"One does not have to wait until one is too old in order to give one’s life to God. Today’s world is in need of young men and women who are truly willing to give all, even their youth, for God and for the salvation of humanity. God calls you now, not later. He needs you today, not tomorrow. He calls you for the grandeur of service and not for the smallness of egoism. If you give, you will receive. Give a lot and you will receive in abundance."Religious Name: Br. Greggy Maria of Jesus Christ
Date of entrance: September 15th, 2003
Age at entrance: 16 years old
City and country of origin: Cebú, Philipines
Date of perpetual vows: September 8th, 2012
The Road Called Tomorrow.
One day, the father of a family of five boys asked his sons, “What would you like to be when you grow older?” The oldest brother said he wanted to become a doctor. “Why,” asked the father. “So I can heal the sick people,” the son replied. The next of the sons cried out, “I want to be a lawyer to defend those who are falsely accused.” Another son said, “I want to become a fireman in order to rescue many from fire.” The second to the last of the sons said, “I want to be like you, dad. I want to have many children.” Finally, the father brought the same question to the youngest of the children. “And you, what do you want to be when you grow up?” That son replied firmly, “I want to be a priest.” The father, having heard the response, was surprised. “But, why? What can you do when you become a priest?” The son replied, “All at once, I can be doctor, a lawyer, a fireman and a father. Only a priest can heal those souls sickened by sin. A priest may intercede for all humanity with the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. A priest can save many souls from the fires of Hell. A priest is the father of many souls, of all the faithful.”
That story is not my story. I’m not the youngest of five, I’m the second of three. But yes, we all are boys. When I was young, I always said to my parents that I wanted to become a priest when I grow older. The reason why? Well, in order to please my parents. The father of the little story I’ve just told was surprised by the response of the youngest son. My father, however, wanted at least one of his three children to become a priest.
When my father was young, his mother sent him to the seminary. It was not because he was called to that vocation. It was more because that style of life would control him a little. When my father was young, he was very active. One day, his mother, my grandmother, prepared a bag of clothes and books. Then she brought him to the seminary. Although he was in the seminary without desiring to be in it, his entire formation there helped him greatly to become a mature young man. He completed his time at the Minor Seminary and entered the Major Seminary. He was there for some years and then left, because he came to the conclusion that the priesthood was not an occupation, but a vocation. My father did not have that vocation to the priesthood. By Divine Providence, although he himself did not have the priestly vocation, he did have sons who turned out to have it. I am one of them.
In order to please my parents, we would tell them that we wanted to become priests when we grew up. When that question came out in school assignments, we would write down that word: “priest”. As the years passed, the ideas changed. Men nowadays think mostly about how to fill their pockets with money. That was how I started to think: “I can become a doctor or a lawyer in order to become rich and wealthy.” Nevertheless, I always retained a certain respect towards my parents. In order to please them, I would always say that I was open to becoming a priest.
In the first year of High School, the youth were already warned how they had to prepare themselves for the University. This also referred to their work life. Already in the first year, as a freshman, you think of how to gain success in the future. The freshmen are already planning how to be successful materially. Same deal with me: fifteen years old and I already have a plan for my life. I already started to plan for myself. I thought of studying medicine and law. I left aside the idea of the priesthood. I only brought that idea out when I would talk with my parents. I never brought that idea before God. Nevertheless, the day came when all my ideas and thoughts were presented before God, despite all my efforts to hide from it.
My mother signed us up for a summer-camp with other Filipino boys. I didn’t really care about going or not. Since I knew most of the guys in the summer-camp, I had no objection to going. We arrived in the midst of some immense corn fields in the State of Pennsylvania. A total of ten boys participated in the camp. The youngest was fourteen years old; I was fifteen years old. It was a summer-camp filled with physical activities, and spiritual ones too. We played sports, capture-the-flag, flag-war, and other outdoor activities. However, the summer-camp was not limited to the games and having fun: the leaders placed us before God throughout every day. We had talks, daily masses, daily rosaries, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The camp lasted ten days and we were ten boys; therefore, each one of us had the opportunity to act as altar server in the masses. It was my turn on that Thursday night that changed my life. The priest who celebrated that Holy Mass did not talk of the vocation. Neither did he even preach about the priesthood, nor the religious life, nor consecrating one’s life to God. During the Masses in the homilies, during the whole summer-camp, the subject of the vocation was not present. What he said in that homily that Thursday night awoke the call of the vocation in me. I was an old Spanish saying: “The road named Tomorrow leads to the Town called Never.” Never? How is it possible that if someone says tomorrow, they really mean never? I realized that I had been telling God “tomorrow”. I would say “later”, “when I grow older”, “afterwards”, “tomorrow”. But in the end, I was saying to God “Never”. Then and there my eyes were opened. I literally started to shed tears. I tried to hold my feelings. I tried to hold my tears within, but I was incapable of controlling it. I cried and cried. Then and there, I understood that God had been calling me since I was young. With the coming of my adolescence, I placed thousands of obstacles in his way. “Tomorrow,” I cried out to God, “later.” I did not want Him to act in my life, because I already had it all planned out without his approval.
During the summer-camp, we saw a movie about Padre Pio of Pietralcina. Padre Pio was fifteen years old when he entered the Capuchin Friars. He had the strength to surrender all of his youth to the Lord. This fact impressed me. One can give one’s life at such a young age. If he was able to give his life to God at my age, why can’t I? I don’t want to live like before, with half measures. No longer do I want to be mediocre. I no longer desire to say “tomorrow” to God. I want to give him everything, even my own youth. “Yes, Lord, I give myself to You. Here I am.” But, how may I surrender my youth? I decided to take the first step of living my Christian life in a more committed way.
After the summer-camps, my younger brother Kristian and I decided to live a Christian life that was more radical. We discovered the great treasure of the daily Communion. If people could collect gold every day at a certain place, thousands would go every day to become more and more wealthy. We found the treasure; we were not about to let it go.
My family participated in a Catholic Charismatic Community every Friday night. I remembered moments during the week when I desired that the weekdays would end, not because I wanted to go out partying at the weekends like most youth, but because I wanted to “let it all out” every Friday before God in the prayer meetings. Now I did not have to wait until Fridays to receive more strength to continue my daily life. Thanks to the summer-camp, I found out that I may receive consolation and spiritual strength every day in the daily Masses, in the Eucharist: in the Body, the Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
My father thought it was a spiritual high that we received from the summer-camp. He thought it was going to last just for a while, maybe a week or even a month. At least in this, he was wrong. We desired to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day. My father came to understand that it was the Eucharist in daily Adoration and daily Mass that gave us the strength to persevere. He was left with no choice but to drive us to Mass every day.
Two weeks passed and the mother of one of the Servant Sisters called us on the phone. She told us that Father Rafael was going to have lunch in a house in New Jersey before the girls’ summer-camps would begin. My family would get to know Father Rafael Alonso Reymundo, the founder of the Home of the Mother. In the house, Father Rafael asked each and every one of the youth about our experiences in the summer-camps. When he asked me, I started to shed tears. Tears came out just at the thought of the graces that God granted to my soul in those unforgettable ten days of the summer-camp in Pennsylvania.
Father Rafael, then and there, invited me to discern my vocation in Spain. There was a possibility for me to study using the “home-schooling” program and at the same time discern my vocation. I really wanted to; however, I thought my parents would not let me go at such a young age of fifteen years. I was right; my parents told me that I could wait since I’m still young. But that was precisely what God wanted from me. Since that homily from that Thursday Mass in the summer-camp, I had already decided to surrender everything, even my own youth. God showed me how.
My parents saw the seriousness of my desire to discern. Therefore, they themselves also discerned with me. Normally, when my family faced certain problems, whether it be financial, material, or spiritual problems, we would all pray at 6 o’clock: the angelus, a mystery of the Holy Rosary, and Bible reflections with the daily readings. Frequently, Gospel passages that had to do with the vocation came up: “He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37); “and leaving everything behind, they followed him”; “Let the children come to me” (Mark 10). When this latter passage came up in the readings, my younger brother who was ten years old at that time, gave a surprising reflection before my family: “Let the children come to Him. Let Greggy go to Jesus. Jesus is calling him.” My mother could not hold her tears when she heard her youngest son say that.
Finally my parents decided that I could go to Spain, but they added a condition. They would come with me in order to see it for themselves. The twelfth of September 2002, just a little more than a month after the summer-camps, my family boarded the airplane with Spain as its destination. In that week in which my parents accompanied me, they came to approve of the place and the joyful people. I remained for two months in order to discern. When the end of the two months approached, I had to face the fact that I had to return to the States. I thought it was going to be difficult to persevere in the spiritual life when I would return.
In the United States I started to live a schedule of a mature Christian life, with daily Mass, and the Holy Hour of Adoration balanced with my studies. It was difficult to live it alone. I did not have any access to a community life like I had experienced with the Servant Brothers of the Home, which I missed a lot. There were some young people who had been to the summer-camps and also desired to live a good Christian life. We started our own prayer meetings and apostolate. Although we tried to encourage each other mutually, God was preparing me to surrender my life in the community of the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother. Therefore, from the moment I came back to the United States, I did all that I could to get a Student Visa in order to study in Spain with the Brothers.
Finally, I returned to Spain. The same month that I got there, the Servant Brothers led a pilgrimage all around Spain with a group of young men. We visited some Carmelite convents associated with Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila and other Spanish saints. In the convent of Saint Joseph of the Incarnation, a young girl at the age of sixteen entered as a postulant of the Carmelite Sisters. I was also sixteen years old. I was not alone. I was not the only young person who wanted to surrender my whole life to God.
I still did not yet get to enter as a candidate in the Servant Brothers. But I figured that the fact of living with them and like them was almost as good as entering as a Servant Brother. During the pilgrimage, Father Rafael asked me if I wanted to make my entry in the parish church where he was baptized, in the town of Jerez del Marquesado. I exclaimed interiorly, “Wherever and whenever!” On the fifteenth of September 2003, feast-day of Our Lady of Sorrows, I gave my life to God and our Mother Mary as a Servant Brother of the Home of the Mother. I did not have any doubts whatsoever. I still remember the assurance I felt and the peace that reigned in me at that moment.
Since then I have fallen more and more in love with my vocation as a Servant Brother of the Home of the Mother. I finished my High School studies with Seton Home Schooling in Spain. I entered the novitiate when I was eighteen years old. At twenty years old, I proclaimed my first temporal vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty as Brother Greggy Mary of Jesus Christ, and another vow to defend the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary in my life and with my life. When I made my first vows, my younger brother and my mother came to visit me in Spain. To my surprise, my younger brother, Kristian, received the grace of his vocation during that visit. Five months later, he entered as an Aspirant of the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother. I remained in Spain for a year of spirituality; the following year I studied in Ave Maria University in the United States; for a year I formed part of the new community of Servant Brothers in Nicaragua and afterwards I studied in the University of Navarra in Spain. God sends me wherever He wants.
I thank God for having called me. I thanks Our Mother for having chosen me to be her gift. I thank my father, who passed away on May 19th, 2011 from cancer, for always being beside me to help me discern my vocation. I thank him and my mother for their generosity in giving their two sons to God. As he told my mom: "They no longer belong to us. We were only their guardians."
One does not have to wait until one is too old in order to give one’s life to God. Today’s world is in need of young men and women who are truly willing to give all, even their youth, for God and for the salvation of humanity. God calls you now, not later. He needs you today, not tomorrow. He calls you for the grandeur of service and not for the smallness of egoism. If you give, you will receive. Give a lot and you will receive in abundance.