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Turn to Jesus (Article)

I Had to See If God Was Calling Me
Vocational testimony of Fr Thomas J. Brenti, LC, who was ordained on November 1, 2008.

Ordenación P.Thomas Brenti, L.C.
Fr Brenti, LC, was ordained in the chapel of the Center for Higher Studies of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome.

My path goes against all expectations. I was born in Cordes-sur-Ciel (Albi, France on March 12, 1979), but we moved to Casablanca (Marruecos), and I lived in Orleáns, in the center of France, from the age of four onward.

My parents’ example

My grandfather on my mother’s side was Jewish. My grandmother told me that when the threats of discrimination and deportation started, my great-grandmother decided to baptize my grandfather. Years later, during the Second World War, my grandfather spent time in jail with an evangelical pastor who helped him to get to know the Christian faith more deeply.

My parents grew up as Protestants who did not practice their faith much. However, once they got to know some groups from the charismatic renewal movement in Nancy, they began to take more of an interest in their faith. After a few months of interior maturation, they got together with some friends who were founding a new French movement called “The Community of the Beatitudes) in 1978. However, they had still not yet entered the Catholic Church. It was only on the occasion of my baptism, on November 15, 1979, in Cordes, that they made a clear option: the celebrant was a Catholic priest. Some years later, in the same week that my parents were married, my mother’s parents separated. But instead of getting discouraged, my parents made it clear to all the wedding guests that they were firmly decided to remain faithful to each other until death.

I grew up in an atmosphere of great faith. My parents continued to be very involved in the ecclesial movement of the Beatitudes, and my dad founded the Catholic editorial house that this movement still directs. When I was nine years old, the bishop of my
Ordenación P.Thomas Brenti, L.C.
Fr Brenti with his family and Bishop Renato Boccardo.
diocese ordained my father a permanent deacon, on April 10, 1988. I still remember, with the same emotion I felt then, seeing him prostrated on the floor of the church of St Nicolás de Blois, France (our diocese). While married and a father, he wanted to express the giving over of his life to God through the diaconal ordination rite. I will never forget his example.

I learned that to be happy, we must say “yes” to God

Shortly afterwards, as an altar boy at my small parish church, I was kneeling after the consecration at Sunday Mass, and I told God in a moment of generosity:  “I want to give you my entire life. If you want, I will be a priest.” And in that same moment of prayer, I thought to myself with complete lucidity in spite of my early age: “If I become a priest, I will not be able to get married, or become a doctor, or have a second house in Japan… well, Lord, at least a deacon!”

I had to learn that we always have to say “yes” to God, even if it’s hard. The reality is that this desire never left my heart, in spite of my scant generosity.

One day, when I was 14 years old, I was at a youth meeting in Orleáns. During the prayer vigil, the director asked those who were willing to give their lives to God to go down on their knees, so that the others could pray for them. Although I felt keenly embarrassed to be seen by all of my friends around me, I got down on my knees. Ever since this invitation from the Lord, I have never doubted that he was calling me. I was so enthusiastic that if I could have found a bishop who would ordain me a priest right then and there, I would have asked him. Most of all, I realized that Christ’s love fills the heart.

But I was still only 14 and I had three years of school to go. I had a lot of friends and it was hard for me to give up the desire to get married and start a family. But I knew that God wanted it and that I would find my greatest happiness and fulfillment in his will.

My decision to respond to Christ’s call

I earned a magna cum laude in the baccalauréat, which is the final year of French high school. Then I asked my parents for permission to go to the seminary. I was 17 years old and my parents wanted me to wait until I was older. So I started my engineering degree at the INSA University in Lyon, and when I was 18 I wanted to go to Maguncia in Germany to get a change of scenery and learn a new language. At the start of that year, 1997, I wrote a letter to the Virgin Mary in which I asked her for the gift of enlightenment about my vocation so that I would know where the Lord wanted me.

On my birthday in that same year, one of my mother’s friends called me. I told her that a diocesan seminarian friend had invited me to come with him on a pilgrimage to Rome with a group I was unfamiliar with at the time: the Legionaries of Christ. She told me that she wanted to pay for my trip as a birthday gift from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thank you, Mary!

On that pilgrimage, I got to know the Legionaries, especially Fr Eamon Kelly, an Irish priest whom I have admired since then. His charism of joy, charity, and self-giving attracted me, and I saw very clearly that I had to try it out and see if this came from God.

The years of preparation for the priesthood

The vocational convention I attended confirmed my desire, and I entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in Bad Münstereifel, in the archdiocese of Cologne, on September 11, 1997. In those two years, since I was the only French-speaking novice, I occasionally had to go on missions to Belgium and Croatia.

After a year of humanistic studies in Salamanca, Spain, I arrived to Rome to study philosophy. During Holy Week of 2001, I accompanied a group of young men who were going on missions in Orizaba, Mexico. In Rome, I served as an acolyte at the Mass with John Paul II in the Easter Vigil of 2002, and I was able to see his witness of heroic suffering until death.

I worked in youth and family ministry for four years, and in vocational work in Paris and Lille. The essence of my mission was to give Christ to the adolescents, youth, and families I met. I was also amazed at the abnegated and evangelical work of so many diocesan priests, religious, and lay people along the way. I never thanked them enough for their witness of heroic fidelity and perseverance.

I returned to Rome to finish my theology studies with a clear goal: I had very little time left before ordination. By the grace and mercy of God, I received my diaconal ordination on June 29, 2008 and was ordained a priest by a good friend of my family, Bishop Renato Boccardo, on November 1, 2008, the feast of All Saints, to whom we prayed for their intercession.

Fr Thomas Brenti was born in Cordes-sur-Ciel (Albi, France), on March 12, 1979. He studied in the Saint Charles school of Orleáns. In 1997 he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Germany. He completed his humanistic studies in Salamanca, Spain, and went on to study philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome. He worked for four years in youth, family, and vocational ministry in Paris and Lille. He is an accredited guide of the archaeological excavations of the Vatican. He is currently studying for his licentiate in dogmatic theology and is a member of the team of formators in the Legion’s Center for Higher Studies in Rome.

Translation of the vocation story published in the book "Vivir para Cristo"


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