Novice Bryan Cuocci, O.S.B.M.
I first felt the call of the Lord to follow him more intimately at the age of 10. At that time I participated enthusiastically in the various religious activities of my parish. As I grew older, I did volunteer work at a nearby orphanage and got involved in children’s catechesis. I was also a member of the Catholic Youth Action. The Lord’s call became clearer to me when I was 15, at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome with Pope John Paul II, when I heard interiorly with a soft and irresistible voice the “come, follow me” of the Lord. God called me to be His ‘sentinel of the dawn’. Moved by immense joy I responded, “Here I am, Lord, may your holy will be done in me!” The One and Triune God had captured me with His love.
From that time on I understood that God had chosen me to consecrate myself totally to Him. I did not yet understand, however, where He was calling me to live this vocation. And I did not know how I was going to communicate this choice to my family, who, though devout and practicing Catholics, had other plans for my future.
For about four years, I prayed for discernment to understand where the Lord wanted me to live the religious vocation to which he was calling me. I always remained open to others, and always had the desire to work with others. But I desired above all to pray and to be in the constant presence of God. At first I never thought of my vocation to be a monastic one. But truly, our thoughts are not His thoughts, nor our plans His plans.
Gradually, I understood the basic points of my vocation to be the life of prayer, community life, faithful witness of the gospel, devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, and the religious habit as a sign of my special consecration to God. That which touched me most was the biblical example of the “narrow gate” and the words from the gospel, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world . . . freely you have received, gratuitously you give.” These words gave me the courage and the strength to offer myself to God in a radically evangelical life without reserve. Surely there were always problems, but the Lord sustained me always by his grace.
During my philosophical studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, I met the Basilian monks of the Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. This is an ancient Catholic Monastic Order of Oriental rite and traditions that has ecumenical dialogue as its specific mission within the Church. The monks live and pray to bring about Jesus’ ardent prayer to the Father at the Last Supper “so that they all may be one” and the words of St. Paul, “so that God may be All in all.” In fact, the Byzantine rite is a great help for the Orthodox brethren to draw closer to the Catholic Church, and the Latin Catholics to approach more easily to the Oriental Christianity.
Immediately I was touched by the monks’ lifestyle, marked by prayer. I was particularly struck by the spirituality of Saint Basil the Great and the Byzantine tradition. I was also captivated by their interesting activities, their profound and joyful fidelity to the monastic life, their fraternal life, and their openness to life in Christ. In short, my contact with the monks was a spark of light that ignited in me great happiness and serenity. I finally understood that it was here that God was calling me. “You have called me? Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will: You are my highest Good forever!”
After an experience of about 20 days in the monastery, I entered as a postulant in August of 2005. On June 28, 2006, during the feast of the Apostle Saints Peter and Paul, I made the monastic investiture and then entered into the novitiate. The first year of novitiate was a year of abundant graces. Guided and accompanied by the novice master Fr. Antonio, I began to deepen my relationship with God. I studied the monastic Typikòn (our Holy Rule), the Byzantine liturgy, the Greek liturgical language, the writings of Saint Basil the Great, the ascetic life, and the spirituality of the holy fathers and the Holy Scriptures. I have served in our laboratory for the restoration of ancient books and in our infirmary, serving the sick in the community. I am presently a second year novice and God willing, I will make my solemn vows next year. As part of the ascetic-monastic formation, I am studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and at the same time doing diverse duties in our community.
The monastic life is a mystical experience which someone enters only through God’s invitation. The solemn vows are evidence. But it is an invitation that requires our attention. Yes, because the Lord Jesus calls many, but some people do not listen, do not realize that their names are uttered by the lips of God. My invitation to all youth like me is this: If you feel this attraction towards God, don’t put off the flame of Love that the Creator has ignited in you. Respond generously and readily and you will never regret it! God is love!
I belong to: The Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. For more information about the Basilian Monks, contact Father Antonio Costanza, O.S.B.M. at 0039-06.9459309 or write to: Basilian Monks—Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary, Corso del Popolo 128, I-00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.
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