I arrived in New York to begin the Pre-Novitiate with the Carmelites from the American Province of New York in 1995 from North Carolina. In 1997, with a class of four other novices studying to be members of this ancient religious order, we professed vows and thus entered into consecrated religious life. However, this is not where my journey of following the example of the disciples in following Christ began. It began in Knoxville, Tennessee where I attended Knoxville Catholic High School.
As a kid growing up in Knoxville Tennessee, I always knew my brother and I were Catholic because everyone asked us where we went to Church and we said we went to Mass. They then asked their parents what this meant, and then they would ask us what is was like to be a Catholic and go to Mass, which we would tell them. Our mom grew up like her parents, Protestant Methodist. So, my brother and I were familiar with other Christian denominations and services. When we were High School age, our folks decided to send us to Knoxville Catholic, where we learned our faith in class. It was a good place to learn, and I was asked by the Principal to be a Eucharistic minister. I agreed and the next thing you know, they put me on a retreat team to handle the freshman and sophomore retreats as a student leader.
After High School, we decided that it was best for me to attend the University of Tennessee and study something attractive. Being an Eagle Scout, and having a love for all things outdoors and in nature, I decided on a degree in Applied Science with a discipline in Soils. A few weeks into the studies, I checked into the Newman center run by the Paulist Fathers. The Paulists found out about my previous Catholic experience and had me both teaching CCD and working on a team of young student Catholics to provide a community experience at the University.
College was completed in four years and I began an apprentice job for a few months mapping soils, and was soon awarded a job working for Buncome County Environmental Health Department as head soil scientist. Living in Asheville, North Carolina and working for the county was wonderful. It was a dream come true. I kept my promise to God and remained faithful to my Catholic responsibilities. Weekly attendance of the Eucharist and frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Confession, help me stay in touch with my faith after I moved away from Tennessee.
It was a great job, but I found myself in a faith community where I was encouraged to think about becoming a priest. I attended meetings with a Rosary group, and started a Young Adult group. I found myself spending more and more time at Church. I even began handing out rosaries to strangers, letting them know that Mary loved them like Jesus. All this and more, led me to pray. I prayed with books and the Bible mostly at home, and the Rosary on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, along with abstaining from meat.
All these practices along with speaking to our dear Father Carl, led me into the discernment process. I visited a Benedictine community with the hopes of being a farmer; a Trappist monastery with the hopes of becoming a monk like Thomas Merton; and the local Diocese. All this places were fine, but none of them felt right for me.
I then received a reply back from a Carmelite Friar after attending the Pro-Life March held each year in January. I had met him there and he handed me a flyer with the Carmelites information and a bit about their history. I had never heard of the Carmelite male branch of the Order of Carmelites. I only know of their great Saints. After finding out that there was a group in the Church that combined the prayer of a monk and the work of a priest, I was very interested. I soon discovered that these men were inspired by the Virgin Mary and the great prophet Elijah. I couldn’t get enough of all the great things that were part of these group of men. The Brown Scapular was given to the Carmelites in the middle ages, and the Carmelites became famous for their spectacular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I began to think that this was the group. The vocation director sent me an invitation to come and meet the brothers and where they worked. I discovered that Carmelites live in houses of three or four men, who eat and pray together. This is what I was longing for. I wanted to live with others while studying and living a life sharing God. Pursuing God in neighbors and wrestling with evil and sometimes a God who desires to remain hidden. The Carmelites hooked me, and invited me to come and stay. I have been with the Carmelites for about twenty years. It was the best choice I ever made. Be Brave! Search your heart for the truth! God will take care of the rest! In Christ, Bro Rob
Brother Robert Bathe, O. Carm.
I met the Carmelite Friars and really thought they were down to earth. They were always laughing. They seemed happy, and I wanted a group of others to be with as I sought the presence of God. I came to this group in hopes of finding and sharing in God's love. It has been a great fourteen years since I made the choice to serve God in a group of Consecrated men. Each year offers new growth and insight, especially when pondering the Scriptures.
HOMETOWN: Cookeville, Tennessee
YEARS IN THE ORDER: 18
FAVORITE CARMELITE SAINT:
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux