A Brother’s Journey: Daniel Leckman, S.J.
In the Spring of 2007, I was singing in my last concert with McGill Choral Society in Montreal, a Choir I had been with for close to 10 years. As difficult as it was for me to leave my native city and my beloved Choir, a great vocation with the Society of Jesus awaited me. When it was time for me to start taking small steps towards leaving Montreal, the choir director made an announcement to the whole choir that this would be my last concert as I was preparing to join the Jesuits. Of course most were saddened that I was leaving, but the response to my vocation was both typical, and not so much. Those who were older –mostly women in their 40’s and 50’s- and Catholic let out a big cheer. The rest – many of the younger students- were just confused. One of them came to me afterwards and asked “So, I know some people were cheering, but a lot of us wanted to know…what’s a Jesuit?”
I absolutely love it when they come to me with this question. Rather than being depressed about the lack of presence of the Church in our world, I see it as an opportunity to gush about the Jesuits to someone who has just not had the good fortune of being exposed to them. I talk about our ministries in Universities, but also among the poor. I talk about our charism, our desire to see God in ALL things and our mission to be a loving presence to absolutely everyone we meet. I speak about the intensity of the spiritual exercises, the joys and challenges of community life etc… In fact, I should be talking about him. The man who is at the heart of this journey of mine: Our Lord and Saviour. I don’t always think about bringing it back to Him, and that’s embarrassing. However, I think I don’t always need to ‘gush’ about him to agnostics and Atheists…they understand that everything I do is oriented to Jesus. Hopefully, they see that there’s no way that this love I bring to the table is the norm, that I go out of my way to bring this loving presence to the world…and when they do, I’ll meekly say ‘ but the love I have to offer is nothing compared to what God offers you every day”.
Nowadays however, the question I get the most, is “Why be a brother when you can be a priest?”. I occasionally get “why be a Jesuit?” from Catholics who are severely uneducated about what Jesuits do, and assume that all Jesuits are radical liberal communists…but thankfully, theirs is a minority voice that need not be taken seriously. The serious question truly is “Why be a Brother”? The answer will vary:
- Why not be a brother?
- What else would you have me be? A priest? I do not feel called to celebrate the Sacraments. Why should I force myself into this vocation?. To gain your respect? I’m in this lifestyle because of my love for Christ, not to get praise and adulation from people.
But my most important answer to this question is the following:
“ Because God has revealed to me in prayer that He does not want me to be a Father to humanity. He wants me to be a Brother. Not because this vocation is better or worse. Not because I couldn’t make it as a Priest. Because I genuinely feel that I, Daniel Leckman, am called to love humanity with all my heart, and all my strength, and I FEEL that as a priest, I’d be limited in that vocation. The parish work I could do would be a priority. It should be important, but it should not get in the way of our desire to be close to the poor and broken hearted. It’s that flexibility, that availability in the Brother’s vocation that brings me so much peace. This knowledge that no matter who needs my help, I will always be lovingly available to them.”
This availability to that radical love is why I left secular life to become a religious, and it’s why I chose being a brother over a priest. There are priests who can live this very beautifully, but many also fail to. I don’t want to ever lose sight of that love. This is how I am Christ to the world. The moment I stop being that, I might as well just go back to my secular life. It’s a challenging vocation with many difficulties, but also with more joy than I have ever experienced in my entire life. For this, I give praise and thanks to the One true God, the Father and Mother of us all, the Lord of Creation, and to Jesus Christ, the son of that loving and eternal God.