Volume > Issue > Lay Vocation

Lay Vocation


By Steffen Richards | December 1987
Steffen Richards is a painting contractor in Berkeley.

When I was baptized into the Catholic Church (along with my three-year-old son) at Christmas in 1976, I had little idea of how different a person I would become. I had tried to reassure my friends: “Don’t worry,” I told them, “I’ll still be the same Steffen, except that, on Sundays, I’ll disappear for a while.” But this was before I began to investigate more fully just what it means to be a Christian. I discovered (among other things) the injunction, “Pray constantly,” and knew I had run up against something I could not ignore.

Not having been religious at all, I was unfamiliar with prayer. I did not take to it naturally and, if left to myself, I could blithely neglect it. But I was absolutely convinced that the new life I had stumbled upon was the only life worth living, and I had to do something about suppressing what was old in me and nurturing what was new. Under the press of everyday circumstances, I found the going rough. The culmination of the week – Mass on Sunday – often occurred as a molehill instead of the mountain I so longed for. I came to realize that my spiritual life, if it was to be, had to have a daily – not simply a weekly – foundation.

During the course of the process that led to my conversion, I read a biography of Eric Gill (by Robert Speaight) and was struck by the life he was trying to live within a community of fellow craftsmen, a life which included the presence of a priest, Mass, and morning and evening prayer. At the time I was reading, I paid little attention to the fact that this priest (and indeed the way of life) was Dominican.

The time I am writing about was about four years after my conversion. Where I heard of the idea of a “Third Order” (a life for lay people based on principles of the religious order to which it is dependent), I do not know. I did not know that Eric Gill had been a Third Order Dominican until after I became one. Nevertheless, it entered into my mind that I should anchor myself in a daily regimen of spiritual practices and that I should cling to these practices against all the secular forces that seemed so easily to detach me from my Lord and Savior. To this end I conceived three possibilities.

Enjoyed reading this?



You May Also Enjoy

Why a Self-Indulgent Age Needs a Rough Religion

Penance is man’s pitiful part in cooperation with grace, an extreme method necessary to combat the difficulties posed by the passion and the pride of man.

The Rhone to the Thames to the Tiber

I came to see that the Anglican schism of the sixteenth century, and the Protestant Reformation in general, did not reflect the original trajectory of the New Testament.

From Murderer to Monk

Clayton requested a "formal tie to the monastery" while in jail. He said he was already leading a monastic life and was eager for it to be embraced by the Church.