Posted on the 3rd Oct 2019 in the category News

Exploring vocation to the Religious Life

In the Summer 2019 edition of Together Brother Michael Jacob SSF writes about exploring vocation to the Religious Life.


I knew what I wanted to do with my life when I was six, in fact I knew what I had to do with my life! I wanted to be a monk! I was going to live in the countryside, wear long flowing black robes, look after animals and do lots of reading. The only bit that’s turned out to be true is the reading. – one of my life’s great passions. In my teens there came a change of mind, I didn’t need to be a Religious, I was going to teach English and Drama and live in splendid solitude, coming from a large family that seemed like the ultimate in opulence and luxury! Maybe I’d be ordained later and that would scratch the itch I tried to tell myself! I was so wrong!


Life happened! I made other choices and responded to what I perceived was family need which now I realise was cowardice rather than truth. I ended up working with kids with behavioural and or/special needs for four years – loved it! Then I knew I had to leave, life has been like that for me, I knew instinctively it was time for a change and I went to work for the Credit Union, I really liked that too, pleasing work and helping out good people. One day, I remember it was a gorgeous spring day; hot but a nice breeze and I was scribbling away on reception when suddenly I knew, all I wanted was to be a Religious, I knew it in every part of me, I had to do something about it.


Six months later I found myself at the bottom of the drive at Alnmouth Friary on the Northumberland coast. I had come from Milford Haven in West Wales, nine hours on trains. I looked up at that huge building on a wet December night and it looked like Count Dracula’s castle! I wanted to go home but having got lost walking from the station to the Friary, getting out of the rain won the day. I rang the bell and was greeted by a smiling man in a brown habit and battered sandals and the evocative smells of incense and floor polish. The moment I walked through that door I felt like I had come home, indeed it was to be home for four of the next seven years.


I read a book about St Francis by accident in my late teens and immediately this peculiar and slightly frightening man showed me somebody who loved God completely and it made him the love the world completely; in my spirit I knew it was for me. The whole of life was about the crib, the cross and the altar and taking that message into the world. I also had the joy of praying together, finally with other people, I have always found it easier to pray with people and it’s always preferable to praying alone. I was thrown together with people with the same intentions and aims, people whom, however much we sometimes test each other and fail in charity, people whom only God could bring together who become your family.  A family who share their vulnerability and allow you to share yours and, when prayer is doing its work of emptying us out and reforming us, bear with you. Yes, and Amen.


Are all these what a vocation to the Religious Life is? Truth be told I don’t know. But this is my experience and what’s kept me going. In the end it’s about love; learning to love, being changed by it and changing each other. Here in a deprived part of Leeds or in a monastery in Worcester, it’s all the same, the Gospel words ring true and challenge me ‘Lord teach us to pray’ as for the disciples so for me. Again our Lord asking Simon Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ my answer is ‘Yes Lord, I do and I want to; teach me, take it all away and start again’ That I think is what vocation to the Religious Life is.


If you think you may have a vocation to the Religious life and would like to know more, why not come along to our Taster Day, the details of which are on this page.


Brother Michael Jacob SSF



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