Supporting Vocations


'Our Lady Helped Me to Persevere'

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By Br. Matthew Tomeny, MIC

In the movie "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Frodo narrowly escapes the lair of Shelob, a giant, man-eating spider. Feeling betrayed by Gollum and worried about Sam, Frodo tumbles face first on the rocky ground, exhausted. In a vision, he sees the beautiful elf, Galadriel, in a dazzling white dress. She tells him that he needs to continue forward on his mission. Then she smiles, reaches out her hand, and helps Frodo back onto his feet. Though battered and dirty, Frodo presses forward with a look of determination toward Mount Doom and the final destruction of the Ring.

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, was a devout Catholic and had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though he denies that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory, clearly he modeled Galadriel after Our Lady. Mary comes to us in our darkest times and inspires us to persevere through our most difficult trials. At least, she has in my life, and especially in my journey toward the priesthood.

I was raised in Tampa, Florida, the fourth of 10 children. Every evening, my parents would gather us all into the family room where we would light a candle before the Divine Mercy Image and a statue of Our Lady. We would pray the Rosary together, and sometimes we would pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. My life growing up reminds me of the quote from Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC: "A family that prays together stays together."

At age 13, I started to feel a call to the priesthood. The distractions of adolescence came and went, and in my senior year of high school, a priest encouraged me to start going to Adoration. Then the call to the priesthood not only came back but grew even stronger. On a "come and see" retreat with the Marians, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, explained that every priest, though celibate, needs a strong female presence in their lives. I learned that, like a knight serving his king under the banner of the queen, we need Mary to inspire us to become better men so that we can faithfully serve Christ and the Catholic Church.

After graduating from high school, I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) in Ohio, knowing that a genuine Catholic environment would bolster my faith and help me discern my vocation. While at school, I joined a group of friends and consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary through 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. This inspired a fruitful relationship with the Blessed Mother and has shaped my faith in a powerful way.

After an amazing year at FUS, I entered novitiate with the Marians in August 2013. That year, the devil attacked me with temptations against chastity. I felt like Frodo, exhausted and in despair from the arduous journey. But like Galadriel, Our Lady came to me and helped me to persevere in my vocation. She not only picked me up — she put me under her mantle and protected me from the evil one so that I could continue on my journey.

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