Br Matthew, one of our Capuchin novices, shares some important elements of his vocation story:
While I was born and raised in a Catholic family, I had thought that the Eucharist was only symbolic and I didn’t see that confession was necessary or even important for living a life that sought holiness. On top of this, my attitudes to moral issues lay outside that of the Church. Yet, looking back I can see how God gradually drew me closer to Him.
In 2009, I became involved in Cabramatta Sacred Heart Parish’s youth choir. While I initially saw this as a chance to socialise, our Lord used this to give me greater appreciation for the liturgy of the Mass. Through my fellow choir members, I was also invited to extend my faith beyond Mass on Sunday. I began to attend talks given by priests and religious at Catholic events which deepened my understanding of the faith.
In 2011, one such talk was given by Fr Greg Morgan at All Saints Parish in Liverpool who explained the significance of the liturgy and enlightened me on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I was able to accept this to be true for the first time and what a turning point this was in my life.
I realised that for so many years, I had been unworthily receiving our Lord and so He, from then on, led me to seek Him in confession as well. As a young person, I had my share of personal, spiritual and social issues. Many a time I felt unworthy of God’s grace and love, but He always kept calling me back to reconcile with Him and receive Him in the Eucharist. Yet even with a better disposition towards the sacraments and the Mass, our Lord called me further.
During one particular Mass, it was a moving experience to watch the priest consecrating the bread and wine. I felt unworthiness and sadness among other things, but despite all this, I felt my very being drawn towards surrendering myself to serve God in a deeper way. So intense was this desire and realisation of the love of God in such a calling that I broke down in silent tears.
The following two year period was a confusing time and I found it difficult to commit to the one vocation path. My intention to enter the seminary was on and off as I was immature in my understanding of what it meant to discern and was still very naive about religious or priestly vocations. While I had a desire to learn more of God, that desire had merely become and intellectual pursuit. I lacked compassion and mercy.
In late 2013, the youth choir I was part of was invited to sing for the ordination to the diaconate of one of the Capuchin friars at Leichardt (now Fr Pio). This would be the first time I had really met and interacted with a male religious order. In them I saw priests and brothers who were genuine, humble and simple in the faith and it was inspiring. I began to be involved with Capuchin Young Adults (CYA) – the youth group associated with the community of Capuchin Friars at Leichardt as I started attending different events organised by the friars and CYA such as weekly adoration and Mass, youth gatherings, day retreats, weekend retreats and discernment days.
In particular I also started serving in the coffee van ministry which involves serving coffee to the homeless on the streets in the city. I had reached a point where I realised that in order to discern fully, I had to put myself into the situation to see if it felt right. Until then, one thing that I lacked was the experience of getting out of my comfort zone and being among the people on the street. I admit that I was intimidated and daunted by the idea of even speaking to them. One day, I made the commitment to go one evening with some of the volunteers and found that speaking with the people I encountered was just like speaking to anyone I would have met in any other place. I was able to see them as people – brothers and sisters in Christ.
For a while I continued to deepen my appreciation for the Capuchin charism and continued to learn about and experience the spirituality and prayer life. It was during one night at a weekend retreat, before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that I felt at peace and received a great sense of reassurance that the path I was going down was what God wanted me to do. I simply said yes to this call and entered postulancy in August 2014.