Read: My journey to religious life | Brother Nathanael of Jesus, OCD

Four years ago, Nathaniel Gregor of Christ the King in Ann Arbor entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, whereupon he took the religious name of Brother Nathanael of Jesus. To help mark National Vocations Awareness Week, November 5-11, Brother Nathanael now charts the providential path that led him to Carmel. He writes:

“My vocation to Carmel began with a confusing experience. I was in formation with a good religious congregation. I had a good spiritual life of communal and personal prayer. My community was joyful and close-knit. I had good friendships, good mentors, good formators. I was participating actively in the community's fruitful and growing apostolate. Yet it was becoming confusingly clear that interiorly our Lord was working something different. While the community's prayer life was solid, I longed to spend more time with God. While I resonated with the community's zeal for souls, I desired to contribute to the ministry of the Church in a way flowing more directly out of prayer. Together with my spiritual director, I discerned that Jesus was calling me to a contemplative charism. The question remained: Which one?”

“When my temporary vows expired I returned home. I spent a year and a half working, praying, discerning. A visit to a good Benedictine community confirmed I was on the right track but wasn't quite what I felt drawn to. A priest and mentor had recently introduced me to St. John of the Cross. When I encountered his teachings, I felt someone understood my own longing for God. This pointed me in the direction of Carmel. When I read St. Teresa of Avila, I found her love for Christ and concern for the salvation of souls expressed something of the ideals my own heart had been longing for. I soon learned that with St. John of the Cross she founded her friars as a response to hearing about the great needs of the Church, in order to live the contemplative life and deepen it among the faithful through a ministry flowing from their life of prayer. I felt intrigued. I was soon making a discernment visit with the community of Carmelite friars at Holy Hill, Wisconsin. Not long after I started my application to postulancy.”

“On that first visit and continuing throughout my life in Carmel, I discovered another aspect of the Teresian charism that found an echo in my own heart: her emphasis on joyful charity in community. One picks up her Way of Perfection in order to learn how to love the God he cannot see, and finds that no one can do so without learning to love the brother or sister he can see. The close community life St. Teresa envisioned for her friars and nuns is a joyous support while also a daily training in virtue and selfless love. To stand in God's and to love with Jesus's love, all in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: This is our life in Carmel.”

* To know more about the life of Brother Nathanael and the Discalced Carmelite Friars go to: