SALT LAKE CITY — A mother’s faithfulness to the Church and the Newman Center’s community led Draper resident Ben Frost to accept the call to the priesthood.
Although his family moved about during his childhood, he spent most of time as a young boy and again during high school in Draper, he said. He also lived there during his first year at the University of Utah.
Raised Catholic, Frost stopped attending Mass in his early teens, even though it was about this time that he felt the first inclination toward a religious vocation.
“This is most curious to me, even today, as this really was about the lowest point in my life of faith,” he said. “… Nonetheless, I cannot overstate my mother’s faithfulness to the Church through all this time. She was always trying to instill virtues into me, even at the lowest point of my faith life, and always reminding me of God’s love.”
At the U, Frost became involved with the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, which is staffed by priests from the Western Dominican Province.
“It is where I truly found my faith,” he said.
The Newman Center’s communal aspect also “was rich and worthwhile,” he said, adding that he met some dear friends there and has fond memories of the weekly community dinners.
The Newman Center’s residency program, which he entered during his last year at the university, “was a particularly formative experience for me,” he said because “it was the first time I felt a real connection with a community: I was part of something larger than myself. A wonderful and transformative feeling.”
Witnessing the Dominicans’ ministry at the Newman Center led Frost to consider a vocation with the Order of Preachers.
“The Dominican Order brings together a beautiful union of faith and reason, which was something that I had found previously lacking in my faith formation – that most important element of reason; its absence was a large contribution to my faithless adolescence,” he said. “The very Dominican dedication to ‘veritas,’ truth, is essential for me. As it was for the Newman Center, the sense of community that the Dominican Order, as a synthesis between active and contemplative life, was and is quite important for me.”
Frost attended a “Come and See” weekend with the Dominicans at St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland, Calif. He returned twice more to experience life there and talk with some of the professed brothers. After graduating from the U with dual degrees in English and Religious Studies, Frost entered the Dominican novitiate, intending to become a priest so that he can share the love that God has for humankind.
“It seems to me in these years the message of Gospel love is only becoming more and more important as we drive wedges between ourselves and others, trading togetherness for independence and meaningful interaction for smartphones,” he said. “The priesthood, at least in my estimation, is a critical part of bringing together the wholeness of the Gospel message. Yes, I can even now speak of God’s love and, by God’s grace, perhaps even convince people of it, but through the priesthood the Sacraments can be enacted and God’s saving love becomes all the more tangible for the faithful by means of these beautiful gifts.”
About two months ago, Frost was vested in his habit and began his novitiate, taking the name Brother Thaddeus. The novitiate lasts about a year; he will then take simple vows and will enter the “studentate,” during which he will learn to become a fully formed Dominican friar. This period lasts about five years, after which he will make a solemn profession and become a Dominican for life.
Brother Thaddeus’ family has, in general, supported his vocation, he said.
“My mother had difficulties in the early stages of my discernment, but she has come to accept and respect my choice,” he said. “This is important, I believe, for many people discerning. You are not abandoning your family, quite the opposite. Rather, you are expanding your family in a most colossal way. In my entering into the Dominican family, my immediate family is encompassed by this as well. My mother did not lose a son, but rather gained many.”
Among the joys of being a member of the Western Dominican Province community is being understood and loved for who he is, including his flaws, Br. Thaddeus said. He also appreciates the prayerful structure of his days and easy access to the Sacraments.
The vows of chastity, poverty and obedience can pose challenges, he said, but they also offer opportunities for grace. For example, by accepting poverty, the Dominicans “face the very real possibility that we will not have all our material wants met,” Br. Thaddeus said. “Suffering in this way is an opportunity to grow in virtue as it demands one to have control over their sensual desires, rather than their sensual desires controlling them. That does not always make it easier in the moment, however.”
Anyone considering a religious vocation should first acknowledge that there are no perfect people, not even in a religious community, Br. Thaddeus said. “Instead, consider that religious life is a most perfect means for seeking holiness: It is an excellent place for the person who desires to obtain greater holiness. And to this point, do not think that you are not holy enough to enter religious life. … There are expectations of self-control because our ministry is outwardly focused and the integrity of the community must be upheld, but someone being a sinner is no impediment. Who among us is not a sinner?”
He also urges people to make an effort to discern whether they have a call.
“If you expect a sign from God, the metaphorical thunderbolt to strike you, you are putting God to the test,” he said. “It is not right to set an ultimatum before God. Instead, if you are inclined, come and see. There are vocation directors for a reason and know that interacting with them is not the same as committing to the community.”
He also suggests investigating a couple of options before choosing which community to enter, “but do not linger forever nor wallow in indecision. It is an unfortunate fate for someone to never find his or her vocation because he or she simply could not make a decision.”
Not everyone is called to life as a religious, he said, although “all Christians are called to holiness, not just the religious. As such, all Christians are capable of obtaining holiness wherever he or she might find him- or herself. God calls us to fidelity to His teachings, to His holy family, but also to joy. We are a religion of joy. This does not mean that we are always happy, that would be absurd, but that we should find fulfillment in what we do. It is no good to be a bitter priest or brother or sister. If God calls you elsewhere, so be it.”