Br Christopher Maher

Br Christopher, one of our Capuchin novices, shares some important elements of his vocation story:

Fortunately, my Polish grandmother has always been a remarkable example of the beauty of the Catholic Faith, particularly since my grandfather died when I was very young and my grandmother stepped up and took care of everybody gracefully and with tenderness.

With this foundation, by the time I was in high school, I could see reasoning behind Catholic teachings and enjoyed pondering philosophically about life, while giving thanks to God for the little things throughout the day, while also praying for bigger things. However, aside from weekly Mass, I didn’t seek out fraternity with other Christians or join any youth groups. I was always trying to do something epic, whether it was skateboarding, breakdancing, or something else and I didn’t have much time for being ‘ordinary’. I was usually eager to impress whoever was around.

I completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) at the University of Sydney, and while travelling through Europe afterwards, a friend introduced me to Assisi. I fell in love with Assisi, and thought it would be great to live there in a simple way, playing guitar and just taking in the beauty. I didn’t know much about St. Francis at this stage, but I was impressed by the fact that he was a man who had made sacrifices in his life.

I didn’t attend World Youth Day 2008 and this was something I regretted after seeing photos. However, the same friend told me I should just go to WYD Madrid. In 2011, our pilgrimage started through the Holy Land and it changed my life forever. I experienced a joy which had the potential to be eternal and it was a joy that didn’t require any special talent. I still look back at our time by the shores of Galilee as the happiest of my life; it was a taste of Heaven. However, while in Jerusalem, walking the Via Dolorosa, I was confronted with Christ, who was no longer a figure in the distance. As we meditated on His Passion, He was right in front of me and I was in tears.

I returned to Sydney and dived head-first into Catholic events and in time I would find myself becoming a group leader at iWitness and a moderator at the Love and Responsibility sessions. Sydney Catholics were on fire with the faith and I couldn’t get enough, for nothing can compare with being exposed to God’s divine nature. While I was in the Holy Land, for the first time, I started playing guitar at Mass, loved it, and yearned to do the same when I returned home. A friend invited me to play at an evening Mass one night, which was the first night of the Capuchin Young Adults (CYA). Since CYA was in its beginnings, I decided to dedicate my Sunday nights to music ministry and the young adults group and became a Core Group member. In time, St. Fiacre’s Church and the friary at Leichhardt would feel like another home, where I could be at peace and forget about the world.

As I learned more about St. Francis and the Capuchin charism, I found that it struck my heart, and emphasised the need to always go through the heart in our actions. I also related very well to St. Francis’ idea of ‘perfect joy’. Later, I would realise what inspired me most about St. Francis was his yearning to imitate Christ in absolutely everything. Jesus Christ isn’t simply an ideal to consider for inspiration, but rather, we pursue Him with zeal and passion. At one stage, the thought of selling my possessions, giving to the poor and becoming a priest became a very exciting prospect.

I was asked to co-ordinate a pilgrimage for World Youth Day 2013 and this somewhat frightened me – I lacked confidence. However, I decided that my answer would be ‘yes’, not knowing what was lying ahead of me. When asked to do something additional in Rio de Janeiro, I also responded with a ‘yes’, thinking I was doing someone else a favour. Months later, I would find myself at the World Youth Day Vigil on stage, reading a prayer of intercession before the Blessed Sacrament in front of 3 million people with Pope Francis nearby. God had rewarded my ‘yes’ in a way that was way beyond my expectations. Since I didn’t feel that I deserved this experience, I saw it as a sign that I should come back and step up for the faith in a profound way.

Serving pilgrims in Brazil filled me with a unique joy, and after watching The Human Experience with the Capuchin Young Adults on my return, I felt like my heart was crying out to serve the less fortunate in our society. I felt like I wasn’t using my God-given gifts to their full potential, particularly my ability to meet and embrace people with joy. After spending time with Our Lord in Adoration and asking without turning even a little if He wanted me to become a priest, I experienced such a beautiful inner peace, which led to my applying for the Postulancy Program with the Capuchins.