“… Through imitating Christ, poor, chaste, and obedient, I desire to give myself completely to His Bride, the Church.” Father Kevin Mann
Perpetually Professed, Canons Regular, of St. John Cantius Chicago Illinois, MEFV Grant Recipient
Until five years ago, the priesthood was something totally foreign to my idea of a happy and normal life. While growing up, our family of seven practiced the Roman Catholic Faith dutifully. I do not recall missing Sunday Mass more than three times in my life. Our parents prayed with the children before we went to bed, and eventually, we began to pray the family Rosary. Prayer and responsibility were certainly a part of my upbringing.
I attended public school, played sports, and spent time with friends as most kids did. During middle school I decided that I wanted to be a doctor, and therefore, I was motivated to apply myself to obtain higher grades. I was mindful of objective truth; hence, when my father told me that the Roman Catholic Church was the one true Church of the one true God, I was proud to be Catholic.
Although Holy Mass attendance, Lenten practices, and public Rosaries to end abortion often conflicted with my priorities as a child and teenager, I knew these were ultimately good things. Unable to afford a Catholic high school education, my parents took us to morning Holy Mass several times a week. Consequently, I maintained at least one weekday Mass through most of the second half of my college career.
Throughout high school and college I was determined to seek earthly happiness by becoming a wealthy physician and finding a nice, pretty Catholic girl to marry. The priesthood was far from my plans; moreover, any suggestion of it made me quiver. Near the end of my college career, I started to take my Catholic Faith more seriously as I began to be more honest with God and myself. In preparation for applying to medical school, I became more involved in medical service-related volunteer work. God was preparing me for a life of total service to Him and His Church.
A major step towards my vocation was my resolution to receive the Sacrament of Confession monthly after I finished my undergraduate coursework in the Winter of 2002. This provided a great opportunity to examine my relationship with God regularly, and therefore I was able to amend my life more effectively. I actually felt myself growing up, and after scoring well on my MCAT, my life really seemed to be taking the shape I had envisioned.
This fantasy ended that summer (2003) after a tough breakup with a Protestant girl. I sought the advice and counsel of the holiest and most intelligent priests I knew, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey. Rather than finding out how I might convert my former girlfriend, Father Charles, a Norbertine, challenged my faith in the Eucharist and convinced me to ask God what He wanted for me.
I immediately resolved to attend Mass and pray before the Blessed Sacrament every day. This was the perfect setting to plead with Our Lord to make His will known to me and to beg of Him the grace to follow it. As I began to view life in the light of eternity, the idea of renouncing marriage in order to commit my life to God in the ministerial priesthood for the salvation of souls became reasonable to me.
After only two months of praying about my vocation, I was convinced that God was calling me to His priesthood. Eagerly, I returned to St. Michael’s ready to manifest my discovery. Providentially, I found Father Charles in the confessional again, and he counseled me to seek entrance to the Norbertines in Orange County. I wanted to be a Norbertine, because I observed that they were reverent, intelligent and loyal to the Holy Father. I made a four-day visit, applied, and was accepted.
The atmosphere at St. Michael’s was inspiring. During my visit, I was very impressed by the community life and enchanted by the singing of the Divine Office. It was also a relief to discover that they did normal things, too, like play sports. I continued my regimen of daily Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Rosary, and increased my reception of the Sacrament of Confession to every two weeks. I began to seriously strive for sanctity through prayer, penance, and charity.
In August of 2004, I entered the Postulancy of St. Michael’s, where I became enamored with Gregorian Chant and the celebration of Holy Mass in the sacred language of the Church. Unfortunately, I left that same December, as my Superior discerned that I did not have a vocation with them. Reluctantly, I agreed. I needed guidance, as I was zealous, but lacked maturity and prudence. My formation confessor was generous to continue hearing my weekly confessions. He also introduced me to an experienced spiritual director who he thought would be a good match for me. Under Father Thomas Nelson’s direction, I matured significantly. In addition, I was blessed with the support of new lay friends who cherished their Catholic Faith as I did.
After about a year of being under Father Nelson’s direction, he introduced me to a new community of Canons Regular whose apostolate focuses on restoring Beauty to the Liturgy, and through the Liturgy to the rest of the Church. After visiting the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in February of 2006, I entered the Postulancy that June.
At St. John’s, I have truly come to value community life as both a means of sanctification and a source of joy. Every aspect of our lives revolves around the Sacred Liturgy, whether it be our meals, our work, our recreation, our studies, or most importantly, our prayer life; thus, our life is truly centered on Christ. While the sanctification of the faithful by means of the liturgical apostolate is what originally attracted me to this community, I am increasingly convinced that my personal union with God is fundamental and absolutely vital to the efficacy of the apostolate. Therefore, I am grateful for the many occasions of grace that God provides in our daily life to cultivate this union.
My desire to become a priest has led to a greater zeal and willingness to seek configuration to Christ, which I have leared is only through sharing in His cross. Through imitating Christ, poor, chaste, and obedient, I desire to give myself completely to His Bride, the Church.