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Brother Angelo Casimiro, MIC, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., in December 2007.
by Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC
As a temporarily professed brother and seminarian studying for the priesthood with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, I am often asked about how I received my vocational call. It comes down to two words — Mercy and Mary. At the age of 36, I found myself looking for something more in life. I was living in southern California. I was working as a graphic designer. I had a nice apartment, and I enjoyed being with family and friends. But I felt like something was always missing.
Born and raised Catholic, I looked into other religions when I was younger but just never had the desire to leave the Church. I really didn't understand my faith, so I was just going through the motions. In 2000, my best friend went through a profound spiritual conversion or reversion experience. He turned on the radio in his car and started listening to a program about something called The Divine Mercy. Mind you, my friend had also been born and raised Catholic but had never heard of The Divine Mercy. He got together with me and couldn't stop talking about it. However, it just turned me off, and I couldn't believe all the claims about God's mercy that he was making. It sounded too good to be true.
My friend continued to talk to me about the Catholic faith and would give me books to read on The Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, Marian apparitions, and related topics. I still couldn't make sense of it all until one day he persuaded me to attend a Marian conference in Irvine, Calif. That conference totally changed my life. Probably because of my friend's prayers for me to Jesus through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my heart was slowly opening up to let the Lord come inside.
It happened during Eucharistic Adoration where I came face to face with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I saw people falling on their knees and crying. It touched me deeply, so I asked the Lord to help me see what they saw. I went through the rest of the conference and remember waking up the day after feeling like I had been spiritually transformed. All I wanted to do was to go to Mass, pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, and learn more about my Catholic faith. Our Lord and Our Lady had caught my heart, and there was no turning back.
About a month and a half later, I took a pilgrimage to a popular Marian apparition site in Europe during the week of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I went through a deeper conversion there and remember spontaneously praying The Divine Mercy Chaplet with some of the people in my pilgrimage group. I was fascinated with this image of Jesus and the red and pale rays coming from His Heart. Where had I seen this before? Then I remembered visiting my aunt in the Philippines in 1997. I went to Sunday Mass at her parish, which was providentially called The Divine Mercy! Back then, I was also really struck with this image of Jesus but didn't know what it meant.
It was immediately after coming back from my pilgrimage when I started to sense that maybe God was calling me to the priesthood and religious life. Even though I didn't know it at the time, the Lord and Our Lady had enrolled me in the school of trust. I didn't fully understand what was going on within me spiritually, so I started going to daily Eucharistic Adoration to discern my vocation. Talking to the priests in my parish helped me in my discernment, so I started looking into different religious orders. However, part of me still didn't feel worthy to become a priest or religious. But then I came across these words from St. Paul: "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Cor 12:9). It is this scripture passage that continues to sustain me.
In 2002, I entered a religious community, and the first place that they sent me was to a mission in Central America. It was something I would have never dreamed of doing before, but I discerned that it was God's will. I trusted that He would take care of me. The time that I spent in Central America was a valuable learning experience, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. The Lord taught me a lot about trusting in His merciful love when I was there. One time I almost drowned in the river, but the Lord and Our Lady were looking out for me. The time that it happened was during the Hour of Great Mercy — at around 3 p.m. I attribute my life being spared to The Divine Mercy through the intercession of Mary.
After Central America, I was sent to Texas to study philosophy. It had been years since I was in college, so again I trusted that the Lord would look out for me and help me with my studies. I ended up doing better in my courses than I thought I would. However, after being in this particular religious community for about a year and a half, I discerned that it was no longer where God was calling me. So I came back home to California to continue to discern my vocation. I found a new parish and asked one of the priests to be my spiritual director. He helped me to grow in the spiritual life by taking me through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
When I did my initial investigation into the different religious orders, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception came up, but I never really followed up with them. So I decided to look at them again and talked with the vocation director. I attended a vocation retreat in Stockbridge, Mass., and I immediately identified with their dedication to spreading The Divine Mercy message and their veneration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which were very instrumental in my spiritual conversion a few years before.
So I applied to the Marians and was accepted as a postulant in 2005. In that year, I finished up my philosophy requirements at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. In the summer of 2006, I was assigned for a summer ministry at The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. I had a great time working at the Shrine and interacting with the pilgrims. I'm naturally introverted, so God providentially put me into situations where I would have to talk to different groups of people. Later that summer, I entered the Marian novitiate in Washington, D.C. The novitiate was again a time of learning in the school of trust and falling deeper in love with the Lord and Our Lady.
One saint in particular was my spiritual guide all throughout my novitiate. I'd always had a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, but it was during this time when it was especially strengthened. The Lord revealed to me to follow her "Little Way of Confidence and Love" in loving Him. It was the way that He wanted me to console His Heart, by trusting in His merciful love. Here is the quote from St. Therese that got me through my novitiate: "What pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy. ... That is my only treasure."
On August 15, 2007, I made my first profession of vows as a religious brother in the Marian community at The Divine Mercy Chapel in Brookeville, Md. It was a day filled with an outpouring of consolations from the Merciful Lord and Our Lady. I had never felt Them more present than I did on that day. I am currently in my first year of theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., where I continually live by the words, "Jesus, I trust in You."
I am a "work in progress," and it still amazes me that God would want to use as weak an instrument as myself to tell others about His love and mercy. That's why I've taken great comfort that Jesus said the following to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: "You are I know the most incapable person, weak and sinful, but just because you are that I want to use you, for My glory!"
That should give the rest of us a lot of hope.