A few days ago, I received an email message that made my day! It was from a friend of mine in the Chicago area whose name is John. John and I entered our Dominican novitiate together with the 37 other young men who entered with us. Wouldn’t it be nice to have 39 novices a year nowadays!
John and I sat side-by-side in the chapel and in the dining room and thus got to know one another quite well. We were very different people: he was of German stock from Iowa; I am mostly of French stock from Louisiana. What we had in common was the desire to become Dominican priests. However, John began to have physical problems, and the doctors whom he consulted told him that they were caused by stress and anxiety and indicated that he did not have a vocation to our life. He tried for nearly two years to adapt himself to our lifestyle, but was not able to do it. So he left, to our sorrow; everyone in the class liked him.
Over the years, I have kept in minimal contact with him and last summer was able to speak to him by phone when I was in that part of the world. He is about 70, married, with two daughters and three grandchildren. Retired, and enjoying life in suburban Chicago. He sounded very happy and at peace, and I told him so.
In his email, he assured me that he IS happy, and that part of his happiness is that he was able to spend those two years with us in the seminary where he learned much about God’s love for him and how to live our Christian, Catholic life according to the commandments, virtues, sacraments, and all the life of the Church. He put that to good use during his life, and now he and his wife can enjoy their declining years and be grateful for who they are and what they have. At Christmas they were surrounded by their children and grandchildren. He cooked the turkey on a grill while his sons-in-law made themselves useful in other ways and the womenfolk prepared the rest of the meal. That night, they all drove into downtown Chicago to let the children see all the Christmas lights and decorations. An idyllic scene. I reflect with a very full heart on his happiness and mine. On that day in August of 1956 as we received the religious habit, we had no idea how our lives would turn out. But here we are, many years later, leading different lifestyles, but both marveling at how good it has been and how God has blessed us. May you, too, be able to look back on a life richly endowed with God’s goodness and to be grateful for it all. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.