Profile No. 19: Brett Manero

Profiles in the Gap

Brett Manero

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Brett Manero is a young professional and Theology student living in Washington, DC.

Did you expect this time of singleness?

Hmm, yes and no. Yes, because I knew that I’d need (and want) my 20s to be a time of exploring, growing, and preparing. No, because like the rest of us, part of me imagined that I’d be settled by now! But thank goodness I’m not, because I know that being single at this very moment is exactly what I’m supposed to be. It’s a perfect place to say, “Lord, here I am, I come to do your will.” And knowing Him — He’s full of surprises.

Is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing?

Right after my college graduation, I stayed in Scotland (where I studied for my undergraduate) to work for six months. I remember praying one evening and almost catching a glimpse of my coming 20-something’s, and what a roller coaster ride it would be. I knew it would be a time of “changing seasons” — different career experiments, grad school, relationships, friendships, etc. I knew it would feel tumultuous at times — that it could be a time of great excitement and joy, but also great challenges and disappointments. I wrote a short story shortly after college about going through your 20s; in it I describe it as a “lonely decade.” Lonely, because you’re not quite settled on things like vocation and career yet, and “getting there” can be quite a hike. But that’s part of the fun.

Overall, it’s been as I expected it to be. However, I certainly never expected to live in Washington, DC. My older brother and sister lived here and I didn’t want to “follow in their footsteps” by moving here. But, as often happens, God had a different plan — and here I am, and I can totally see why I’ve been here.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it?

Absolutely. I work for the Church, so the work we do is of course fulfilling. Getting to know so many other young Catholics through work has been a phenomenal blessing. When I eventually am working in a secular environment, that transition from being around the Blessed Sacrament and a Catholic presence all day will be weird! But we’re called to go out into the world to share our faith — in the workplace especially. Pope Francis has reminded me quite a bit about that.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult?

My faith guides my life! Being Catholic is awesome. I came back to the faith during my college years after growing up as a “halfway Catholic.” I can’t imagine life without it. Trusting in God — that He’ll guide and provide — is key.

“Build Up For the Future.”

My best friend in college, a Protestant, said this to me years back. I see my 20s as a sort of “springboard” for the rest of my life — to grow spiritually and professionally, to prepare for my vocation in the long-run.

One of the best pieces of advice my spiritual director gave to me a few years ago was: “Pray the Rosary for your future spouse. Offer it up as a sacrifice for her.” So, a few days a week I offer that prayer.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, with God, it’s impossible to predict the future. He is so full of surprises and loves to open (and close) doors for us. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now — still in DC, somewhere else — but I try not to stress too much about it. He’s got it covered.

If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

So much to choose from. I would travel again. I’d go on some kind of a missions trip to the Middle East to help the persecuted Christians there.

Vita est pulchra! (Life is beautiful)

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Profile No. 12: Casey Bustamante

Profiles in the Gap
Casey Bustamante
 
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Casey Bustamante is an officer in the U.S. Air Force. 
 
Did you expect this time of singleness? 
Yes! I have this magical age I think is the absolute latest age I can get married: 32 years old. I’m 27 now, so I am still on track for my goal. Hah! 
  
Okay, honestly and truly, it is an expectation I’ve set myself since my sister got married at that age. Being raised in an immigrant Mexican-American household, I want to feel guilty about being single. I want to blame my singleness on the push for me to be financially independent from my parents. My parents had to work hard to be where they are now, allowing my sister and me the opportunity to focus on our studies and graduate from college. My parents never wanted me to struggle. And as I moved through my twenties, I not only started to feel pressure to work hard at my career but also to have a family. I was totally wrong. I have gone and confronted that with my parents only to find out that it is an expectation I have set against myself. My family has never wanted anything more for me than to be happy and living in service to God.
 
Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?   
My career started on my first day of college. I was graciously accepted to the US Air Force Academy and commissioned as a Cyber Operations officer (IT girl). It has been everything I’ve needed: discipline, schedule, routine, but most of all an invitation to grower closer to Jesus. I was the type of cradle Catholic growing up who walked the line of not committing any serious sin, but I was honestly living a selfish life. I was searching for my identity, which landed me in a self-serving relationship and in a pool of lies I fed to those that loved me. God gave me an incredible moment of grace and led me to confession my freshmen year in college. The weight of sin was lifted! From that point on, I always wanted to say “yes” to God. Am I always successful at it? No, but the desire only grows stronger every day. We had an incredible young adult ministry program at the Academy that really started to impress on my heart the desire to share the love of Christ with others. And this is what brings me fulfillment in my career. I not only have a unique opportunity to share His love with my Christian brothers and sisters in arms, but my job is to serve others. As an officer in the military, regardless of your career field, you are commissioned first and foremost to serve those around you with a great selfless love.
 
How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 
Everything I do should be for His greater glory. Through discerning any decision in my career or personal life, I must seek consolation in actions that will glorify our Lord. 
 
Since you have this time of singleness, what are some challenges you set for yourself? 
As a single young adult, the challenge to not live only for myself is tough. I have a good paying job right now that allows me to travel, buy nice things, eat out, and have an overall comfortable life. It is easy for life to continue to be about me. One of the best decisions I have made since moving to the DC area was to live in a house with four other women. The reason I moved into this house was because I knew it was best for me to not live alone, so I was going to move wherever my original housemate went. The experience has been incredible. I live in community with these women, and I am challenged in many of the simple day-to-day nuances to not live for myself. Whether the next chapter in my life brings religious or married life, God has provided many opportunities for me to live for others with the lovely ladies of the Grant House. (And yes, we have named our home.) 

The Divine Tussle

A few years ago I lived for a time with a young woman who was 27 and done with singlehood. She’d just watched her best friends get married in a matter of months, she wasn’t dating anyone, she had only some rather new friends and a very young and very idealistic and very stand-offish new roommate (yours truly) to turn to for comfort, and she really, really, really wanted to meet someone, fall in love, get married, and start a family. 

At the ripe old age of 23, I regarded her struggles with mingled feelings of compassion, anger at her situation, and exasperation with her for being in such a funk about it. Life has other things to offer, hasn’t it, for those of us who are still single. The ever elusive “future spouse” will come along in God’s good time, and it’s no good hounding him for it. Those were my thoughts, and tended to be my murmured condolences when she came to me to talk things out.

I remember thinking at that time that my roommate was like Jacob, wrestling with God. 

Now I am 27 and single. I’ve been through about seven roommates since that lovely lady and I parted ways, and I’ve been on a number of dates and made multiple new friends. I’ve moved on in my career. I’ve learned a whole lot about myself, including a lot of things I wish I didn’t know. And for the first time in my adult life, I’ve caught myself in a bit of a funk this year — not because I want a husband and kids necessarily (I’m growing increasingly unsure that I do), but because I want to be committed to something that matters and I’m not. And I don’t feel old, not at all, but 30 is coming, people. That feels somehow momentous.

So today’s first reading splashed over me like a bucket of ice cold water. That old roommate, you’ll be glad to learn, has gotten married and is now expecting a first child. Now it seems to be my turn to wrestle with God. 

And it’s funny, the way he bestows his blessings. He may have to knock your hip out of its socket, but if you ask him hard enough he’ll give you what you ask for — and more than you’d ever dare to ask, even though you dare to wrestle him.

And I find myself also musing on Sarah and Abraham, barren and old, who finally received God’s blessing. But that blessing would have come with all sorts of unpleasantness, especially for Sarah. Being pregnant isn’t easy for any woman, but for a woman who’s 90? It could have killed her.

In the end, God doesn’t promise not to hurt us or to leave us screaming and beating our fists for a time against the ground. He just promises to help us through it. 

It’s when I’m faced with this laughing, vibrant, unpredictable, masculine God that I’m most afraid for myself, but confident that all will at last be well. I may break a bone here and there, but I’ll be okay. 

Sooner or later, we all have to wrestle with God, because that’s how we discover how real he is to us, and how twisted our own wills can be. Sometimes it takes violence to bring us into line with him.

But isn’t it a beautiful beginning? 

 

–Mabel