January 12, 2007

Religious Vocations Supplement

Benedictine brother answers call to monastic life

Benedictine Brother Christian Raab plays his guitar on Jan. 2 at Saint Meinrad’s new guest house. He enjoys community prayers, music, Mass, reading and silence, which he describes as “a matter of times and places” in monastic life.

Benedictine Brother Christian Raab plays his guitar on Jan. 2 at Saint Meinrad’s new guest house. He enjoys community prayers, music, Mass, reading and silence, which he describes as “a matter of times and places” in monastic life.

By Mary Ann Wyand

ST. MEINRAD—“Listen,” the first word in The Rule of St. Benedict, reminds Benedictine Brother Christian Raab that God is always present.

“Our prayer really begins with not what we have to say but with what God is saying to us,” Brother Christian explained during a break from his seminary studies on Jan. 2 at Saint Meinrad School of Theology in southern Indiana.

“Recognizing what God is saying, recognizing God’s presence, is an act of faith, an act of belief,” he said. “There are countless moments when I have felt confirmed about where I am in my life, and affirmed that God is with me and guiding me, that he has brought me here to know him in a particular way.”

Brother Christian describes himself as a “seeker” and believes God’s Providence led him to monastic life with the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in October 2003.

“It is in praying the Divine Office—praying the psalms with my monastic brothers—that I feel most in touch with my vocation and closest to God,” he said. “The prayer we pray is actually the prayer of Christ. When we pray, we are praying along with him. The Spirit comes and unites us to Christ, who is the leader of our praying band.”

His favorite Scripture passage is from Chapter 5 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which reads in part, “ … Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Eph 5:18b-20).

He believes that it summarizes the goal of his life journey, an ongoing pilgrimage that has included trips to many countries.

A native of Michigan City, Ind., where his family attends Notre Dame Parish, Daniel Christian Raab started thinking about becoming a priest when he was 11. He was intrigued by his older brother Joe’s temporary interest in the priesthood and inspired by a young priest serving at his parish.

After graduating from Marquette High School in Michigan City in 1993, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, religious studies and education at Indiana University in Bloomington in May 1997.

While at IU, he worshiped at St. Paul Catholic Center. During a retreat at Saint Meinrad Archabbey with several college friends, he realized that he felt called to monastic life there but wasn’t ready to pursue a religious vocation.

“Being at Saint Meinrad, I felt this amazing sense of peace and freedom inside,” he said. “I felt like I had come home, like I was in the place where I could become the person God had made me to be. But I was unable to really receive the call at this time because I was afraid of choosing a life of celibacy, and a life of doing something so different, and—like so many college students—because my moral life had some kinks that needed to be worked out.”

After graduation, he taught religion classes at St. Benedict High School in Chicago for five years and was a member of several folk rock bands.

While teaching, he earned a master’s degree in theology at Loyola University in Chicago and discerned religious life by going to daily Mass, meeting with a Benedictine monk for spiritual direction and visiting a number of religious communities, which he describes as his “period of cultivating good soil” as he contemplated his future.

“I was very much a seeker, and I had some very extraordinary opportunities during my life,” he said. “I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve been to Europe a number of times, the South Pacific, India, Latin America, Canada and much of the U.S. I was on a physical search and an intellectual search, which I pursued through my studies at IU. And I was on an emotional search like so many people are, trying to find love, purpose and meaning in my life. What I have come to discover was that I was really on a search for God.”

He visited Saint Meinrad a second time in September 2003, and again felt God calling him to monastic life there. He met with the vocations director and enrolled in the novitiate program a month later.

“Everything that I had felt here during my college years returned again,” he said. “Christ is a fisher of men, and I was caught.”

He made his simple monastic profession as a Benedictine monk on Feb. 2, 2005, at the age of 30, and enjoys seeking God and serving the Church.

Brother Christian said he sees life as “a big journey, which is ironic because monks take vows of stability, but I think that in coming to the monastery there was a sense of coming home, finding God, finding truth, and finding beauty and goodness.

“It has its challenges, but it’s all very rewarding and wonderful,” he said. “It’s incredibly consoling to know that I am loved and have a place in this world. At the same time, the pilgrimage continues. It’s never ending.”

Brother Christian hopes to make his solemn monastic profession in February 2008 and is preparing for his ordination to the priesthood during the summer of 2009.

As he continues his studies for the priesthood, Brother Christian said he is “thankful to God that he never stopped sowing seed on my path. … The insatiable spiritual hunger God planted in me simply wouldn’t relent until I found him. God kept calling!” †

Local site Links: