Photo: Felix Carroll
Charles “Buck” and Rosalie Alar stand behind their son in more ways than one. They are photographed here in August when Chris professed perpetual vows.
Our Son, the Marian
By Chris Sparks (Sep 21, 2013)
Brother Chris Alar, MIC, was ordained a deacon on Sept. 21, on the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. God and his religious superiors willing, Br. Chris will be ordained a priest sometime in 2014. When Br. Chris's parents, Charles "Buck" and Rosalie Alar, visited Eden Hill on Aug. 16, for his profession of perpetual vows, we sat them down and asked a few questions.
When did you first become aware that Br. Chris was thinking about becoming a priest?
Rosalie: He was in his late twenties.
Charles: Yeah, I'd say in his late twenties. I was always looking forward to grandkids out of him, and he had some great girlfriends. But he leveled with me one day. He said that he'd really been thinking hard about the priesthood. He'd been talking to the priest down in North Carolina where he lived. It really didn't take us by surprise because he was always a very faith-filled, straight-shooting young man.
Rosalie: He told us that he had been fighting the call for about six years and felt he really couldn't let this go.
Charles: He has his master's in engineering and got his MBA from the University of Michigan. He was at General Motors and then started his own upper management and engineering recruiting firm and was doing very, very well. He had a very successful business and a lot of friends, a nice home, and was making good money, and still felt priesthood was in his future. He never really felt comfortable not pursuing it.
Rosalie: He was almost engaged a couple of times, and he said, "Every time I would think about maybe giving the ring, something inside of me would say, 'No Chris, this isn't for you. This isn't for you,'" and that just kept bothering him.
Charles, you believe God has a special plan for Br. Chris. Why?
Charles: I was almost killed in a car wreck. They thought I was dead for a while. I did wake up and I was laid up almost a year covered with plaster. I was really hurt bad. Chris was born two years later, and I feel so strongly that the main reason I was allowed to wake up when I should have been dead was so that Chris could be born. I really feel strongly about that.
Brother Chris called the perpetual vows day his "wedding day."
Rosalie: That's what I always felt, too, that that's how you would associate this in your life. And I know when he started checking out the different seminaries, he always felt that he wanted to be in a community of religious priests. A diocese wasn't really in his plans. When he took business trips, he would spend his weekends visiting the different seminaries. I still remember when he said, "I went to the Marian Fathers and I knew I was home."
Charles: As time went on, we've never seen him so happy, satisfied. He just feels like things happen where he's talked to people. He was stuck in the airport, had a big flight delay just a few months ago with storms in Florida when he was on speaking tours. And this guy came up to him and he started talking to him. He says "I want you to know I was born and raised a Catholic but I haven't been to Church in over 40 years." Of course Chris jumped in and says, "May I ask why?" The guy says, "Because, Brother Chris, I've just killed too many people." He was a sniper in Vietnam. Chris just jumped right on him and says, "First of all, it wasn't a sin, it was war. And even if it was sinful, the only sin you've committed is not having faith that no sin is greater than the mercy of God." He talked with this guy for an hour. They were on the same flight to back to Massachusetts. So they got on the flight back home after talking all that time. They were waiting for their luggage in Massachusetts and this woman came up to Chris and started crying. It was this guy's wife who'd come to the airport to pick him up. He was telling her all about the conversation with Chris. He told her, "As soon as we get home, I'm going to call the priest. I want to get back in the church. He convinced me." Chris was so happy. He says his whole life was worthwhile just for that one incident. But can you imagine the mental suffering this guy'd been going through for forty years? That woman told Chris, "You did him more good in an hour than all these psychiatrists had done for him in 40 years. And he's going to go back to Church with me. I just can't thank you enough." Being able to do that made Chris so happy.
Rosalie: He's had so many friends from Catholic Central High School in Monroe, Mich., where he went to school, and college friends call him cross-country when they've had issues — mental, physical problems, and just really bad issues that happened in their lives. He's talked to them and counseled them over the phone. They always say they feel so much better, they can accept what's happened better.
If you were speaking to parents whose sons or daughters are discerning a religious vocation, what advice would you give them?
Charles: You fall short, there's a lot of things you didn't do that you wish you'd done, but be a good parent. Really be a good parent. Take care of your family. Show them the faith. Take them to church. We were always involved in Catholic Central—send them to Catholic schools and all that, but the main thing is give them a good home life. If they don't have a good home life, the odds are against them.
For those parents who're worried about not having grandkids, what would you say to them?
Rosalie: I'm just lucky I have two children! I'm lucky that we have my daughter, we have a grandson and a granddaughter, so if Chris were my only child and I didn't have any grandchildren, that would be a little hard for me to take, I guess, but it's fine as long as I have the chance of being a grandmother.
Charles: One of the most touching moments of my life was when Jim Scheik, the son of one of our friends from our neighborhood, became a priest. I'll never forget going to his first Mass. It was held at St. Mary's Convent, which is right in our neighborhood. It's the home office of the IHM sisters. I'll never forget that moment in his first Mass when he gave communion to his parents. How touching that was, and there were a lot of people there — little did I know at the time that, God willing, we'll be experiencing that same thing. It's quite a feeling.
Rosalie: All of our family and friends and people we hardly even know are so thrilled when they hear that he will become a priest. They are needed so badly everywhere. They just think it's a wonderful thing that he's doing with his life.
Feel called to the religious life? To explore a vocation to the Marians, visit our vocations page. To help other young men answer God's call to become a Marian of the Immaculate Conception, visit our Ways of Helping page.