As an aspiring Dominican friar, Brother Raymond Maria La Grange, OP, says his understanding of God’s will has grown since his entrance into religious life last year.
“In the Dominican tradition, happiness is central. God wants our happiness not only for eternity, but in this life as well. I had a hard time understanding this before; I just wanted God to tell me what to do so that I could do it. I see things more clearly now. I am happy as a Dominican, and every day is a chance to grow in that happiness.”
Brother Raymond, who grew up near St. Albert, professed his first vows on Aug. 15, 2017. This important moment was preceded by a year as a novice, during which time Brother Raymond prepared to become a vowed member of an order which has played an important role in the Church for the past 800 years.
The Dominicans, also known as the Order of Preachers, were founded in the 13th century by St. Dominic de Guzman of Spain, “for preaching and the salvation of souls.”
Brother Raymond attended Holy Family Parish and witnessed the faith-filled lives of his parents. Growing up, he enjoyed studying math and science and dreamed of becoming a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. He did not foresee a future spent preaching the Gospel.
“From a young age, I really hoped that lots of other people would become priests, but I did not want to get stuck with the job!” Brother Raymond recalls.
“Nonetheless, God was planting seeds at that time. My insatiable curiosity guided me from mathematical and physical questions to philosophical and theological questions, which began to prepare more room for God in my life.”
It was while Brother Raymond was in high school that God’s call began to grow stronger.
“When I was 16, I read Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ. Archbishop Sheen explained that, to some, God gives a special vocation, that of giving away all and following him. All of a sudden, I began to wonder if God was also calling me.”
With these thoughts in the back of his mind, Brother Raymond started a degree in chemistry and physics at the University of Alberta. He became an active member of the Catholic student community at St. Joseph’s College. He built relationships with other Catholic students, attended daily Mass and Adoration in the chapel and studied in the library, which is well-stocked with theological and philosophical works.
“I took some philosophy courses in university, where I met a number of seminarians who were good friends to me during my time there,” Brother Raymond says.
“I went to a ‘Come and See’ weekend at St. Joseph Seminary (in Edmonton) during my first year of university. I very much enjoyed my time there and the community, but I noticed that I was more attracted to life in a community centred around God than to the lifestyle of a diocesan priest after seminary. I began to feel more and more that I was called to religious life.”
It was then that a priest friend suggested a visit to the Dominicans
“I flew down to the House of Studies in Washington, DC for a weekend and I knew that it was the life I wanted,” Brother Raymond recalls. “The community celebrated a beautiful liturgy and prayed in common. The brothers were impressive and the life is centred around prayer and study for the salvation of souls. I started reading books on the order and its saints, in particular, St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and I never looked back.”
After a year of novitiate, Brother Raymond professed his first vows on the Solemnity of the Assumption 2017. He will spend the next few years preparing for final vows, as well as studying philosophy and theology in preparation for ordination to the priesthood.
His vowed life in community with his brother friars is centered on prayer.
“I get up around 6 a.m. I do half an hour of silent meditation at 6:30, then we have Mass with Lauds (Morning Prayer) at 7, followed by breakfast. Rosary and Sext (Midday prayer) are at noon, followed by lunch. Office of Readings and Vespers (Evening Prayer) are at 5:30, followed by dinner. Compline (Night Prayer) is at 9 p.m.
“Usually the morning and early afternoon involves class and other study; later in the afternoon is a good time for sports in our backyard, or other projects and errands, or simply rest. After dinner the house is often quiet because brothers are studying or doing other work. Of course, as students, we can be found writing papers and studying for exams at almost any time.”
Holy Family Parish: http://holyfamilyparish.ca/