Fr Ben Johnson was born in 1982, professed First Vows in 2006 and was ordained a priest in 2013. He lived in the St Anthony's, Hawthorn fraternity, assisted with work in the Shrine and chaplaincy to a high school. He now lives in the South Melbourne fraternity, assists in the parish, works with Capuchin Outreach to the poor and marginalised and in the faith formation of young adults. The autobiography below was written in the late-2000's.
My name is Brother Ben Johnson and I am 26 years old and a Capuchin Friar in the Post Novitiate phase. I first met the Capuchins when I was 19 in Melbourne. It had been in the three years before that that I had started to take the Faith more seriously. In fact, I can point to a school retreat as the first time that I allowed the Lord to have a real part in my life. I had been travelling on my own path and trying to find life’s answers on my own. However, what I found on that retreat was that God is the Father of love. I then started nurturing the faith I received through prayer and the sacraments.
Even though I am still relatively quite young, it took me a great deal of time to work out that being a Capuchin was where the Lord wanted me. Or this could be said in another way; it took me a long time to accept where the Lord was calling me. It took me three years of praying and living life thinking about joining religious life before I took the step. I looked at different Orders but there was something that ‘clicked’ when I spent time with the Capuchins. They were real people striving to imitate Christ.
The Lord was speaking to me in the quiet of my heart and I was beginning to realise that what I wanted most in life I could best do as a Capuchin Friar. I wanted to:
- Love God and all His people
- To serve those in need all over the world
- To live simply with brothers
These were the aspects that I saw in the friars. The more of them I met the more I recognised the Capuchin charism and the more I wanted to join this Gospel fraternity. Therefore, it was from the desires of my heart that the Lord led me to make the choice. Sometimes this is a hard thing to accept that I made the choice based on the desires of my heart. I did not think that the Lord worked that way. I thought the Lord only called people to go off into a life that was the opposite of what they truly wanted. When I first recognised that I wanted to be a Capuchin I dismissed this as a selfish desire, because it was coming from me and not from some loud voice in the sky. But after talking this out with many good people both religious and also friends, I slowly began to realise that the desire on my heart to apply to enter this Capuchin life was not a negative thing driven by pride but it was a personal invitation from the Lord. This development in my discernment did not happen overnight it took a long time to assess these desires so that I could be confident enough to make the decision. I say “confident enough” because I didn’t have all the answers, but what I did have from the Lord was enough of the answers to make a decision. And by this time I was beginning to realise that if I don’t give this life a go then I would never know whether the Lord was really calling me or not. And I feared waking up at the age of 50 and saying I wish I had of given religious life a go.
As I reflect back on my religious profession in December 2006, I realise that the Lord has continually given me confirmation that I am in the right place. In the homily on that occasion Fr Robert Stewart asked the question “Why would young men with great potential in the world give that up?” For me the question seemed redundant because the commitment I was to make into the hands of the Provincial, to live in obedience, chastity, without anything of my own, was the natural step in response to the call of God in my life. It did however, remind me of the hopes and dreams that I was foregoing. However, I realised that the deepest longing of my heart was to follow Christ was answered and that this path of putting my life into the hands of the Lord would be a greater and more fulfilling path than any dreams that I could imagine for myself. It is here that I take great inspiration from St Francis of Assisi. He was a man who in his time had the world at his fingertips yet knew that all he had and could have was no answer to what he truly wanted, that was to follow the poor and crucified Christ. And that is what a Capuchin Friar does, he models Christ in his self-emptying love and poverty. Capuchin life continues to call me out from myself to serve the Church faithfully by giving to those in need. Following the Lord’s call has therefore, far surpassed any expectations I could have had and presented me already with vast opportunities for service and evangelisation.
Go to: Our Men in Formation