In my 20 years as a De La Salle Christian Brother, I have been regularly asked, “Why did you become a brother?” The short answer is because I believe it’s what God has called me to do with my life. Invariably, I am asked, “How do you know this is what God asks of you?” For me a proper response means telling a little of my personal story, and then finally saying that it’s ultimately a matter of faith. Like many before me, I became a brother because I had brothers while I was a student in high school, and during that time I grew to admire them.
They were genuinely interested in and cared about my classmates and me. They helped me to grow in confidence and to mature. At some point, several brothers asked me if I had ever thought about being a brother. They noticed this made me a little uncomfortable, but they encouraged me nonetheless. I also had the brothers in college. During this time I did think about it, but I entered college with the idea that I might like to become a doctor. I had a vague idea that I wanted to be in a helping profession. Certainly my parents were enthusiastic about my considering the medical profession.
After two and a half years of torturing myself as a biochemistry major and having a wonderful experience working summers in a program for delinquent boys run by the brothers, becoming a brother began to make more sense to me. By the time I graduated from college, I had decided to try becoming a brother. Upon graduation, I moved into the community. Within the next two years I completed candidacy and novitiate—the first two steps in becoming a full member of the community.
Nowhere else I’d rather go
I knew by the end of my novitiate that I wanted to be a brother for the rest of my life. That sense was confirmed five years later when I made my final profession and became a permanent member of the De La Salle Brothers. At the start of the Mass for my final profession I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s love for me. I began to cry and didn’t stop sobbing until it was time for me to profess my final vows. I was stunned by my own crying, as was everyone else in the chapel who knew me. My dad, not sure what was going on, turned to me in the pew and asked me if I wanted to go home. I told him I didn’t and that I was crying because I was so happy. When the provincial—the leader of the community—called me to the sanctuary to profess my final vows, he invited my parents to come with me as a sign of their inclusion in our Lasallian family. God’s love for me made manifest in the love of the brothers, my family, friends, colleagues, and the students that surrounded me confirmed that I was doing the right thing.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to study in Rome. While on a directed retreat outside of Rome, I had a reconfirmation of my vocation as a brother. I was praying in the early hours and I was becoming uncomfortable and restless. While trying to decide if I should return to my room or remain in the chapel the question came to me, “Where else and with whom would I go?” My spontaneous response was, “Lord, there is nowhere else and no one else with whom I would rather be.” I am happy to be a brother. I love being a brother.
There is nothing else I would want to be. Being a brother has drawn me into a closer relationship with God than I would have had had I elected some other way. Being a brother has afforded me an excellent education and many professional opportunities, but the credentials I have are simply tools that allow me to work with young people in need. My life is dedicated to God in the service of young people. My task is to try to represent Jesus to them.
Being a brother means that I have decided to try each day to represent Jesus Christ to the young people I serve, to my colleagues, and all those whose paths cross mine. It means, too, that I try to foster the growth of God’s kingdom by trying to see these people as my brothers and sisters. I must admit that I am not always very good at this. This is why I emphasize that I try—sometimes harder than others, but I think increasingly with a greater conscientiousness.
My image of helping to build God’s kingdom comes from an experience I had a number of years ago while looking down from the viewing deck of a skyscraper. I was there around dusk when the street and car lights were beginning to come on.
As I watched people exiting buildings and moving toward subway stations, planes arriving and departing from the city, and cars moving along the highways and streets, I was struck by our interconnectedness, our interdependence. I began to imagine the impact of one stalled car on the highway, and the influence that people on the planes would be exerting on others at their journey’s end.
Being a brother means that I have an awesome responsibility to the world as I minister to the young people entrusted to my care. The influence I have on them will in some way impact countless others. As a brother, I feel it is my call to love the people God brings into my life: be they difficult students, delinquent kids, a homeless person who asks me to buy him chicken nuggets, or my brothers with whom I live in community. In these very concrete interactions I am called to recognize Jesus in the guise of these people, and at the same time I am called to represent Jesus to them, so that together we come to know and love God more and contribute to the expansion of God’s kingdom in our world.