get bored?
Good question! When I was in the States with the brothers, life was a bit more frantic so there was no "bored." It's a bit quieter for us here in London - so I usually go for a run for just harass my brothers when I'm bored :)
How do you know if you have a vocation?
Another great question. There's not black and white answer, but I would suggest that if even the thought enters you head that you might not might not have a vocation, or if some aspect of it attracts you, then it's definitely worth investigating. This can happen over a period of time by speaking to people who have faith/vocations themselves; reading books; visiting places, ie. convents/monasteries/seminaries, etc.; checking websites; speaking to your parish priest is a good idea, too. I initially visited these kinds of places to "get rid" of these thoughts, but in fact they got stronger. Don't be afraid of the door being locked behind you if you show the slightest interest in a vocation. That never happened to me. I discerned with 5 different communities altogether before entering one and in the end I had to fight my way in to be accepted! When I lived in the vocation house of the friars in New York, we must have had around 200 young men visit us in the year but only 10-15 eventually joined. The rest got married or went on to other things. So it is a very healthy thing to look into. There's nothing worse than not exploring it and then realising too late that it's what God wanted you to do.
Why were we put on earth by God?
God is love. He wished to share that love and so created us and created a whole world for us to live in. "Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord" (St. Ignatius of Loyola), and we are created and called "to share by knowledge and love in God's own life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 356). Simple as that: God loves us, that's why we're here.
Did you live a life of celibacy before becoming a brother?
When I was a young teenager I loved God but I didn't actually know that Jesus had taught (and that the Church still teaches) that sex outside of marriage is wrong. My formation as a Christian was pretty weak. By the time I had discovered this truth and accepted it for what it is - a beautiful teaching of the Church - I hadn't had a serious girlfriend and so was protected from making any big mistakes. About a year after I accepted it I entered a relationship with a girl who did offer to sleep with me and I was able to say no. It was an awesome thing to do. Before entering Religious Life I had several girlfriends and about half offered to sleep with me and half didn't. By far the best relationships I had were with the girlfriends who wished to remain pure. They had a respect and dignity for themselves and for God which affected our whole relationship in an amazing way. So although I did struggle with sexual temptations I have remained a virgin and celibate (and believe it or not, I'm from Essex which may amaze you even more!!)
Have you ever been in love with someone other than God?
How can you live a life without sex? Do you ever get urges?
My life is awesome without having a sexual partner. I feel very fulfilled. Life offers so much good to us that I thing we miss it by being fixated of certain things like sex. Now as a Religious I feel much more protected against sexual temptation. For example we don't have T.V.s, the Internet, newspapers and crazy magazines offering constant tempting images of women. Our relationships with women are very healthy, and although I still find women very attractive, it's now in a much purer way. God is healing me of the many impure images of women that have been given to me by the world. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). And so by God's strength, regular Confession and Eucharist, and trying to discipline my mind and body, it has become possible to live a life of freedom and liberty as opposed to one enslaved by the chains of sexual addiction.