For you, what does a calling involve? A sudden intuition, or a feeling that creeps up on you?
For me, it was a slow process. At first, I had trouble making a decision. The priest in my home parish, who knew me well, advised me to wait a few years. Perhaps he was concerned that I, a dyed in the wool Carnival reveller, would make a hasty decision. A visit to the Congregation of Alexian Brothers in Aachen showed me that I wanted to remain here. Working in an active religious community is a perfect fit for me.
Many people are suspicious of religious communities. Is taking a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience still valid in today’s world?
The vow sets you free. The Gospels say: “The truth will set you free.” People on the “outside” are often required to be more obedient than we are. Just think of all the obligations people have – for example toward their domestic partner, or at work.
The number of people joining religious communities has drastically decreased over the past decade. Do you think that fewer people feel called nowadays than in the past?
Well for one thing, the birth rate has substantially declined. And secondly, people pay less attention nowadays to the Word of God.
The yearning for spirituality and self-realization is increasing in today’s society. And there’s no shortage of options: exercises for stressed-out executives; power yoga, and so on. Do you feel that a calling occurs on a different level?
I can’t stand the term “self-realization.” By contrast, life in a religious community centres around self-abnegation. Let me give you an example. A short while ago, while sitting at my desk, the hospital called me and said that I was needed there. Paperwork can wait; having contact with people is more important. What fulfils me is focusing on the essentials.