Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest

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Called By Mary

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Interview by Chris Sparks

Six Marian seminarians are preparing to profess their perpetual vows on Sept. 5 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. One of their number, Br. Michael Baker, MIC, shares some highlights of his journey to final vows in the Marian community.

Why the Marians?
I was looking for a community that loves our Lord and Our Lady, is in communion with the Holy Father, and is faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium. I found that in the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

Have you always been Catholic?
I was baptized Catholic, but I didn't grow up practicing the faith. However, my parents sent me to a Christian elementary school where I was taught, "A good Christian prays every day." From then on, I prayed every day and enjoyed a relationship with our Lord. My grandmother and great-grandmother both taught me the Our Father, and from time to time, I would see my great-grandmother praying the Rosary. In fact, she gave me my first rosary, which I still have.

While growing up, I always told myself that when I got married, I would get married in the Church and begin practicing my faith. By God's grace, I began working for a company owned by a faithful Catholic, and my immediate supervisor was also a practicing Catholic. While working for them, my mom and I traveled to Italy to visit our family. Through seeing the beautiful churches, religious art, and wayside shrines of Italy, I found myself awe-struck by the beauty of our faith.

So at the gentle invitation of my friends at work, I joined the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program. It was at the same parish where I was baptized, which happened to be their parish as well.

What were you doing before you entered the Marians?
I was working as a television producer for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in Birmingham, Ala. While in the RCIA program, I had providentially come across a television show called Mother Angelica Live, and I fell in love with Mother Angelica instantly. She became a spiritual mother to me via cable TV! And God in His goodness brought me to EWTN years later.

Life was good. God blessed me with good friends and co-workers, a good job, a place to live, and the beautiful gift of being able to spend time with my spiritual mother. But as much as I loved where I worked, I still didn't feel complete. I felt called to the priesthood and religious life.

How did you find the Marians?
I had attended a Divine Mercy conference in San Diego some years before moving to Birmingham and heard the personal testimony of Fr. Donald Calloway [MIC]. Later, I met with him to talk about the possibility of a vocation with the Marians, but I didn't initially feel called to the Congregation. In retrospect, I realize it just wasn't the right time according to God's plan. However, while working at EWTN, I was assigned to work on promotions for Divine Mercy Sunday and was later assigned to produce a spot on vocations with Fr. Calloway. These encounters with the Divine Mercy, the Marians, and Fr. Calloway were God's way of preparing me for what was to come. I also had a brief encounter with Fr. Seraphim Michalenko [MIC], who would end up playing a significant role in my formation as a Marian.

The key moment came as I was praying in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima about a week before Oct. 13 (my birthday and the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima). While praying, I heard an interior voice that said, "I'm going to give you a gift on your birthday, but you're not going to recognize it right away." The night before my birthday, I felt inspired to e-mail Fr. Calloway (the vocation director) and ask for some information on joining the Marians. On my birthday, I tried to remain as alert as I could to try and figure out what this gift would be. But I didn't recognize anything in particular. About a week later, an envelope arrived in the mail dated Oct. 13. It was the vocation information I had asked for and the gift that I was so eagerly waiting for. I filled out the form, came for my vocation visit, and was accepted several months later. All the doors just opened up. So I attribute my vocation to Our Lady of Fatima.

As you prepare for final vows, can you share highlights from your time of formation?
My time in formation has been a long and arduous road, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. In fact, I wish that every Catholic man and woman could experience a novitiate — it is truly a life-changing experience. One of the highlights from my time in formation has been learning about Mary's virtues and praying the Chaplet of the Ten Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's helped me to see my relationship with her in a whole new light. I now realize that being a Marian doesn't just mean having a devotion to Our Lady; we must also strive to live out her virtues.

Ever since joining the Marians, my desire to pray for the Holy Souls has grown as well. One of my favorite practices is walking in a cemetery and interceding for the dead by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. When I am there praying the chaplet, I often get the sense our Lord entrusts those particular souls to me for that time.

I had often prayed the chaplet before entering the Marians, but it wasn't until we read the entire Diary of St. Faustina in novitiate that I came to see the depth, power, and beauty of its message of God's unfathomable mercy. Ever since then, the message and devotion of the Divine Mercy have been a central part of my spirituality. I didn't really understand why Jesus had entrusted the promotion of such an important and powerful message to our small religious community, until one day, St. Louis Marie de Montfort's axiom "to Jesus through Mary" came to me in prayer. Then I understood: Mary is leading the faithful to her Son, the Divine Mercy, through us.

To support Br. Michael and our other Marian seminarians, please visit marian.org/vocsupport, or call 1-800-671-2020.

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Andi - Sep 5, 2014

I feel very blessed to have heard your talk at the Buffalo, NY Divine Mercy Confrence, Brother Michael. And even more blessed to have spoken to you outside of the basilica. Thank you for taking the time to talk, and for the healing that took place during your talk. I hope someday that you will be able to hear just how much your talk affected me. Never, ever believe that you don't belong in that line up--you do.

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - Jul 24, 2014

Very inspiring Br. Michael. It is always interesting to see how God works. I look forward to the final vows!

Janet of MCM, Philippines - Jul 23, 2014

I felt blessed too..after reading ur story Bro. Michael Baker. For I do believed that for everything we are experiencing in our lives, it is not an accident to happen but, it is d' way that GOD preparing us for where we are goin to, only that we have to know to recognize and be grateful to our GOD for everything he allows us to be or made us to join any org. / institution. So, pls.. Help me pray to be back of Service in the Ministry where I used to be and for the total healing of my breast cancer. I believe I could help my family to know CHRIST deeper & get close to HIM through me as one who joined in our Diocese of Catachetical Min. Pls. Pray for me..as I continue to pray for u too.. Godspeed! Thank you so much!

Joy of our Crucified Lord - Jul 22, 2014

I appreciated reading your story. My path to God also took many detours. I am a consecrated church hermit about to take my own final vows. I always wanted a monastic vocation, but never dreamt that God would ask me to do it alone. It is not easy and frequently a struggle. I do not always do it well, but I remain aware of St Paul boasting of his weakness, and I recognize that sometimes God uses the weak to show His power, that he is really the one running the show. I will pray for you, and ask that you do the same for me. Sincerely in Christ and our Blessed Mother, Joy

- Jul 22, 2014

Your vocation story is awe-inspiring. Br., and you are truyly blest. Please pray for my son Wendell so he will also come back to our Catholic faith and be healed of his illness. He is in the hospital for 2 weeks now. Thank you.

maria - Jul 22, 2014

thanks for the inspirational message. faith is a decision, a gift. i earnestly pray that i and my kids wil reach that level of spirituality to sustain and be part of the church ministry, NZ or Manila

Deacon Bob - Jul 16, 2014

Many Thanks for sharing your inspirational story Br. Michael be assured of our prayerful support.
God's Blessings!