Posted September 09, 2014:
Why I Made Final Promises

by Peter Gravelle.

Before making his final promises on June 8, 1997, Peter wrote this letter to his extended family and friends explaining to them the step he was about to make.

In a couple of months, God willing, I’ll be making my final promises. When I do this, I will utter these words: For the glory of God and because I desire with my whole heart to respond to the call of Jesus Christ …

There’s only one reason I’m doing this. It’s not because I’m happy (though I am), not because I enjoy what I do (though I do), and not because my parents want me to, (though they seem content with what I’m doing).

The one and only reason for making this commitment to Madonna House is that my Lord and God, my Savior, my Rock, my Love, asks me to do it. If I didn’t do it, I feel that part of me would die.

As in a marriage, when there’s a breakup, there is pain and death in that separation.

I, Peter Gravelle, promise with the help of Our Lady … Yes, I do so with the help of Our Lady, the Mother of my Lord and God. Her help is needed, for I’m a weak man, incapable of living a Christian life anywhere without her.

To live in poverty … to most of us, poverty is a dirty word, suggesting living on the streets of our cities or being covered with flies in a famine-stricken part of the world. People try to relieve poverty in some way, but I strive after it. I long for it; not the destitution of the very poor, but their absolute neediness.

I rely on God for everything, starting with life and breath and going on from there. I’m called to give everything away, including my life and to expect nothing in return. God in response provides for my needs through the generosity of others.

I haven’t gone hungry yet. God is good.

Chastity … Very crudely this means that I can’t have sex, but it can mean so much more. In place of intimacy with another person, my longing is directed to the Lord. It’s not always easy; it can be an almost constant struggle. But the Lord is showing me an intimacy that would surprise many married couples.

And obedience … That terrible word, so full of confinement and restriction! Obedience to whom? To who else but my Lord and God. He has placed certain people over me, and I believe that he works through them.

So I listen to them and act on their words. It’s amazing how freeing it is to do what you’re told to do, once you stop fighting. This is true freedom.

Forever, according to the spirit and mandate of Madonna House.

For centuries, promises (or vows) of poverty, chastity, and obedience have been lived out by men and women all over the world. Like them, I’m committing myself to live these promises out in a specific way.

For me, it is the way that was shown to Catherine Doherty. This way is small, humble, and hidden. I don’t become a "brother" nor do I have a religious order behind me. My status in the Church is little different from that of any lay person. And that is its glory.

For such a way of life is a sign to the world that Christian spirituality and union with God are obtainable by everyone—not just priests, monks, and nuns. Some of you may know very little about Madonna House. It’s an ecclesial community made up of three parts: laymen, lay women and priests, who live as one family.

Here again, we are a sign to the world. Yes, men and women can work and live together, closely yet chastely; laity and clergy can live and work together in unity. I thank God for having given me the grace to persevere in this vocation so far, and I ask your continued prayers that I may continue to persevere in it.

—Reprinted from Restoration, July-August 1997.


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My Priestly Vocation as a Lay Person



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