Christ, Our Brother, in our brothers

by Brendon Schneibel

“No matter who your brothers are, where your brothers are, whether you get along or not, our brothers are very important. Sometimes they bring Christ to us, and sometimes they need us to draw them to Christ.” –Brendon Schneibel

I feel like “Christ, Our Brother” is a really underused title for Our Lord. Maybe that’s because people don't like how it sounds; maybe it's because of how brothers infamously don’t get along; or maybe it’s because people don’t understand the importance of it. In this my first year of seminary, I encountered the brotherhood of Christ in a compelling way.

I'm the oldest of four children, three of whom are boys, so I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t have a brother. Nonetheless, I doubt that I ever appreciated brotherhood more before my first year of seminary. At seminary, we don’t simply have classmates. Instead, we refer to each other as seminarian brothers. Seminarian brothers are some of the most genuine, caring men that I have ever met. In all the months that I was at St. Gregory the Great Seminary this year, never once did I hear of one of my brothers complain of loneliness. Homesick? Sure. Sad? On occasion. Frustrated? You bet. But, there was always someone to talk with, pray with, study with, or laugh with.

However, this year of seminary hasn’t only helped me appreciate my new seminarian brothers, but, because of their genuine and constant brotherhood, I've grown to love my natural brothers more. Now that I'm home for the summer, I realize how much I missed my younger brothers during the school year. No matter how much we argue, they are all gifts from God. They give me unique opportunities to both give and receive the fraternal love of Jesus Christ. This is essential because we need to be able to share this brotherly love with everyone we meet. Christ told us to “Love one another” (John 13:34). Christ asked for perfect, unconditional love, but we don't all have the opportunity to express this completely and sacrificially as Christ did on the cross. What we do have are simple little opportunities each day to love each other like brothers. Just by listening to them, helping them, or being with them, we can share Christ’s love with our brothers. I know I have a long way to go before I do this really well, but thanks be to God that I have the chance to.

This year of seminary has also caused me to love my spiritual brothers more too, those both on earth and in paradise. As I learned to love my faith even more this year, I was strengthened in the friendships that our faith has given me. Again, not only those with my new seminarian brothers, but also those men I know through the Church. I've learned this year, through the example of my seminarian brothers, how to be a true brother. I feel encouraged to be there for them, to pray with them, to be Christ to them, and to see Christ in them. With the gifts God has given me this year, I know I can be a better friend and brother to these men.

And last, but certainly not least are my brothers in heaven. Whereas my brothers here on earth I give and receive the love of Christ, with my brothers in paradise I mostly just receive. The saints, especially, are spiritually like our big brothers and sisters. We turn to them for guidance, we beseech them to strengthen us in virtue, and we are comforted by them. This is especially consoling when we have a special connection with that saint. A connection like that of a patron saint is always good for this.

This year, however, I had some very special brothers to reach out to. During middle school my family lived in Alaska for three years, and I met a dear friend there named Zac. Last August, Zac, who was just 18, died in a hiking accident. He was buried on Aug. 14, the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and it is these two men who are my special brothers in paradise. Though I can't prove on my own that Zac is in heaven already, I have great confidence that he is. In the chapel at St. Gregory's, there is a stained glass window of St. Maximilian Kolbe. After Mass, I would sit on the window sill, look at the tabernacle, and recall the love that binds us all in Christ. These were some of the greatest moments of consolation this school year, and I am forever grateful to God for them.

No matter who your brothers are, where your brothers are, whether you get along or not, our brothers are very important. Sometimes they bring Christ to us, and sometimes they need us to draw them to Christ. So let's be ready at all times to receive Christ and, like St. Andrew, bring our brothers to him (John 1:42). Since Christ is such a great brother, let us be like him and be brothers to each other.

Schneibel is a College I seminarian studying at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb.

Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. Please continue to pray for them.