In May, Sara, Sean, and I were on mission in Europe. We started in Germany, then Holland, Paris, back to Holland, Spain, back to Holland, to Lyon, France, and then back to Holland. It was a lot of travel over three weeks but were able to share the mission of Life Teen, visit many of the Life Teen parishes in Europe, meet so many new people we now call family, and witness all the ways the Holy Spirit is moving in Europe! Please pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Europe who are standing firm in their faith. They are few but very strong!
One of the very special reasons we went to Europe was to see our missionary brother, JJ, receive his habit and new name with the Community of St. John in France. JJ and I were in our formation year together at Covecrest in 2009. One thing we often talked about that year was Pope John Paul II’s quote, “Become who you are.” Throughout the weekend, I witnessed very clearly that JJ was becoming EXACTLY who God had created him to be. JJ entering the Brothers has always been God’s plan and JJ is just following the path laid out for him. We all have a calling from God. Pray and be open to hearing it.
The ceremony was held in Paray-le-monial, France. This is the same town where the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary. It is a very tiny town and everybody who was there over Pentecost weekend were all there to celebrate with the Community of St. John. The community consists of the Brothers of St. John, Apostolic Sisters, and Contemplative Sisters. In addition to JJ receiving his habit and new name, we saw two Sisters and seven Brothers make their final professions. Witnessing these permanent vows was a first for me. As the sisters laid prostrate before the altar and the Litany of Saints was sung, I could not help but be moved by the beauty and power of this gesture. Later, I was sharing my feelings with a friend and she said, “Of course you are moved because that is how you desire your heart to be each day. Laid at the altar of Our Lord in complete sacrifice and surrender.” What Truth! Families gathered from all over the continent and many people were surprised to see that Americans came all the way to France for the ceremony. But I was NOT going to miss my brother, JJ, becoming who he is!
At JJ’s ceremony, the brothers receiving their new names and habits were all asked to wear suits and ties. As a group, they knelt before the Superior General as their Novice Master called out their new names. When the Novice Master got to JJ, “John James Hussem now Brother Michael Joseph”. Next, Brother Michael Joseph (JJ) was called forward to receive his habit. The Novice master removed the “old man” by removing his suit coat and tie and then put on the “new man” by placing is habit over his head. Before my eyes I witnessed JJ become Brother Michael Joseph and become exactly who God wants him to be. The Joy on Brother Michael Joseph’s face can only be described as Radiant!
After the ceremony, I was talking to Brother Michael Joseph about his new habit and he said something very striking, “Now no one will be able to question who my loyalty is to. Yes I will get strange stares and I will be persecuted but I will be thankful.” Just then a couple came up and asked if he would pray for them and their son. Brother Michael Joseph stopped right then and there and prayed with the couple. Brother MJ then reminded me of something we learned our formation year that we should not wait to pray for the people who give us their intentions instead we should pray right there with them. As I reflected on this I realized that although Brother MJ may be persecuted by some for what he wears, he is also a comfort to people like that couple who need prayers. That couple knew they encountered someone who was close to God and could trust him to pray for their family. I may never wear a habit but at the least I can wear a crucifix! What a witness just a crucifix could be! I need to not be afraid to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh” Romans 13:14. Let’s be BOLD, JOYFUL, THANKFUL, and stand firm in our faith by our interior life in Christ but also the way we carry ourseleves on the outside Through the Lord Jesus Christ we can do all these things. The Brothers of St. John say while they take their final vows, “I want This!” May we too want this in our daily lives. May we BECOME WHO WE ARE.