Frequently Asked Questions about My Vocation

Over the years, I've been asked about my vocation story, my spiritual journey, and how a car guy/poker dealer finds himself in the Capuchin Franciscans. Many of these questions are ones I've been asked repeatedly over the years, so I thought I'd share them here.

Hopefully this page can help answer some questions, but my biggest hope is that people, especially those who think they may be called to religious life, realize that anyone can be called to a religious vocation.

Q. How did you know you had a vocation?

While God has called numerous people throughout history in different ways, I think a religious vocation was always lingering somewhere in my heart. It was that I'd always find unique and popular ways of pursuing what I thought would make me happy.

About 4 years, I had what some would call a "God moment." While at work, I happened onto the website for the local diocese. I hadn't been to church in a while, but I certainly still identified with my Catholic faith tradition. I saw a page about vocations to the priesthood, and I stayed on that page for a bit...just reading. And rather than the proverbial booming voice, I heard a voice in my head telling me: "This is what you should be doing. This is where you belong."

I was filled with many emotions: I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I was scared, excited, joyous, confused, and uncertain...all at the same time. It was an experience unlike anything in my life. Unsure of what I was supposed to do next, I started a blog.

Q. What did you do before "your calling?"

My change of life came while I was a car salesman. Each day was an attempt to make as much money as possible, competing against my co-workers in everything. Sales is a highly competitive and (at times) cut-throut business; I'd been selling for almost 5 years at that point.

Success was defined by financial security, having a wife (or at least a girlfriend), a nice place, and enough money to show off to others. I eagerly bought into that system, and it was fostered by everyone I interacted with. When I first felt called to a religious vocation, I had an apartment with a woman who I'd been in a relationship with for over a year. I spent a lot of time trying to impress others, but eventually realized that I was still empty inside in spite of the stuff I had.

Q. So you were in a relationship before joining? How did that work out?

Since my ex-girlfriend only knew me as a slick-talking, superficial, status-oriented guy, I never expected her to understand what I was going through. Even I wasn't sure what I was being called to. So for a couple of months, I hid this from her.

Eventually I realized I couldn't hide something so important. I sat down and told her about what I was feeling. At first she was supportive. But since she was not Catholic, I don't think she initially understood the rammifications of what I was saying. Later on, we had a huge fight. For obvious reasons she didn't believe what I was saying; she prefered to think i was having an affair or trying to end the relationship.

It was tough and painful, but eventually I moved back in with my mother with only a few bags of my clothes, an empty wallet, and a few personal effects. I remember that night being a test of my faith.

Q. Who's the first person you talked to about this calling?

After initially dealing with the shock of this "God moment," I needed clarification in to understand what I was feeling. After all, I'd spent the last 5 years living a decidedly un-Christian life - why would God choose someone like me to be a part of the Church? I certainly wasn't worthy of something like this!

I remember talking to a friend from high school via Myspace; he'd realized his calling at a young age and had gone to school for pastoral work in a different faith tradition. I remember his words being a great help to me in the initial stages. He reminded me that God is the one that does the choosing, not me. And that for anything I've done in the past, one look in the Bible gives plenty of examples of people who were called that didn't feel they were worthy.

With his words of wisdom, I next talked to the Vocations Director from my local Diocese. Soon after, I started talking with a Spiritual Director. Both the Vocations Director and my Spiritual Director helped me start the road of discernment and really focus on what I felt I was being called to.

Q. Why did you decide on the Capuchin Franciscans?

Like most people, the only concept of "religious life" I knew was as a diocesan priest, which was half the reason I called the Diocesan Vocations Director.

I don't know if he was unsure of my calling or he didn't think I was fit for the diocese, but I soon got an email from the Diocesan Vocations Director about a Discernment Weekend with the Dominicans. I had a great experience with the Dominicans, and soon found myself driving to St. Louis for a Come and See Weekend with their post-novices. It was a moving experience, and I learned how wonderful it was to live a vocation in a community.

While I was sold on community life and living in a fraternity, I also realized that the Dominicans were focused on different things than I was. I was looking to get my hands dirty. I was excited about working with the poor, with migrant workers, with people in jail or living on the streets. The desire for apostolic work led me away from the Dominicans, but solidified in the concept of living in community.

I talked to my parish priest about my desires, and he told me about a group of Franciscans who ran a huge soup kitchen in Detroit. I scanned the internet, and soon found myself at the website for the Capuchin Francisans. I liked the diversity of friars and the number of guys they had in formation. I also liked the fact that this province was based in the Mid-West...from Detroit to Wisconsin (with a mission in Montana). I filled out the inquiry and soon found myself talking with their Vocations Director.

Q. How did your family/friends react?

Members of my family were very supportive. Even those members who weren't Catholic were appreciative of the committment I was looking to make. I think they saw a true change in me, which led them to believe that this was something I was truly pursuing. I began to understand the need for transparency and honesty in my life, especially after spending so much time trying to impress others with words and flashy things.

My friends (who are usually my co-workers) didn't know how to take it. In a world that is dominated by the pursuit of status and money, someone who chooses to "jump off" the ladder is seen as an outcast...someone who won't help you be successful. I soon found myself without many friends from the car business. Eventually I would find new friends, friends in the car business even, who would see my desire to pursue a Capuchin life as something worthy of praise.

Q. When did you start blogging?

I first started blogging as a way to get my feelings into text. I never journaled much; I struggled to keep a car sales blog updated. But I soon realized that I had a select group of people that I could talk to about my many questions: What is going to happen to my life? What am I going to do about my girlfriend? Am I really willing to be celibate? I'm in my 30's...am I too old?

Part of the blog was to start working through feelings and worries that were going through my head. It was also an anonymous way to keep a journal - the Web's so full of stuff that no one would find my blog unless they were specifically looking for it.

So I started a new account on myspace, started a blog there, and wrote my first article about me telling my girlfriend - and the ensuing fallout. That was four years ago.

Q. Is it tough being celibate?

Out of the many things that have happened in my life, this is still the most-asked question. I include it here because, well, people want to know exactly what celibacy's all about.

First and foremost, yes, it can be very tough to live as a celibate. I spent a lot of time and energy pursuing women in my past - sometimes for a relationship, sometimes for much less. And after being in a relationship before pursing this vocational journey, it's silly to assume that I (or anyone else) can just turn off my sexuality.

Secondly, choosing celibacy is more than just giving up sex. It's about giving up intimacy and exclusive love with another person. It's about giving up the opportunity to be a father, to be a husband, a lover, a provider, a dad who throws the football with his son or gives his daughter away at her wedding. It is a willful choice to set aside all those experiences to try and love everyone: a witness of the Kingdom that is to come.

Celibacy is tough at times. Sometimes I hit it off with someone, and know that I've chosen not to pursue any type of relationship. Sometimes I see dads with their children. Sometimes I see how a husband looks at his wife, and you can see the devotion he has for her. All of these things make it hard for me, but I also realize that before choosing this life, I rarely recognized those wonderful examples of love in the world around me

Q. How have you changed?

I usually leave this question to the people who know me. I know that I'm not the same guy who haphazardly started this road 4 years ago, but it can be hard to talk specifically about what's changed. I know that I'm more aware of myself and how I interact with others. I am in tune with my desires as well as the Will of the Spirit. I can still be bossy, competitive, a workaholic, and seek some understanding of success, but I no longer see these as good traits, rather they are complusions that I try to keep under control.

More than anything, I pray. I pray when we're all together in chapel, I pray when I juggle the soccer ball, I pray when I'm hitting golf balls in the backyard, and I pray when I'm listening to music that speaks to me. I've gotten this far by the grace of God; I try to keep that line of communication open as much as possible...even if the only thing I'm doing is listening.

Q. What do you hope to do as a Capuchin friar?

First and foremost, I want to work with the marginalized and the poor. I had a great experience in Milwaukee working at St. Ben's Community Meal, and working with the homeless has helped me understand my life in the context of others. It challenges me to be honest and transparent about why I'm a friar.

Secondly, I feel very strongly about the use of the Web in the role of discernment and religious life. I was once told: "You can't discern a vocation over the Internet." I think the last four years of blogging prove otherwise. Taking into account Pope Benedict's call for priests and religious to have a larger presence on the Web, I've been approved by my Province to pursue a Computer Science degree while working towards my Theology degree. I hope to be a resource for the Order, the Church, and my province...either as a computer tech, a network admin, a computing consultant, or as someone who can merge spirituality and technology in new ways to expand the ministry of the Capuchin Franciscans into a bold, new form.

I am working towards ordination, but the calling to be a priest is something I continue to discern. I have several years of school ahead of me, so I'll spend plenty of time in Chicago praying about my future.

Many of these events are chronicled in the archives of my blog. At some point, I'll organize them to make access easier. For now, the search bar is the best way to find stuff...sorry!

If you have other questions, don't hesitate to email me at vito[at]friartech.org. If you're questions are worth sharing for others, I'll be sure to add them to this page.