"My vocation is to be a gift that Our Lord wants to make to his Mother. I am totally Hers and my desire is one day to celebrate Mass as Her holy Priest, leading others to Christ through Her."Religious Name: Fr. Luke Maria of Jesus
Date of entrance: July 11th, 2008
Age at entrance: 22 years old
City and country of origin: Munsonville, New Hampshire, USA
A Rough Journey Home.
“F### YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” My friend motions me to turn the cassette-player down for this part, it’s too loud. I obey, quickly turning down the volume. The song is Killing in the Name of, by Rage Against the Machine, and it’s our first time hearing it. When the song ends my friend takes out the cassette and hides it in our secret drawer. He tells me to keep it hidden and only listen to it when I’m sure I won’t get caught. As he leaves the room my eyes go back to the drawer. I have a funny feeling in me, a sort of “hot feeling” in my chest… I want to listen to it again. I want to feel it again. This is not just a song; it’s a spirit. I’m doing something wrong and I like it. It has begun. I have been introduced to a new life, a life of sin; something different than what my parents taught me… I was eleven years old.
This would seem perfectly “typical” for your average youth these days. What’s the big deal about listening to a little music? There are far worse things that I could have been doing, right? The problem was that my parents, my family, my life, were not by any means “typical.” I come from a family of fourteen kids and my parents are very Catholic. My mom and dad tried everything to raise us in the faith. The thing with me was that I was always very close to my best friend, so when he rebelled, I went with him. This path would lead me into a dark, lonely and empty existence, leaving my soul so swollen with sin that in the end I couldn’t take any more. I would be rescued, however, not by my own merits but by a woman, a woman to whom I owe my whole life. Her name is Mary. My name is Luke DeMasi and this is my story.
Some kids identify themselves with famous athletes, actors, musicians or anyone else who attracts their attention and makes them feel like someone they’re not. For me this figure was my best friend, Frank. We were as thick as thieves, we did everything together and there was nothing or nobody that could get between us. When he was about fifteen he started to rebel, putting me in a crucial position: either rebel with him or follow my parents in obedience. This decision wasn’t so easy because I always had a good relationship with my mother and it hurt me to separate from her, but in the end I had to choose…
The first thing I got into was the music. I would put myself to sleep to the “soothing” melodies of Tool, Metallica and Nine Inch Nails. I became a violent kid, not only vandalizing but fighting as well. My first major “victory” sent a guy to the hospital with a bleeding gash in his head. Not the best starts for anyone; pumping my head full of heavy rock and then taking it out on public property or other kids. The only way to make this situation worse would be to add a bottle of alcohol into the mix…
I had my first drink at twelve years old, and took to it like a fish to water. At first it was to keep up with my friends, but it soon led to a life of heavy drinking so that I ended up alone, empty and addicted. The heavy drinking eventually led to drugs. My friend’s cousin packed me my first bowl one Easter Sunday when I was about thirteen. While the other kids were looking for Easter eggs I was coughing up a lung in my grandpa’s barn. I never got into weed to the point of no return, but I wouldn’t pass it up if it came around. I did enjoy the drink and the pills, however. The problem with this lifestyle was that it was very expensive, requiring sums of money which I couldn’t afford. And so began my life of thieving. As usual it started with purses and small stuff, and then got bigger and worse. I’d rather not go into details.
I continued this way of life all under the nose of my mother. She suspected and even sometimes caught me but she never could make me stop. I always hated when she found out about some of the things I was into. It was an odd situation; no matter how hardened I was in my life of sin, I never could shut my heart off completely to my mother. My sins were progressively getting more dangerous, and I was getting more careless. With some wisdom from my father and a lot of grace from God, I applied to Ave Maria University in Florida, which turned out to be one of the biggest decisions of my life; for it was at Ave Maria that my life started to change and my conversion began.
In my first semester at Ave there was an advertisement for a whitewater-rafting trip in Georgia. I signed up. Little did I know it was a spiritual retreat led by Father Colum, a priest who made it his job to wake up guys like me from the sleep of sin. I was really drawn to his style of preaching. He preached the Gospel like I had never heard it before, in its integrity and with fire. After that retreat, I was hooked. Something was speaking to me in the very depths of my being. The Truth was speaking and it showed me the lie of the life I was living. Grace slowly began to penetrate my life. Although my life didn’t change after this trip, the seeds of conversion were planted.
At the following retreat, while in Adoration, I had an intense experience of peace and comfort; it was something I had never known before. I said to God, “Whatever it is you want me to do, I’ll do it because this peace is the most real thing I have ever known.” I remember hearing in response that I had to do two things. I had to leave my friends and become a priest. I denied the voice right away and tried to ask the question again in hope of a response more pleasing and realistic. To my dismay, I got the same response. I couldn’t listen to this voice. I thought to myself, “Me? A Priest? Nope, out of the question, not a chance in a million that I would ever do that. Priests are guys that can never have girlfriends and live a lonely and boring existence.” It was the last thing on earth that I would ever want, let alone do. I silenced the voice; nevertheless, it came back and hit me again later on in my life.
Certain hard drugs have a funny effect. They give consolations which you would think only God can give: you literally feel love. You get filled with a sense of peace and tranquility that makes almost everything and everyone attractive. The downside afterwards, however, is the complete opposite. The “love” is replaced with hate, the peace with stress and the tranquility with terrible anxiety. Things get very ugly when you’re coming down and you can’t get another fix. That feeling is so terrible that you would betray anyone, and I mean anyone, to avoid it. I’ll never forget the night when I betrayed my best friend…
I stole his stash. Problem was, he went looking for it because he was “coming down” too. The last thing I remember was looking down at my buddy and a house full of people while trying to defend myself as he slowly strangled me. He was asking me what I did with his stash. After that it was never the same. That night I lost my best friend over a measly gram of “love”.
I had a sister studying at the same school that I attended. When she graduated, my mother came down to visit us in Florida. Her graduation was on a Saturday morning. This presented a slight inconvenience for me because the problem with Saturday mornings was that usually they were just a continuation of a long Friday night… About a half-hour before the ceremony my sister found me passed out in an empty dorm room. After reviving me to a state of consciousness, she asked me if I wanted to come to her graduation ceremony. I spent the entire ceremony in the seat next to my mother… sleeping.
“How are you, Luke?” My mother’s question pierced through me, taking me completely off guard. We were at Starbucks for a coffee and I was under the impression that we would just chat for a little while, keeping the conversation to the Florida weather. However, she was coming at me with her motherly love and I was completely defenseless. I couldn’t handle it. I was in such a rut in my life, so miserable, and she wanted me to open up to her and tell her all of this. I couldn’t do it. I was breaking her heart and it was killing me. I mumbled something about being fine, lit another cigarette and changed the subject.
When my mother left I felt a great emptiness. I didn’t know what to do or to whom I could turn. In that moment I did something I had never done before; I went to pray. I went into the church and sat in front of an image of Our Lady. At first I was angry. I was angry with myself. Why was I such a mess? How come I couldn’t stop sinning? What the hell was wrong with me?! I broke down and cried. After letting it all out I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I experienced the presence of Mary that night. It was as if my Mother was back with me but this time I was speaking with her, I was telling her how I really felt inside. All the things I didn’t say to my mother at Starbucks I said to Mary in that little chapel. I left there with an incredible peace and that night I resolved to stop drinking and start living a good life. Little did I know then that, in fact, I was on the brink of entering into another very dark period of my life.
Looking back now, I don’t know how they ever let me on the plane. I was flying from Chicago to Dublin, Ireland, to begin my European adventures as part of the Study Abroad Program. “Study,” that’s a joke. The bartender in O’Hare Airport told us that the group before us had to run to catch their flight and had left about a dozen drinks on the counter. I finished those drinks, and so my adventures abroad began with blacking out in the airport bar.
I was in my “element” in Europe. I had everything: friends, girls, drugs, booze, fame, and luck; I was the man. However, something very strange was happening. Although I had everything and things seemed to go exactly how I wanted, I was haunted and empty. The more sin I consumed, the emptier I became inside. I was so confused. I wanted His peace but I was addicted to pleasure. I went from the Vatican to Oktoberfest, from Medjugorje to Amsterdam, from the world’s most famous image of the Christ Child to the world’s biggest nightclub.
I returned to Ave Maria University a broken man. I practically lived alone for the first part of the year. All of my friends had left. My only company was my half-gallon gravity bong in the bathroom and my friend’s IPod. I was a complete loser. I would show up to the parties but it wasn’t the same. It all seemed so old. My life changed when I followed my friend in his decision to rebel. These were the fruits of that decision: sadness, emptiness and addictions. I was a complete slave. I had learned by this point that I wasn’t going to be happy in the drink, drugs and parties, but knowing that made no difference because I just couldn’t stop. I was sinning and hating it. However, just as I entered that lifestyle through a friend, I would also escape from it through a friend. His name was Andre and we were old drinking buddies before he left me for God. It was through his words that I finally broke out of my hell.
“So, have you thought about your vocation lately?” Andre was never one to beat around the bush. His style was always personal and to the point, exactly how I needed to hear it in those days of darkness. I was just getting ready to go out to the bar when he slammed me with this question. It was my own fault. I had told him about my experience in Georgia when I heard that voice tell me I had to be a priest. Normally, I never would have told anyone such personal information. However, one night after about a fifth of rum and a couple of joints, it slipped out.
I couldn’t escape what he said. The words wouldn’t leave me alone. I went to the computer lab to watch some YouTube clips in an attempt to block it out of my head; it only got worse. I was even in front of the washing machine in the guys’ laundry room, literally trying to muffle out the voice with the noise of the machines, but the machines couldn’t block it out… I had to answer it.“Do you want to change your life forever?” “No! I can’t! That would mean I can never again do what I want: girls, drugs, parties, music, booze… nothing! If I say yes, I’ll never have any of it again… But wait, I’ve only ever done what I wanted, and my life sucks! I’m miserable!”
I was going back and forth in my head fighting with the voices. My life was hanging in the balance. I thought of the pain and emptiness that I was experiencing, my mother’s tears, the peace that I had in those retreats; I saw that I had to choose. Finally, I said yes. I did not know exactly what I was saying yes to, but I knew what I was saying no to. I knew from this moment I would be free. I knew my life was going to change drastically. And it did.
This all took place on a Thursday and the following Monday, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, I was in Spain with the desire to change my life. Years earlier Father Colum had invited me to spend some time in the summer with his community in Spain, just to get my head clear and straighten out my life; praying and working on the building of a house, no strings attached. My mother emailed him to ask if this offer was still open, and he said yes. I did not know what to expect or what was going to happen; I only knew that I was in the right place.
The following is taken from my journal at that time. This whole story has been difficult to recount because the decisions I made and the graces I received cannot be either explained or retold exactly as they happened. But this is how I saw it at the time:
5.13.08: Just landed in Madrid airport about an hour ago. I’m sitting in the airport café eating a baguette sandwich with my newly exchanged Euros. My flight was re-directed so I might be here for a while before they come to pick me up. I don’t know who is picking me up but I’m not too worried. My goals for this trip are to grow in a close relationship with Christ, so close that I will never want to separate from Him again. Also, with God’s help, I plan to quit drinking and smoking all together. (Oh, and hopefully to learn Spanish, I really want to learn that.) Most importantly, I want to grow in knowledge of my vocation, what I’m supposed to do with my life.
5.21.08: After breakfast I had my worst day here so far. I was completely miserable; wandering around depressed. I couldn’t find comfort or consolation. I didn’t know where it was coming from either. My head was spinning as I was saying to God: “Hey, I told you that I’m open for anything and whatever, marriage or priesthood; just tell me which one!” Well, this bad day continued. I couldn’t take any more of it. I wanted so badly to take my American money, go to the local bar and get wasted.
At around lunchtime Father Colum pulled me aside and asked me what was going on inside my head. I told him that I was looking for signs from God as to what His plan was for me. He told me that it wasn’t about signs or receiving a hundred “mystical roses.” He said it was about how I felt interiorly. I told him that I was torn between this girl I knew and the priesthood. He told me that the priestly calling is not anti-natural but it’s not natural either; it does not happen naturally for it is a supernatural calling. He said that my feelings for this girl were natural, that everyone’s natural vocation is to the married life. However, sometimes Christ asks particular souls to give that up for Him, to allow Him to choose us and to choose Him… He calls us to something even greater. Also, Father Colum said that the devil will sometimes tempt us with something good and beautiful so that we won’t do God’s will which is even more good and beautiful…
Well, I have never felt more peaceful and joyful. I said yes! I will become a candidate (God willing) this summer. So I feel at peace at the end of the day and must know this: that even the worst days will pass! Trust in Him, He loves me; He will get me out of the dark times and bring me to the light.
As I write this I am a second-year novice. I’ve been living this life for two and a half years now. I am so grateful for everything the Lord has done for me. I had a rough journey getting here but in the end grace prevailed. All I did was give a little yes to God and a no to sin and then He took over and I have never been happier. It was Our Lady who never gave up on me. No matter how bad I was, I always felt her presence, particularly as my Mother. She led me out of the darkness of sin to where I am now, in Her Home, The Home of the Mother. My vocation is to be a gift that Our Lord wants to make to his Mother. I am totally Hers and my desire is one day to celebrate Mass as Her holy Priest, leading others to Christ through Her.