Photo: Chris Sparks
Rallying Cry for a 'Battle Breed'
By Chris Sparks (Feb 17, 2014)
You may suspect you're in for a heck of a ride when Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, walks into the first conference of your vocation retreat (said conference called "Battle Breed: The New Generation of Priests") carrying a life-sized replica of Lord of the Rings character Aragorn's sword Andúril and says, "All right. Now we separate the men from the boys."
A group of five men attended a retreat led by Fr. Donald, the Marian Fathers' vocation director, the weekend of Dec. 6-8 at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. Hailing from Oregon, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, they represented a wide range of life experience and education. They also had diverse faith journeys to share, including that of young Damon of St. Mary's Parish in Plano, Ill., who converted to Catholicism two years ago; those of the reverts Mike from Pennsylvania, Dustin from Oregon, and Jim from Downers Grove, Ill.; and the lifelong Catholicism of Michael from California. But all the retreatants came with certain things in common, according to Fr. Donald.
"Each has grown up in a culture that has been classified by recent Popes as a culture of death," said Fr. Donald. "There are wolves out there, demons that want your soul. The last 100 years or so in the history of the Church and the world have been unlike any other.
"I've been a vocation director for years now, and almost every single guy I talk to who's discerning a vocation is orthodox," Fr. Donald said. He's also encountering a lot of guys who, like him, had a past before they became committed to the Catholic faith. "They used to be a friend of the darkness, but they've been given a grace to see the right from the wrong. Something's happening. They're the Battle Breed. This is a generation that knows right from wrong, but has compassion, because it has fallen."
Through a weekend of regular, frequent prayer, conversations with Marian priests, brothers (including seminarians), and postulants living at the House of Studies, and conferences with Fr. Donald, the men were given a taste of the essential elements of the Marians' spirituality and community life.
And they liked what they found. Time and again, they cited the same reasons for contacting Fr. Donald about a possible vocation to the Marian Fathers: devotion to Mary; a positive encounter with a Marian, either in person, through their writings, or the recommendations of others who knew Marians; the sense of community offered by a religious order; the Marians' staunch orthodoxy and love of the Holy Father; and the retreatants' experiences as altar servers, which let them be close to the priesthood and the Eucharist.
The Marians, in turn, were delighted to share their home and routine with the retreatants. "It's your house," said Fr. Donald, welcoming the group of young men in the front foyer of the Marian House in Steubenville. "This weekend, take advantage of being out of the ordinary."
A picture of the Marians' Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, greets everyone who enters through the front door. Less noticeable are the two reliquaries beneath the image, one containing a relic of St. Maria Goretti. The other: a relic of Blessed Stanislaus himself.
Father Donald talked to the retreatants about a variety of topics throughout the weekend, including the history of the order; the Steubenville area and Franciscan University of Steubenville, where Marian seminarians do their philosophy and, if necessary, undergraduate work; impediments to ordination; and their prayer time during the weekend retreat.
Leading the retreat is only one aspect of how Fr. Donald serves as the gatekeeper for the community. "As the vocation director, it is my role to help men discern. I absolutely love fulfilling this position and hope to do it for many more years," he said.
In the role, Fr. Donald welcomes new vocations to the Marians and also makes sure he's only recommending for admission men with an authentic call. Those called can serve in the Marian community as either priests or perpetually professed brothers. (All the retreatants this weekend feel called to pursue the priesthood.)
"Brothers, if you're called to be a part of the Battle Breed, there are three things you absolutely must have," he said during the first conference. "If you don't have these three things, don't come near the Marians, let alone the priesthood. First, you must love, support, and be willing to defend every teaching of the Church. You've got to be so in love with the Church that you'll never speak against her. Never. This is your Bride. Secondly, you've got to be a man of the Eucharist. This is the Source and Summit of everything. And thirdly, Mary. You have got to give your life entirely to the Blessed Virgin Mary [through total consecration to Jesus through Mary]. A priest who doesn't have Mary in his life doesn't have head-crushing power," a share in the ability of Jesus and Mary to crush the head of the devil (see Gen 3:15; Rev 12). "[As a priest,] you've got to have the Woman in your life.
"A priest is a warrior, a knight, and a soldier," said Fr. Donald. "This is the wisdom of the God-Man. 'Take up your cross and follow Me' (Mt 16:24). That's your weapon. There are two sides of the Cross — one for Jesus, and the other for you. You're a victim for souls [as a priest]. All men are called to defend their bride.
"Jesus and Mary are up to something right now. That's what you are here to discern. Are you called? Are Jesus and Mary calling you?" he asked.
No matter whether he discerns a vocation with the Marians or not, said Jim, one of the retreatants, he's received something important from the weekend. "With this group [the Marians] — and this isn't to ingratiate myself — I can feel confident that there's a group of men who are oriented correctly, and they're going about God's work," said Jim. "It's satisfying to know that it exists."
If you're interested in exploring a religious vocation as either a priest or brother with the Marians, please call 1-877-261-8806 or e-mail Fr. Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org. To support our nearly 30 men in formation, please visit marian.org/vocsupport.