Almost There

posted Jul 21, 2015, 7:46 AM by Brothers Vocation

Blessed are you, pilgrim, because you have discovered that the authentic Camino begins when this pilgrimage ends.

We left Arzua to Arca as we are getting close to culminating our journey to Santiago de Compostela today. It is almost uncanny to think that we are almost there! When you look around, people hurting and aching are pretty much the common scene but the spirits are really high because we know that the shrine of Santiago is approaching.

As one of the Brothers mentioned today, "This journey is very much about 'The Sacred & the Agony' but the Sacred really outweighs the agony by far." I completely agree with him because this Camino experience has been really a blessed opportunity to take a step back and plunge into the depths of the soul within the context of a fraternal bond that is truly lived by walking.

Tomorrow we leave for Santiago de Compostela, which is so very exciting and something that I would have never thought I would be doing. The anticipation, exhilaration and energy are very much palpable. I am confident that it will be a very powerful experience and one that will be very cherished and treasured as we all walk in to the town where the remains of the apostle Santiago are kept. Thank you all for keeping us in your prayers... we've been holding you in our hearts.

¡¡Ánimo La Salle!! ¡Sí se puede!
Bro. Anwar Martinez, FSC

A Journey Inward

posted Jul 20, 2015, 9:39 AM by Brothers Vocation

I was tickled when in today's Gospel Mark tells the story with "and they hurried there by foot." Ha! I am not hurrying anywhere by foot! I covered today's 20 kilometers slowly, but I have to tell you, my heart was moving quickly.

I am elated by the care we have for one another. I am gratified by the encouragement we offer one another. I am amazed by the natural beauty that greets us every morning. I am awed by the depth of spiritual vision my compañeros have. I am touched by the young Lasallians who are making this walk with zeal and solidarity. I am moved by the affection this mobile Lasallian community has for one another. I am seared by the personal memories of love that erupt as I walk along. I am moved by the dedication of the adult volunteers who prepare our meals, tend to our wounds and lighten our loads. I am opened to the living presence of the Spirit as we take steps toward one another while we stride to Santiago.

Before making the Camino I wanted to cut down on my body weight as well as the pack's. I became more conscious of what I ate and drank. On the Camino I've realized that the real weight to reduce is my inner life's. You know, cutting back on the bad cholesterol of regrets, angers, sullenness and unavailability. Drastically reducing the fatty diet of narcissism, exclusion and arrogance.

So, the Camino is teaching me to purge. But my brothers and sisters are reminding me to prepare an inner feast of appreciation, awe, fraternity, dreams, compassion and gentleness!

As I walk I have learned a new way to rest in simple attention. I am attentive to the immense love my mom, now in heaven, and my dad feed me with: forgiveness, nurturance, encouragement and blessing. I am attentive to the fervor my brothers bring to their ministry and the fun that sustains them. I am attentive to the expectant hope that keeps us moving toward the Lord, and away from our frustrations and fragilities.

I have learned that the Camino is a time to empty and a time to fill. In this land of Don Quixote, I am reminded to treasure the riches I have freely received and to continue my quest as a Christian Brother to give in the same measure. I am impelled to walk the walk of discipleship and to be the good news others have been for me.
Bro. Tim Coldwell, FSC

Gaining Perspective

posted Jul 18, 2015, 5:32 AM by Brothers Vocation

With three days of walking the blisters have started to show. In a foreign land with many kilometers under foot and many more stretching before us, we have already each faced our own set of challenges.

Physical, mental, spiritual--new people, places, and experiences confront us each day, all adding to the perspective gained from being far away from home on a contemplative journey with much time for thinking.
We walk the Camino together as Brothers, but fraternity is nothing without the individuals which make it up. Each one of us brings strengths and weaknesses to the table and it is only in embracing both that we can tap into the beautiful talents which we have all been given. It was said the other night that expectations are unnecessary baggage on this journey and that is certainly has been true. Continuing on the baggage theme, we are called to ask ourselves what we need to leave behind with each step we take, but also those things which we should collect along the way. Rightly said, our Camino truly starts when we finish, when we go home again to our recognizable lives, carrying with us the fruits of our pilgrimage. As we attune to the unique rhythms of various personalities and settings, we each find our own pace walking with God, approaching each day with an open mind for what is in store.‎

On a pilgrimage where a great distance is to be covered, coming closer to the end is meant to feel good; and yet, as I lay on a concrete floor yesterday, exhausted after the day's walk, I couldn't help but feeling happy that we were not even half way done. There is much left to be thought about, many discussions left to be had, many people still to meet, bread yet to be broken, many memories yet to form.

Chris Sullivan is in the Contact Program for DENA (learn more) from Toronto, Canada, where he attended De La Salle Oaklands for high school. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto, with studies in International Relations and Philosophy. He is beginning graduate studies in Philosophy in September.

Listening to God's call in the Silence

posted Jul 17, 2015, 5:13 AM by Brothers Vocation   [ updated Jul 17, 2015, 5:14 AM ]

As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 2:2-5)

Nineteen years ago, and at the age of 19, I went to the novitiate in Nairobi, Kenya. I had joined the Brothers in Nigeria right after high school. I spent a year in the postulancy house before going to the novitiate because I had gone to the Brothers’ middle and high school, and knew the Brothers pretty well.

One thing that was difficult for me in the novitiate was silence. I could afford the 30 minutes meditation in the morning, but to maintain silence during the day was not my cup of tea. So the compulsory hour of silence in the afternoon was particularly difficult for me. It was referred to in the program as “listening time”. I remember asking the novice master what and whom we were supposed to listen to. His respond was, “listen to Jesus, listen to De La Salle, and listen to yourself”. Deep within me, this was the most senseless and mechanical thing to “pretend” to do.

The irrepressible and gregarious teenager in me had no time to be still in the name of listening to a non-interactive physical presence. It was a hard adjustment for me, but gradually I began to use the hour to nap, and sometimes to just be by myself (since all the other novices were quiet in their rooms). Gradually, I began to utilize the quiet hour. As I did, at first grudgingly and frustratingly, things started to cry out from my life that needed pastoral and spiritual attention. I began to take some of these to spiritual accompaniment, and to community prayer. It became the source of my prayer life. What began, as a frustrating effort has today become an invaluable tool in my life as a Brother. Moments of solitude, retreat, recollection and time away from the sometimes-raucous activities of life have become my bread of life!

The Camino journey is an invitation to listen to my fellow Brothers on the journey, and to listen to myself. It is an opportunity to listen to the vocation stories and journeys of various Brothers, and to appreciate mine. It is an opportunity to listen to myself through their stories of struggle and grace. It is a time to discern anew the call of God to minister to his people in new creative ways, according to the signs of the time; but also according to the spirit of the Lord that cries out “Abba Father!” I believe that we have a mission to be in the world, and not run away from the world, because of the secular challenges facing young people: torn between the desire for God and the quest for excessive materialism and secularism. We have a call to pay attention to the victims of greed, ethnicity, war, immigration dilemma, economic exploitation and religious intolerance. These victims are around us on a daily basis if we listen to God and open our eyes of faith. Unfortunately, most times, God is speaking and we are not listening because we presume that God is the one who has stopped listening to what we are saying.

An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, "Honey, can you hear me?" There was no response. He moved a little closer and said again, "Honey, can you hear me?" Still, there was no response. Finally he moved right behind her and said, "Honey, can you hear me?" She replied, "For the third time, Yes!"

How might we not be listening to the respond of God in our calls? When have we presumed that God is not listening to our personal struggles and the struggles of our vocation? Isn’t His command to us so clear in the words of the prophet Ezekiel when he says, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day”? Doesn’t Ezekiel speak to us in these words; “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them”? How do we remain prophetic through listening to the voice of God, by listening to ourselves, and the challenges that we face in conveying God’s message to the young people confided to our care? How do we touch the hearts of these young people with God’s message of love, community and service, away from a materially oriented, selfish and faithless world?
Br. Moses Abunya, FSC

Beatitudes of a Pilgrim

posted Jul 16, 2015, 5:46 AM by Brothers Vocation   [ updated Jul 17, 2015, 5:14 AM ]

El Camino eres Tú, Señor
La verdad eres Tú, Señor
Y la vida eres Tú, Señor

We began our second day of pilgrimage with this sung refrain which remained with us as an important Truth for our journey today.  Some believed that today's walk from Mondoñedo to Abadín was more strenuous than our first day.  One underlying lesson we are integrating is the need to see the journey as the experience; it is not about arriving first to our next town. Unlike Rome or Jerusalem (other preeminent Christian pilgrimages), the Camino is as sacred as the destination for which we are headed.  

We reflected today on some of the Beatitudes of a Pilgrim:

Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that the Camino opens your eyes to what cannot be seen. 

Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that going back to help someone is worth more than one hundred forward steps without looking to your side. 

Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that the Camino has a lot of silence, and silence has prayer, and prayer is an encounter with Our God who awaits you. 

Solitary and communal times are becoming equally important to us as we enter more fully into the Camino experience.  It is important to note that our group is also fully immersing itself in another quintessential Camino experience: blister abatement and care. 

Please continue to keep us in prayer as we walk this sacred journey. Know you are in our ambulatory prayer, too. 

Live Jesus in Our Hearts. Forever!

Br. Dave Deradoorian, FSC

Rhythm and Reality

posted Jul 15, 2015, 6:12 AM by Brothers Vocation

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to the melodious sounds of the Spanish National Anthem followed by some Spanish dance music that I didn’t recognize. Sleeping in the bleacher section of the gym, along with the other members of the three representative districts, below us on the gym floor, was a sea of 240 Lasallian high schools school students from around Spain and the Canary Islands.

July 14- Reality set in that this was the first day of the El Camino walk and I had to break down all my gear, try to get bathroom time and be ready for Morning Prayer followed by breakfast. Of course, my apprehension and anxiety was now heightened because this was the longest of the eight days. Fifteen miles to be exact, and I would be sporting a backpack that weighted close to 18 pounds. Within 45 minutes all 240 high school students and their chaperones were well on the way to the Camino; this left just our RELAN contingent and one Australian Brother.

As we began to ascend out of Mondoñedo the pace was established and the younger members of our group took off. Realizing that there was no way in hell that I would survive the first day walking at that pace, I began to fall in to a rhythm that would serve me well for the next 15 miles. Passing through beautiful countryside and meeting others people walking the Camino sharing our experiences, helped to pass the time away.

Walking has always been a time for my own spiritual renewal by having conversations with God. After about two hours conversing with my fellow travelers, I began to pull away, with a newfound burst of energy and begin my private conversation with God. How good it feels to walk in God’s presence, in this beautiful country, doing what pilgrims have done for over a thousand years.  The conversation with God was good and before I knew it, within my sights was my destination, Abadin.  

I had arrived, not in too much pain, but the fear and anxiety of reaching and arriving with time to spare was most exhilarating.  I took a moment, bowed my head and in prayer thanked my God for allowing me to realize the first goal of many on this trip. I was especially grateful for the high and endless roads that St. Elizabeth Parish (county) in Jamaica West Indies had afforded me in the many months I was preparing for the El Camino.

 Br. Augustine Nicoletti, FSC

Our Best Interests at Heart

posted Jul 14, 2015, 6:37 AM by Brothers Vocation   [ updated Jul 14, 2015, 6:38 AM ]

I remember the day I was invited to travel along side many holy pilgrims in Spain on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I couldn't contain my excitement, and it wasn't difficult to see that I was filled with overflowing joy.

I immediately thought back to the night before we left for Brazil two years ago. I was incredibly nervous to travel across the globe for World Youth Day with the Lasallian contingent of Brothers of the Christian Schools and other young people. I would have been unable to sleep that night if we hadn't started watching a movie called The Way. This movie not only calmed my fears, but also gave me a glimpse of what the Camino was and what treasures it holds for those who travel on it. Once the movie ended we were all joking and laughing about how much fun it would be to do the Camino, but how nearly impossible it would be to organize such an event.

As I sat thinking about the memory, after receiving the phone call, I thought 'here we are, by the grace of God we are actually going to hike the Camino from the movie we watched two summers ago!'

I quickly started searching for a hiking pack, shoes, and other gear that I would need for this journey. After some purchases at REI I felt equipped for the Camino, but not even slightly prepared physically for the amount of hiking that is in store for me. Which leads me into how thankful I am for God always having our best interests at heart.

Prior to having accepted the invitation to this trip my friend approached me and asked me if I wanted to work at a Christian summer camp that is held at the top of a mountain in Maryland. I said yes (reluctantly), and because of that yes, I have had the joy of hiking a few miles everyday around the mountain, rock climbing, doing three bible studies a day, living in community with other counselors and campers, and much more. If it were not for this summer camp I may have not been as prepared for this trip as I am now.

I will continue to pray for all those joining me on this pilgrimage, for all those who have helped organize and plan this trip, and for all those who's hearts have not been opened up to God's infinite love and compassion.

I ask for any prayers you are able to offer for myself, and the many others who will be hiking with me. Oremos unos por otros! God bless!

Luke Koski is in the Contact Program for DENA (learn more about the DENA ContactProgram here), and he will be a Senior at Towson University this upcoming academic year with a double major in Psychology and Philosophy.

Excitement and Uncertainties

posted Jul 13, 2015, 8:00 AM by Brothers Vocation

“I’m going to be sleeping in this?,” I remarked to no one in particular, over the sprawled-out sleeping bag I had recently purchased in preparation for my journey on the Camino. 

Years earlier, my reaction probably would have been different. Having spent considerable time in Boy Scouting growing up, I had had considerable outdoor experience. Every summer for 12 years I had slept outside for one week at Boy Scout summer camp, plus numerous weekend camping trips in the months in between. Now, having stumbled into young adulthood without having become the poster child for wanderlust, I wonder how I ever managed any of it. It has now been in the neighborhood of seven years since I have camped anywhere, and I was very sure I had never attempted anything quite as intensive as the Camino.

I approached the Camino with a great deal of uncertainty, as I suspect many of my fellow pilgrims did. Going in, we had only vague hints as to what structure it would take- we would be hiking for about twelve to fifteen miles a day, we would be sleeping at various church, school, or gymnasium floors in sleeping bags, and we would be having our meals at various outlets along the way. 

Why would I choose to put myself up to something where there are so many uncertainties? 

As months became weeks and weeks became days, several of my interlocutors asked me the inevitable questions- not only whether I had seen the film The Way (no), but how I felt about going into the experience. My response would usually end up sounding something like this: “I may not know exactly what I am getting myself into, but I’m just going to push myself forward, not worry about the minor details, and take in the experience as it moves along and hopefully emerge a better (not bitter) person because of it.” Boys eventually become men, and the journey of adult life will always involve a deeper and deeper plunge into the mysteries of uncertainty. If you are human, you have no doubt experienced this. What gave me hope and inspiration was the anticipation of fun times and lasting memories spent with a group of men who have made my first three years of formation with the Brothers a positive glimpse of things to come.

“I’m not an outdoorsman, but I love the outdoors.” It’s a compromise I reached with some degree of guilt, especially after the early years in Scouting. Perhaps I have indeed grown a bit too attached to the comforts of the indoors in my young adult years. “Foxes have dens and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head,” Jesus remarks in Matthew’s Gospel. Virtually every night of my life, I know where I will be sleeping. For eight nights in the very near future, I won’t, but will it really matter in the big picture? Brothers walking alongside Brothers…that’s the Camino that gets me excited!

Br. Johnathon Emanuelson 

Traveling Together

posted Jul 13, 2015, 7:18 AM by Brothers Vocation   [ updated Jul 17, 2015, 5:14 AM ]

"I have never been this excited on a journey with Brothers to share our lives as consecrated and soon to be consecrated men. For me this is an opportunity to walk with fellow Brothers physically but also spiritually, and to share our strengths and challenges in the journey of our vocation. My head is filled with excitement and I can’t wait to begin, " said Brother Moses.

July 11- We are checked in and awaiting our 4:45pm flight to Madrid. Six of us from the Midwest are traveling together: Brother Moses and I, Brother Postulants Ryan Anderson, Johnathon Emanuelson, and Michael Phipps, and soon-to-be postulant Matt Kotek.

We met for brunch at the provincial community house and followed that up with prayer and some last-minute “touching base”. Michael and Matt put together a very tasty and hearty brunch, and we were joined by Brothers Mike Kadow, Tom Johnson, Paul Ackerman, and Patricio from Italy who is a guest at the novitiate house.

During prayer, we took some time to “check in” with each other. We all agree that the Camino offers each of us a chance to put on the brakes and simply focus on “the now”. For me the timing is an opportunity to pause as I begin my second term as Visitor and do some reflecting, while being accompanied by Brothers and men in initial formation from RELAN and Spain. This is a blessing and privilege.

I have never been this excited on a journey with Brothers to share our lives as consecrated/ and soon to be consecrated men. For me this is an opportunity to walk with fellow Brothers physically but also spiritually, and to share our strengths and challenges in the journey of our vocation. My head is filled with excitement and I can’t wait to begin.                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                           Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

Here’s the traveler’s prayer we prayed this morning: (by Diana Macalintil)

 Bless me, Lord, as I begin this adventure.

Open my eyes to see you in the people I will meet.

Open my ears to hear your word in new and surprising ways.

Open my hands to be your blessing in whatever situation I find myself.

And open my heart to receive you wherever I may go.

Protect me from harm as I travel and give your wisdom to those I rely on for my safety.

A Road to the Reflective

posted Jul 3, 2015, 9:51 AM by Brothers Vocation   [ updated Jul 13, 2015, 7:24 AM ]

In beginning to prepare for The Camino, I found myself rather inundated with information. As soon as friends, family, and the occasional acquaintance heard about the trip, the floodgates of advice on camping, hiking, international travel, and various other topics opened wide. To further complicate matters, I turned to the all-knowing Google as a starting point. From the initial trek to REI (during which I undoubtedly looked like the quintessential novice backpacker) to trips to the bank, doctor, and gym, I gained some ground on planning.

It wasn’t until I began working on a morning prayer for our reflection day that I realized what a deeply spiritual experience the Camino will become. Lost in the bustle of details is the simple, yet profound testament of journeying together on a path that invites to a deeper understanding of ourselves and an ongoing commitment to community. As in 1 Kings 19:12, God does not always speak to us in the roar and tumult of our busy lives. Often, he speaks in a whisper to our heart and soul

The Camino is one such whisper. 

It does not solely represent a chance to develop companionship and Brotherhood. Working through creating the prayer experience, I came to the realization that the Camino also opens up opportunities for delving into introspective meditation. Certainly a communal experience, the Camino offers moments of solitude during which one can steal away to  collect and sift through thoughts, insights, and wisdom garnered from the myriad manifestations of God’s grace. One only need open their soul to the soft whisper of the Spirit.

Preparing for the Camino has been just as much a journey for me as the walk itself will likely prove. Like many points on my vocation path, this preparation period has offered me a chance to reflect on my reasons for walking the Camino. Mirroring my preparation for Novitiate, moments of stress and anxiety have transformed into periods of understanding, wisdom, and peace. This sense of spiritual clarity will hopefully flow into and saturate my experience of the Camino while continuing to challenge my paradigm of community and Brotherhood. The time spent on the roads of Spain will certainly lend to a reflective atmosphere, just as the time spent in preparation has provided a refreshing take on discernment and dedication.

Br. Michael Phipps

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