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Turn to Jesus (Article)

What is a consecrated man in Regnum Christi?
Tony Mac Donnell: Today’s personal testimony will be an attempt to unravel one of the great mystery’s of life!

Tony Mac Donnel
Tony Mac Donnel.

The simple response is that I felt an attraction developing within my soul to this way of life during the second year of volunteering as a coworker with the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in Washington DC.

During my two years of co-working I had the opportunity to deepen my prayer life and learn about the dynamic way of sharing the Gospel with others as lived by the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi.   The opportunity to immerse my soul in such an environment allowed me to gradually assimilate the life of a layman working to help others know Christ in a more profound way.  This was what my soul and body needed in order to convince my heart and conscience that God may be calling me to give my whole life to the Church.

It is common among those discerning a vocational call to actually feel that the call isn’t for them. This was true in my case.  Most consecrated souls never ask to be called by God because it means renouncing many things that they like and hope to do later in life like get married, have children, pursue a specific career and own a home. God of course knows that it is not easy for a human being to give up all these good things. Therefore internally at a more profound level, within the heart and soul of the person an inner call is nourished by the grace of God and this in the end provides the future consecrated soul with the strength to forego all of these other things which are noble and good.

Some people might say that it seems as if God interfered with my freedom to say no to his request for my consecration. This is of course a reasonable assessment but is too near-sighted because God never wants to go against Man’s freedom and the choice is always up to the person to follow or not to follow this inner call.   God provides the inner call; so that I can persevere during the times when my feelings seem to indicate that I am not being very productive with my life or I don’t feel like giving or sharing my life with others any longer.   As I go through stages of life where the vocation seems humanly too difficult or no longer interesting I sense internally in my heart that my love for God is deepening because my attachments to the world are decreasing and my heart and soul are becoming more focused on the real reason I was created and you were created. We were created to know love and serve God both in this world and in the next and how I choose to live today and the rest of my life is how I will be in eternity. This uniting of God and man is summed up perfectly in the “Our Father” which says “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  Consecrated life really is a public commitment while on earth to engage my soul in pre-eternity preparations in a way not possible for a married person.  In other words my commitment doesn’t make me holier than anyone who is not consecrated but it gives me more opportunity to develop the intimate personal conscious relationship with Christ that each of us is called to have and develop.  As the New Testament apostle Paul says a married person is concerned more with the affairs of this world than a person who is given over to God.

I am reminded as I write these words about my life and how John Paul II spoke of how “the human person finds himself in a sincere gift of self”.  John Paul II spoke often of the acting person; that we become who we are through our actions.  In other words my life as a co-worker was a life of self-donation. The various activities that I did as a coworker whether it was praying or working on missions or some other action were all being carried out in order to help build the Church and bring Christ to souls.  All of us are called to this and a consecrated soul is called to this by giving his whole person to the things of God!  The more I gave and served others in my daily life the more I could see that I had a vocational call to consecrated life.

I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada.  I have six sisters, one brother and two other little brothers who died at birth.  Although I studied enough to get through school I preferred spending as much time as possible playing sports. I played High school basketball and soccer and also competed in other sports like hockey and table tennis.  Growing up in a rural area in a good Catholic family had many benefits.  There was always someone to play with, lots of good food and a simple lifestyle.  I felt I had everything I needed as a boy.  When adolescence hit I continued to play sports competitively and as I moved onto high school I felt a type of separation with my Catholic roots.  In retrospect I see it as a natural quest that each person has. We each want to be independent and to do our own thing and sometimes we become so adamant that we will even go against our families wishes and traditions.  I see these adolescent years as a natural aspect of each human person’s growing-up experience, one in which God let me see for myself that I must choose him or choose another path.  While my church going remained constant I was not really serious about it until I left university and began my career.  It was at this juncture that a struggle to live my own way met up with a man who was living a life with Christ.  His witness slowly began to open my heart to a personal relationship with Christ.  This supplied the opportunity for me to go deeper in my faith and to start my conscious journey to do God’s will.        

I assumed an informal role of liaison between priest and lay people in my local city.  My work in Nova Scotia(NS), included starting some informal catechetical groups that met in people homes. On weekends I visited churches with religious articles and books in order to share the faith with others. I read a lot and listened a lot to sound Catholic theologians and speakers.  In 1994 I helped found a Catholic resource center in Halifax, NS called Veritas Books and Gifts and to this day thanks to the leadership and generosity of many lay people it is a full-time Catholic bookstore and resource center that has helped thousands of people come closer to Christ. 

After five years of building my relationship with Christ I left everything and followed Christ as a volunteer to the United States.  For two years as a coworker in 95-97  I co-founded a new organization to form and train young people to be lay missionaries, that organization is Youth for the Third Millennium (YTM).  At the end of my second year with YTM I felt I had to see if I was being called to do more. I entered the summer candidacy program for consecrated men in 1997.  My emotions were trying to say no, but my heart and soul were saying yes and in the end I consecrated myself because internally I could sense it was the will of God.  Now almost 9 years later I am more convinced than ever that God chose me to do his will!


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