Entering the Orangevale home of Brian and Jeanne Condon on a Wednesday morning, coffee is brewing in their kitchen and breakfast is being cooked by their son, Ben, 23, a diocesan seminarian home for the summer from his studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park.
The house is more peaceful and quiet than years before, when Jeanne was homeschooling their seven sons and one daughter, Elisabeth, 21, who’s still living at home while working and pursuing studies to be a nurse.
Brian and Jeanne met in a San Francisco Bay Area camera shop where he worked at the time. Jeanne was a single parent and had a toddler, Daniel. Brian took the news in stride on their first “date” over a soda on his break. After Jeanne and Brian wed, they had seven more children (including Ben and Elisabeth): Matthew, Michael, Samuel, David and Thomas, Ben’s twin.
Jeanne and Brian celebrated 35 years of marriage in June. Their home is modest and their backyard is quite large and accommodates several sitting areas, a vegetable garden, eight chickens, two dogs and a cat. Jeanne works at St. Clare Parish in Roseville three days a week with duties in the rectory and Brian drives a bus four days each week for routes in downtown Roseville, after working in the camera and photography industry for a few decades.
Homeschooling their eight children kept their Catholic faith and family first. “They each have a different story to tell about it,” Jeanne laughs. “Home is where they first learn how to love. And if you can’t get that right, what do physics, mathematics, geography and other subjects matter if you don’t know how to love?”
“Homeschooling kept our spirituality together,” Brian adds. “And besides that, seven boys needed to run around and they had too much energy for a classroom.”
They worked hard to keep materialism and other secular influences to a minimum. By necessity, the family lived frugally. “We didn’t have much money, and we often say ‘Simplicity chose us, but we have embraced her,’” Jeanne says. “We made it joyful, because we had so much in human relationships around us. Instead of materialism, we made experiences.”
Each weekday started with the “School of Quiet.” With eight kids, “there is noise all the time,” Jeanne notes. “I wanted them to get used to the quiet, so they could listen to God speak in their hearts.” There was the morning offering and the Gospel reading, the Angelus at noon, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. and the rosary in the evening. The chaplet was followed by “tea time” and Jeanne reading poetry. “We would talk about what was going on in each other’s lives and who we needed to pray for,” she says. Today, with the perspective of years gone by, Jeanne and Brian reflect and offer some advice to other parents about how they worked diligently to create a loving family and a home that would encourage and support vocations.
In addition to a rich prayer life to ground a family, they stress also entering into parish life fully. After they moved from the Bay Area in 2004, they made it a priority each Saturday to go to St. Mel Church in Fair Oaks for confession followed by an hour in the Eucharistic adoration chapel and then Mass on Sunday. “The only requirement we had for our kids was that they bring something spiritual to read,” Jeanne says. “We figured we would put them in front of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do the work.”
“It was important for our children to have that structure and a good base of values,” Brian says. “We strengthened them in their walk, so they could face any challenge and choose what they want in life.”
“The continuous call to prayer throughout the day offered a routine and helped to pace our studies as well as to give us moments for contemplation and quiet,” Elisabeth reflects. “Having so many opportunities to pray helped us to develop a favoritism to certain prayers which led to our own growth in faith. Various obscure prayers were said daily during morning prayer: the golden arrow, the crucifix prayer, a Holy Spirit prayer and the Guardian Angel prayer were just some of those. My parents would let us lead prayer time and let us read the daily Mass readings. This gave us the delight of being leaders of the faith in that moment.”
“Our greatest happiness is in listening to what God wants us to choose,” adds Elisabeth, who has attended several discernment retreats with various communities of women religious and is still open to the possibility of religious life. “Our parents make sure we know we have many different options, whether it is in school, careers or vocations. They have us pray about our vocation, so it isn’t just this is what I think I’d like, but what God wants for me.”
The routine of prayer, reading Scripture and the lives of the saints, and regular Eucharistic adoration were major elements in developing his own faith over time, Ben says. “At a certain point it becomes your own faith as you take responsibility for it and for your relationship with Christ. We read a lot about the lives of the saints which was exciting – seeing these people take the faith as their own, and suddenly that’s possible for me too.”
Ben says a major factor in his decision to apply to be a seminarian after graduating from high school was that Jeanne and Brian invited priests for dinner at their house as often as possible and that he developed a close friendship with many priests. These include Father Liam McSweeney (former pastor of St. Mel Parish), Father George Snyder (pastor of St. Clare Parish in Roseville), Father Alex Estrella (pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Grass Valley), and Father Aldrin Basarte (parochial administrator of St. Mel Parish).
“It was wonderful to meet so many priests,” Ben says. “When I was thinking about the priesthood, I would think, is it even attractive? Is it even something I want to do? For me to see priests who were joyful and loved to be priests made it something exciting that I want to do because it’s a joyful life. I thought I could put my heart and life into this and it would be a joyful outcome. Having the inspiration and confidence from these other priests to enter seminary was so crucial to my decision.”
Jeanne and Brian also took the advice of a priest who Jeanne heard speak at a conference. “I said I have seven sons and what can I do to help with vocations?” she recalls. “He said pointedly, don’t do anything, let God do it. Don’t get in the way. So I constantly said it’s your choice, but just listen to what God has to say….”
The above comes from an Oct. 21 posting by Julie Sly on the website of the Diocese of Sacramento.
People say they listen to or hear God. I don’t hear anything from him. In talking to others, they have the same experience. So you people who claim to hear God… where does the voice come from and what does it sound like?
It is not a hearable voice. You have your Guardian Angel to help you. Try to listen in your heart. Thoughts can come to you out of the blue. God is everywhere. Sometimes you feel Him, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes He talks to you through other people.
God is in you.
Sit quietly. Ask God to help you hear Him. Ask Him what you want to know. You can say.
“Lord, other people claim they hear you. Please give to me that same experience if it is for my greater good.”
Hear God, you have asked a very good question. My hearing of God may consist of consolations deep within in the course of spiritual reading, the sacraments and in the many forms of prayer, or serving others. I hasten to add that this elevation of soul was something I was accustomed to experiencing early in my Catholic (I am an adult convert from Easter Vigil, 1978) but as I have aged the consolations I knew so often in past times are now rather rare. This bothers me not as, for example, when I read scripture, God speaks to me through His word– mostly absent feelings, but anyway feelings come and go. Once in a great while during prayer a strong conviction will come over me which I recognize as Divinely inspired. So properly speaking, I don’t hear anything from God as one hears another person. What others experience I can’t say. But this is my experience, and I hope something I have said helps.
We are all called to listen to God’s voice and He speaks to every one of us. Go before the Lord inside any Catholic Church and kneel in front of Him and HUMBLY (being aware that you are in the presence of Creator of Heaven and Earth) ask Him to open your heart and mind to His Word. It”s that simple. Ask Blessed Mother to lead you to Her Son, Jesus. She will do it. And do not doubt, but believe.
It was the Blessed Mother who led me to her Son, Jesus. When very young, I had a deep love for and devotion to Our Blessed Mother. But I was scared of Jesus, and scared of God, too. Then, one year, during Lent, I decided to make a special Lenten devotion to Our Lady, and prayed to know her Son. Well, Our Lady answered my petition in a big way. I suddenly “fell in love” with Jesus, her Son, that year. Her beloved Son, dying on the Cross for our Salvation, held lovingly, sorrowfully in her arms, the image of the “Pieta,” after being taken down from the Cross– that moved my heart to tears, and I was filled with great love and tremendous awe for Him, from that time on. I think many people are drawn to Christ in that way, and I think Our Blessed Mother is very good at conversions.
Praise to the Lord for giving us His Mother. I had a similar circumstance when I became aware that I probably loved Mary more than God so I asked for her to help with that. And she did.
Though I have to say that my devotion to her also came through Him, because of disappointment with Christians and I said to the Lord “Show me someone who know how to live this right.” I can’t explain in words what happened but it was Mary that He showed me.
God “speaks” to us in many different, unusual, and creative, intuitive ways– many times, in ways we don’t expect. When you begin to regularly practice your faith, also with a regular practice of prayer, and start to develop your own relationship with God, then you will see how He is reaching out to communicate to you, in a great many different and perhaps unusual ways. Go to Mass often, read the Scriptures of the day, ask a priest or an experienced lay leader for some good suggestions, and maybe try a retreat, or try making a Novena, with that prayer intention. Ask others to join you, in praying for your special intention, to hear God speak to you. You may get some unexpected, fantastic results, and be very, very thrilled.
Many long years ago, in 1963, a well-liked, very caring and compassionate Pastor of our church, originally from Ireland, told us, at a parish meeting, that he was overwhelmed and overjoyed, because he had suddenly had an experience of God. He was in his late 30s, ordained at age 23 (the usual age in those days for ordaining priests). He said that before this great experience, he had faith in God since childhood, but viewed God simply as “in a book,” or ” up in the sky.” That’s all. Well, many of us, for many years, had had deep and rewarding spiritual relationships and experiences with God, Christ, and Our Blessed Mother. We all were so shocked at our Pastor’s sudden revelations– and so happy for him! He is now gone from this world. God is a great Mystery. God has His own ways, His own reasons, and His own times, to do all things.
Abortion is a woman’s right. I You don’t like abortion don’t have one.
“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:m I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,”–Deuteronomy 30:19
I have known priests who seemed unhappy but I have also known priests who just said “It is a great life.”
Lovely, inspiring Catholic family. Very dedicated homeschoolers, in a beautiful, devout Catholic “domestic church.” Many priestly and religious vocations always come from these kinds of dedicated, devout Catholic families.
I applaud and admire this family being so dedicated to their faith. I was frankly surprised and happy to see that the interviewer had comments from the adult children as well (too often, any media with an agenda will target to interview only those who will support the accepted view to give the idea that the view is more widely accepted than it actually is… and yes, both conservative and liberal media do this). I was taken aback by the attitude that “simplicity chose us” – it’s one thing to accept how one will live, but the phraseology is one of their simplle life being imposed, that there were no alternatives or opportunities that might have changed their lives. But I support that they lived as they chose, strongly in their faith. Kudos to the parents and family!
Michael D. — you are not Catholic, so you do not understand– “Simplicity” is a great grace of God, bestowed upon the Saints– and a great honor! Simplicity has nothing to do with living in “misery and poverty.” It is a grace to live simply, not as materialists– especially, for modern-day Americans. To love God, one’s fellowman, to cultivate a beautiful Marriage and Family life in the home, the “domestic church,” centered on God– and to share lovingly with others. To reject the false pursuits of the secular world and materialism, which does not know Christ and His Divine, Heavenly riches– true wealth! When you are free of materialism, you have the right perspective, and can serve God and mankind, with your whole self. Many years ago, I knew of Catholic married couples who joined the lay religious order of the Lay Franciscans, who were actually required to take promises to live a life of simplicity, like St. Francis. They led a life of daily Mass and prayer, chose modest homes, cars, clothing, and other items, rejected many unnecessary modern materialistic items, helped the needy and poor, and raised their children with good Catholic beliefs and values, to give to the less fortunate. There are also many Protestant ministers and their families, as well as entire Protestant groups, which stress living by the Christ-like virtue of simplicity.
An interesting reply – you are correct: I was raised post-adoption in a Catholic home. Mom, Dad involved the the church polity, did CCD, said my prayers at night, as did my brother and sister. When the option came, I decided on Boy Scouts instead of CYO, had 1st Communion, etc. When it was time for high school, I defended going to a public school vice Jesuit High School because truly I did not think myself ready for an all-boy academic situation. My siblings and most of my cousins all left the church at some point, though many of us, when a funeral or wedding occurs, truly enjoy the pageantry and tradition of hearing the Mass. When I was active duty and deployed, I went to Mass on occasion. It’s one thing to have an intellectual discourse on things religious, and as evinced by my replies here on occasion, I truly enjoy the exchange of ideas (not of sound bites and rhetoric), and Lord knows on occasion I have even defended the faith against those who make grand, sweeping allegations without any real proof. All too often I’ve seen too many use their faith (no matter which one) to justify their “suffering” and therefore acclaiming their side as right, and even righteous. If one chooses to live austerely, that’s their choice, While teaching at a parochial school, someone questioned about their teacher pay being low, especially when compared to the local area’s school districts. The teacher was wallayed by the diocesan office, which exclaimed that it was an honor to work for such low pay, that our reward in heaven would be great indeed because we sacrificed some wealth opportunities for the sake of the church’s children. Nice, and helped to justify the low pay while also implying a bit of shame for daring to want a more livable wage.
I think most of the teachers who take lower pay to work in Catholic schools do feel the way that the diocesan office told him. One of the men in our parish said that it always amazed him how hard women would work for 5 cents/hour.
And I do think if you want top dollar as a teacher you don’t work at Catholic schools.
But it is also hypocritical for the bishops to take a pro-union stance while keeping out the teacher’s union and the church declaring that employers need to pay a living wage when they themselves do not.
The Orangevales are an inspiration! If I get married I would like to have the Orangevales as neighbors.
What a blessing to read of this exemplary family. What sacrifice, what discipline, what dedication! God does indeed raise up such marvelous examples and I am grateful to Cal Catholic for getting the good word out,