To help answer some of your questions, we've provided a list of frequently asked questions, as answered by our Brothers. We hope these are helpful. Please feel free to contact Brother Ron Lau, CFA or Zeke Mapa. for additional information at 847 463 8904.
1. How did you know you had a religious vocation?
Well, let me begin by saying, “I didn’t see a heavenly sign and there wasn’t any lightening!” It's a leap of faith. You don't enter formation to definitely become a brother; you enter to discover whether this is what the Lord really wants of you. However, paying attention to your feelings when you are praying, corresponding with religious orders and visiting them is very important. One of the ways a man knows if he has a religious vocation is by the interior peace and calmness he experiences when thinking about pursuing a religious vocation. That peace came to me in the comfortable feeling of “being at home" with the Alexian Brothers. It was and still is a feeling of belonging that assured me that God was calling me to be an Alexian Brother.
2. Why didn't you get married? Didn't you want to have children?
So often when we think of a vocation we think of someone becoming a priest, brother or sister. These are certainly worthy and wonderful vocations. All of us, though, have a vocation to be God's followers. As men, we can have a vocation as a husband, father, or single person. Giving ourselves to God does not necessarily require us to commit to the life of a priest or brother. Rather, it requires that we give ourselves to God fully in each thing we do. It requires us to see Christ in all of our brothers and sisters — especially in those where it is most difficult to find Him.
If you have started and committed to a process of striving to follow God's will in everything you do, and have done so for quite a while, you may be at the right moment in your life— a moment in which God is clearly calling you to investigate making a full time commitment to Him— as an Alexian Brother. When I was at that point in my life, an Alexian Brother told me, "If you would be a good husband and father, you would make a good religious." In many ways, that freed me because from the time I was very young, I imagined myself married with lots of children. His comment helped me to see the overlap in gifts of these two vocations. As I continued to discern, I felt God leading me to religious life. As I began meeting the Alexian Brothers, I learned that some of them had been married and did have adult children.
3. Do you enjoy being a religious?
Absolutely! Yes, I very much enjoy being a religious. I believe that when we try to live our lives with God as the center, we will always experience happiness and joy. Having the opportunity to help make a difference in someone else’s life really gives meaning to my life.
4. What are vows?
Vows are our promises to God of what we will do. The vows we profess are poverty, chastity and obedience. Many people view these vows as restrictions of what we cannot do. We know them to be life giving.
Poverty: I will live simply and see that all that I have as coming from God. I will accept everything with gratitude and be a good steward of all that I have.
Chastity: God is the center of my life and I will love all people without distinction.
Obedience: As I make decisions in my life, I listen for the voice of God through prayer and by looking at the needs of God's people, the needs of my religious congregation, and using the guidance of those who serve in community leadership.
As we live these vows, we experience many blessings and graces, which help us to grow closer to God. In reality, living the vows give us great freedom.
5. Why do some religious wear habits and others do not?
During Vatican II, religious congregations were asked to research their roots and live according to the spirit of their founder. Many communities learned that they were originally founded to wear the dress of the common man of the day. Thus, they do not wear a habit. Others, including the Alexian Brothers, found the opposite to be true and wear a habit. Our religious habit is a sign of our consecration and dedication to God. Our habit signifies humility of heart. Alexian Brothers normally wear habits on Sundays and during ceremonial occasions. Most Alexian Brothers wear clerical clothing while they minister to others and casual clothing when they are at home.
6. What is a day in the life of an Alexian Brother like?
A day is made up of 24 hours. Each of those hours contains 60 minutes and each minute contains 60 seconds. Now if you want to get carried away in this downward mathematical spiral you can get all the way down to something called a nanosecond which is actually a billionth of a second! For me, I prefer to look at the day as a collection of moments, more precisely one precious moment connected to the next.
Being a Brother frees me in many ways to be present to more people than perhaps I could otherwise. I get to meet and relate to many people everyday and share in precious moments at really important and key moments of their lives...holy moments... sacred moments.
These moments are truly gift and they might pass unrecognized if our lives weren’t energized by personal and communal prayer and rooted in community living. We live in the conviction that without the spirit of prayer our lives are meaningless. Without prayer in union with the Church and a genuine love of God and neighbor, our labors on behalf of the people of God will be fruitless.
So we begin each day in communal Morning Prayer. We also participate in a daily Mass and we pray Evening Prayers together after our ministry assignments are completed. Prayer is the most important part of an Alexian Brother's day. Time for private, personal prayer and time for spiritual reading are also part of a Brother’s daily life to develop a closer relationship with God. Prayer is the center of our lives.
Today, each Alexian Brother uses his gifts and talents where appropriate in ministries sponsored by the Congregation. The ministry schedule is similar to that of the staff members who work beside us to serve God’s people. This provides many opportunities for Alexian Brothers to experience the precious moments.
As a Brother continues to open himself to the needs of others and to God's intentions for him in response, his ministry assignment may change. Thus, our ministries have evolved to meet the changing needs of our society. New men who enter the Congregation bring their unique gifts, skills and awareness to continue our ministries.
A Brother’s day is not all work and prayer however. We usually come together for breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening. After dinner, we try to balance life by relaxing with other community members, recreation, reading, walking, talking, laughing and sharing our day's activities. No matter what the recreation, a Brother finds the gift of friendship in community, supported by men who share a personal relationship with God and the Congregation’s charism of healing and reconciliation.
Before going to sleep, a Brother concludes his day with private reflection or contemplation.