During his pastoral year of religious formation, Brother John Marie Blair, TOR, has had time to contemplate his path to religious life while serving students at Franciscan University of Steubenville for the 2021-22 academic year.
Blair joined the religious life in 2017, made temporary vows in 2019 and has served within the TOR community since then. After the spring semester at Franciscan, he will return to Washington, D.C., to finish his formation.
Like most discerning the religious life, Blair had to meditate on it for at least two years before he fully committed to it.
Blair said he first thought he would join the diocesan priesthood and work directly under a bishop in a parish. But then he found himself attracted to the community aspect of the religious life, where he would be surrounded by prayerful men of God who kept him accountable and made sure he committed to his vows: poverty, chastity and obedience.
Blair, who said he is a social creature, also said that the togetherness amongst the Franciscan Friars, TOR, was a good thing for him, as it created an environment that established useful and good relationships.
“I actually met the Franciscan University friars once in Florida before coming here,” Blair said.
He said he is thankful he has come to know those men more intimately during his time at the university.
When Blair entered the religious life, he struggled with finding the balance between his vocation and his studies. He said he had to make sure that his academics would not take away from his recreation and prayer time even though his work load was heavy at times.
Amid all these struggles, Blair said he is thankful to be close to the friars as he continues his walk towards the mold that God wants him to fit.
Blair said he hopes that during his earthly walk with Jesus, he may become as holy as he can and emulate the traits of sainthood.
Blair said that one of the TORs’ main charisms is constant conversion.
For Blair, that means seeing the beauty of the Lord in the people in different ministries and community service opportunities. For example, he enjoys working within food pantries, nursing homes and schools.
Blair said that although the religious life is not for everyone, all who feel a call should look at it more seriously, taking the time to sit in the Lord’s presence to envision it.
He said God desires for everyone to pour out their hearts before him so that he may work within the confines of the stubborn heart.
“Explore religious communities — almost like dating,” Blair said. “You never really know who or what you’re comfortable with until you’ve really experienced it.”
Blair said to be patient, especially since discernment is not something that can be solved immediately. Even after entering the religious life, Blair said discernment of his vocation is still ongoing.
Blair said he reads Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd,” to refocus his vision on the Lord. He said he reminds himself that the Lord is still with him, even in the middle of the storm. Psalm 23 also reminds him not to seek worldly things.
It is hard to do something that one does not feel like doing, Blair said. Sometimes drive is what is needed, and liking what he does — Blair concluded — does make it easier.