By Marc Massery (Oct 20, 2018)
His last name in Spanish means “one at prayer.” Brother Christopher Orante, MIC, a cradle Catholic, started altar serving at his parish in the greater Los Angeles area as soon as he made his First Holy Communion.
“I just enjoyed sitting near the altar and wearing the vestments,” he said. “I was small so I didn’t really understand much about the Mass at that time, but I felt drawn to it.”
When he was older, Br. Christopher admits that he felt as though he were “too cool” for altar serving and lost interest. But once he started Confirmation classes in high school, his mother encouraged him to attend a youth group at his parish. “She said that if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go back,” he remembers.
So he went, sure he wouldn’t like it and certain he wouldn’t come back.
“But I loved it,” he said. “I witnessed the joy that everyone there had and knew I wanted that, too. So, I kept going back, growing in the faith and making it my own. Finally, I was going to Mass because I wanted to, not just because my parents were telling me to.”
Brother Christopher said that he even started praying the Rosary on his own, but he admits that he did not really understand the Rosary until much later.
“At first, the Rosary was a sort of mechanical thing to me. But I knew that Mary was important and that I should keep trying to grow in devotion to her,” he said.
Brother Christopher’s parents had initially hoped he would go on to do something successful in the world, such as become a doctor or a nurse. After all, they both had a background in the medical field, and he had a knack for the sciences.
“[But] I just felt more called to caring for others on the spiritual level,” he said. “It’s just kind of funny that I want to become a doctor of the soul instead.”
Then a Marian, Fr. James Cervantes, MIC, happened to be ordained at Br. Christopher’s parish: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Rowland Heights, California. “He and I were good friends. Many of the Marian Fathers came out for his ordination in California, so I met a lot of them, including vocation director, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC,” he said.
Though nervous to discern his vocation at first, he decided to attend a “come and see” retreat in Steubenville, Ohio. “I really loved it,” he said. “I felt right at home, especially meeting many of the brothers. I could tell they were a really good group of men, very faithful to Our Lady, and they just wanted to serve the Church faithfully.” Though he considered joining his home diocese, all the right doors to join the Marian Fathers opened.
Since that time, as he has continued his formation for the priesthood, he’s also continued to grow in his understanding of the Blessed Mother. “Once I really started to understand God as Father, I realized that it would be [strange] to go toward Him without any sort of spiritual mother. Our Lady isn’t this distant model who’s just a good intercessor. She really cares for each of us, and she wants to nurture us and prepare us for whatever God calls us to do.”
Brother Christopher says that he’s learned not to treat the Rosary so mechanically, as he did in his youth. Now, he meditates intently on the mysteries — on the life of Christ and Mary. He said that he has experienced many fruits from praying the Rosary in this way.
He said, “We should place ourselves in those mysteries and ask God, ‘What are You trying to say to me in them?’”