Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. I find this Church event extra special because I have set my eyes toward becoming priest someday. But being a Salesian of Don Bosco, I also am aware that being a good shepherd is not a monopoly of the priests. Don Bosco, our founder, envisioned the Salesian Society to be composed of priests and brothers who are likened to wings of a bird, which in order to fly needs both.
Wanting to highlight in a special way the Salesian brotherhood vocation, I rummaged through my computer and found this piece which I wrote five years ago, when I was still in the philosophate as a younger Salesian.
I realized that studying could only be enjoyable to a certain extent. This is especially true in studying philosophy. I tell you, it is not a walk in the park. Immersing myself into esoteric subjects such as rational psychology and rational theology over the past semester has greatly exhausted my powers.
And as the cliché goes, I felt the need to reinvigorate my tired body and worn out spirit.
Hence, even before our final examinations, I carefully mulled over the possible means to relax: read books, update my blog, make my presence felt in the Facebooking world, watch movies, make rosaries. My list for possible recreation was legion!
But even before I cast my eye into any of these, one of the aspirants asked me to contribute an article to a publication they are preparing on Salesian lay brothers. No specific topic on the lay brother was given.
And so, it made me reflect on the advantages of being a lay brother.
- It is cool to be a religious without the ‘cassock.’
There is nothing extraordinary with a priest who is kind, generous and leads an upright life. After all, he is a priest. The community expects nothing less from him. It is different, however, with a Salesian lay brother who may not be distinguished as a religious at all since we don’t have a way to recognize him. A lay brother becomes a shining Christian witness by presenting himself to the world as a ‘lay person’ like any ordinary Joe who struggles to lead a holy life.
- A Salesian lay brother has relatively more time to spend with the young.
This is because priests are generally tied up celebrating the sacraments and carrying out their priestly ministries. I’ve experienced this reality a number of times. Priests suddenly vanish due to various circumstances. And most likely, lay brothers get to remain behind to look after and care for the young people.
- Lay brothers are outnumbered.
The 2008-2009 SDB directory (Philippines) reveals that there are only 17 perpetually professed lay brothers as opposed to 150 priests. To push my argument more, see again my second reason. [Br. James Gomez, himself a Salesian brother, helped me check the number of Salesian brothers in the FIN Province. To date, we only have 18 Brothers]
- A Salesian lay brother vocation is not for the faint-hearted.
It is even not attractive to individuals with strong narcissistic tendencies since it asks for more profound selfless sacrifices. For starters, a cleric who distinguishes himself to be “a priest in the future” has better chances of earning pogi points from a crowd than a low profile lay brother who would never become a priest.
- A Salesian lay brother does not have to wash (and iron) any cassock.
Not to mention that the fact that the Philippines, having a tropical climate, is a lot friendlier to Salesian lay brothers. Yes, I know, this may not be a noble reason, but for the pragmatists out there, practicality prevails.
- There are more out-of-town seminars for lay brothers than for the clerics.
Luzon Association of Religious Brothers, an organization of lay brothers from various religious congregations in the northern region of the country, religiously holds seminars and conferences in various parts of the country. Do you want to see the whole of the Philippines? Then, be a lay brother.
- The young people need a big-brother figure who will lead them closer to ‘Bro.’
- A lay brother is given more opportunities to put his brain where his heart is.
This is already given. A priest may have limited options if he desires to specialize in another area other than the realm of theology. For lay brothers, it’s anything under the sun.
- Interesting ministries await the lay brother wannabes.
The ministry is saving the souls of the young is becoming more interesting in the field of the lay brothers. I know of one who happens to be a tour guide at the catacombs in Italy, one is a computer geek, and another one a published researcher.
- A lay brother is a Salesian of Don Bosco.
And as a Salesian of Don Bosco, he offers his life for the welfare of the young people. Now, isn’t that reason alone cool enough?