On Aug. 13 Brother Mario Calabrese knelt in front of Dominican Father John Langlois in the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Brother Calabrese placed his hands into those of Father Langlois, vicar provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and pledged obedience to God, to Mary and to St. Dominic, as well as to Father Langlois.
Brother Calabrese, a Geneva native, made his solemn profession of vows with eight other brothers during a ceremony that day, but his vocational journey is far from over. Brother Calabrese, 32, currently is studying theology at the Pontifical Facility of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He plans to graduate with a theology degree in the spring of 2013, when he will be ordained a transitional deacon, and he’s on track to become a Dominican priest in 2014.
The ceremony that took place during Mass Aug. 13 is similar to those that took place between knights and lords in medieval times. In medieval ceremonies, knights pledged to offer their military service to the lords, and in exchange the lords vowed to grant land or the spoils of war to the knights, Father Langlois noted in his homily during the Aug. 13 Mass. Each knight removed his weapons before kneeling, placing his hands together and stretching them out toward his lord, signifying the knight’s total submission. The knight then swore obedience to the lord, who then took the knight’s hands and accepted his oath.
By submitting to the lords the knights gave up their independence and bound themselves to their masters, so they needed to know their lords were trustworthy and would remain faithful to their promises, Father Langlois continued.
“Similarly, the vow of obedience that our brothers will profess today is first and foremost a profound act of trust, not in another human being, but in God, that he will be faithful to his promises,” he said.
Brother Calabrese’s own strong faith led him to that profound moment when he vowed his obedience Aug. 13. As a child growing up in Geneva, he and his family attended St. Francis de Sales Parish, which later merged with nearby St. Stephen Parish to form Our Lady of Peace Parish. After graduating from Geneva High School he attended St. Bonaventure University in Olean, where he was introduced to the Franciscan way of life. As an undergraduate student he participated in a group for men discerning potential callings to become Franciscan priests, but several factors eventually led him to decide against that particular vocation.
“I gave it thought, but my prayer life wasn’t what it is now, and I had ambitions to get into the working world, and that clouded things,” said Brother Calabrese, who went on to graduate from St. Bonaventure with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
After graduation Brother Calabrese moved to Washington, D.C., where he handled Freedom of Information Law requests for a public-interest firm for several years. During his lunch breaks he often could be found across the street from his office at St. Dominic Parish, which he later learned was staffed by Dominican priests.
The young man had first become curious about the Dominican order while on a trip to Rome with a group of fellow St. Bonaventure students. While waiting for an audience with Pope John Paul II, he noticed the musical group in line ahead of his group was led by a man in a Dominican habit.
“This one Dominican had sunglasses on and a saxophone. That made quite an impression. That was the first time I saw a Dominican,” Brother Calabrese recalled.
His lunchtime Masses at St. Dominic whet his appetite to learn more about the order, and the more he learned the more he began to believe God was calling him to become a Dominican. That’s not to say his discernment process was quick and easy, however.
“It was a long process. It was a lot of foot dragging on my part and second-guessing myself,” Brother Calabrese said.
He sought opinions from his family and friends, including a number of trusted priests. These priests, he said, told him that no one can ever be absolutely certain about a calling, but at a certain point one must go forward and trust in God. These priests encouraged Brother Calabrese to apply for the Dominican program if he believed God wanted him there, so he applied in 2006.
After he was accepted he spent a month in Providence, R. I., where he got to know his new classmates and learned to pray the Divine Office. He and his classmates then spent their novitiate year in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they professed their simple vows at the end of the year. These vows made them full Dominicans for the next three years and six months, at which point they could choose to make their solemn professions, or permanent vows, Brother Calabrese explained.
He said he’s looking forward to preaching for the salvation of souls, which is the Dominican charism, or gift provided by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the church. Living in community with other Dominicans will guide his prayer life and help Brother Calabrese, a self-described introvert, in his preaching and teaching.
“The world is very hungry to hear the truth,” he said.