The following article is the last in our series of the members sharing an aspect of their vocation. It is by Br. Pio, a member of our community who lives in reclusion as a hermit, in a cell attached to our church. This enables him to join with us in Mass, Adoration and all of our prayers. He lives the charism in the particular way he is called to, through silence and solitude, in the service of the Two Hearts and for the salvation of souls. As a member of the Order, he entered reclusion nearly 15 years ago. Here he shares aspects of his journey in reaching his calling . . .
I was born on December 28, 1965 in Richmond, Virginia. My parents had me baptized in the Catholic Church on February 6, 1966. Although I was baptized around two months after birth, I was never taught the faith. Thus I grew up not living the faith, Christian moral principles, sacraments, prayer. I went through a public school system and lived amidst the typical, secularized lifestyle of a modern day American: in a secular culture oriented to a way of living daily life bereft of God in both the public and private sphere, a secularism that Pope Benedict XVI describes as a “practical atheism.” I believed in God and I was a Christian, however I never had a living faith. I never lived a concrete, existential, living relationship with Jesus. Certainly what the secular atmosphere was saying was bad enough; nevertheless I think the problem was not so much what was being said but what I was not being told. In other words sports, schooling, being a member of society, interactions, work, recreation, eating, sleeping are good and of value, but I was never formed as to what it all meant. What is the purpose and meaning of it all? I never knew the why, so consequentially I was truncated. I had no foundation because I lacked the faith dimension. Believe me that I was one who “took his journey into a far country” (Lk.15:13)! I was lost in a “culture of death” in which day after day the serpent of secularism was wrapping its coils around me squeezing the very life out of me! After twenty years of emptiness I had had enough of it—I simply could not continue to keep going on with a life without the cross, that is, a life without truth, meaning and purpose. And so, by grace I turned to the Church seeking truth.
In 1986, at twenty years old, I got into my white Fiesta car and went and knocked on the door of a Roman Catholic priest asking him if he would instruct me in the faith. I just went with the view of being instructed, receiving first Holy Communion, Confirmation and then continue to be in the world while not of it, because I could now live a wholesome, meaningful daily life amidst a pagan, secular, materialistic culture of darkness. Well, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary had a larger plan for me, namely, my vocation. It was during the time when I was being instructed in the faith that I simultaneously experienced within me the beginning of an attraction towards silence and solitude. This call was distinct from the instructions I was receiving.
The greatest gift we have received as human beings is life itself and a free will. When one takes this life and free will, and offers it back to our Lord for Him to mold us and shape us as He wants us to be, this is not so much our gift to our Lord but His gift to us, this desire within our own hearts to give ourselves to Him and respond to His invitation. This is what our Lord has done for me. He has invited me to respond to His gift, the gift of His love dwelling and burning within my heart, to then offer it back to Him. He places the desire within my heart to serve Him as I am in reclusion. I have given myself to our Lord in the way in which He has called my heart.
It is a call to serve the Church in a quiet way. To serve is the meaning and purpose of my vocation. I’m driven to serve in each present moment task. A love that strives not for self gain, but for self-giving and to gain for the benefit of others. It is a privilege and honor for me to be a member of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. I love each one in my community. I’m so grateful to know and live with them, to serve them, to share with them in the Order’s charism of serving, all together, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. By grace, I have the desire indwelling in the depths of my heart to exhaust myself in serving first the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, then my fellow community members, and then in my heart to journey around the world serving souls and world events outside. To give, give and give. My heart is thirsting to benefit others until I’m totally worn out and have fulfilled my mission for souls as the person and servant I am called to be. Yes, “I know where I have come from and where I am going”!
—Br. Pio of the Co-Redemptrix, OSIHJM