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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Discernment of a Religious Vocation

Several months ago I heard the Lord calling me to consider religious life. This is not to say that I have come to an ultimate conclusion...rather, it has been a journey to even accept this possible invitation. It is not about the end of the journey, but rather about the beginning of understanding the will of God for my life.

And so here I am, still trying to figure out if I'm even close to the mark...if I'm on God's path or if I'm crashing through the overgrown brush of my imagination.

It started during Eucharistic Adoration while I journaled my meditations in the presence of the Lord. I had heard that Bl. Fulton Sheen had written his homilies before the Blessed Sacrament and so as I left my house, inexorably drawn to the chapel, I grabbed a notebook.

After that day, I told no one about what had come to mind. After all, who was I to claim that God may be calling me? I am a bit "rough around the edges", I have a temper to match my Irish ancestry, and until recently I was Catholic in name only. God doesn't call people like me. He calls those who are devout, he calls little girls from childhood and graces them with an innate sweetness and a predisposition towards sainthood. The women I know who are discerning have a sense of joy and peace about them that even today I am quite sure I do not possess.

God does not call people like myself...or does he?

It has been like a pendulum. In the beginning, the pendulum swung hard and fast, and one day I would be so drawn to the religious life I could hardly stand it. I was ready to just walk away from the life I've built and if I couldn't find a convent, then I would want to at least find solitude with the Lord. But I remained, disciplined, focused on my work at hand because I am also practical. Then the next day I would arise, greet the soggy morning rain and "decide" that the religious life was not for me. I did not want to give up sleeping in in favor of praying the Liturgy of the Hours with other people. I wanted my coffee, my dogs, and the morning news.

Over time, the pendulum swings had longer intervals and in those intervals in which I was drawn towards Jesus, I would conduct research into religious orders, religious life, etc., but at first only sporadically and superficially.

I finally revealed to a friend what was going on in my mind and she did not laugh...rather, she encouraged me to seriously consider what could be a true Calling, and to investigate in earnest before I brushed off a lifestyle I knew nothing about. Her words rang true and yet I still went with the pendulum when it swung away.

I am afraid to go on a discernment retreat. I am 31 and most receive their calls so much younger. I will feel like the "tall kid" in a class of short-statured children. I will be the old maid among the young women. But still, I know I have to attend and find the answers...is God really calling? Age is superficial and it is temporary and in the eyes of God, is even less than the dust that makes us up.

Then people started to come up to me randomly and ask if I had a Vocation. (For you non-Catholics---that's "Catholic Speak" for "Do you have a religious calling?"). Usually this would be timed when the pendulum had swung toward the worldly life and so I would hastily reply in the negative but the question always forced me to consider what I was refusing.

And so it went, this time it was people around me pushing the pendulum I was riding back to the Lord, hoping that another soul would be caught up.

But the ride went on, and in this time period, I struggled in my professional life, I hated my job, I had problems with management and every day I was spending time in Adoration. I began attending Daily Mass and I realized that without the Lord I could do nothing. I became completely dependent upon him even as I refused to consider walking the path to discernment.

Finally, after about the 6th or 7th person randomly queried me, "Do you think you might have a Vocation?", I had to acknowledge that others were seeing something in me that I was not. I had to recognize that my own pride was in my way and that I was making decisions on the basis of my own will, not God's.

And so finally, I began to reveal my heart to my family and friends, always fearfully. I waited for the derision and the laughter, and the "OK, seriously...what's your next career move?" *snicker snicker*. But that never happened. My revelation to them was met sometimes with mild surprise, but always, always, loving support.

I had obtained a Spiritual Director last spring, but I had not revealed this part of my soul even to him. Finally, when calling to make an appointment with him, I told him over the phone that I had news. He patiently waited in silence while I fought to spit out what I had to say. I almost couldn't speak..it was a moment of abject terror. Here was a priest who knew me perhaps better than I know myself. Here is a priest who has heard my confessions and has seen how ugly I really am, how sinful, how prone to concupiscence. I was terrified of his response. So finally, the words came, and at the other end of the line was silence.

My heart stopped. But Father was very kind, asked me a few directed questions and told me we should definitely talk about this. I almost cried, I was so relieved to unburden this, finally.

And so we spoke and per his instructions, I made an appointment with the Vocations Director of our archdiocese. On the day I arrived, he was held up from a previous commitment so I opted to wait in the chapel of the seminary where they reserved the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

As I knelt in the back of the chapel, the presence of God surrounded me and it was nearly palpable. I felt my gratitude, my sense of unworthiness, my love for him and my fear welling up and I nearly cried. With tears brimming over, I begged the Lord to help me rein in my emotions. I did not want to meet Father as an emotional wreck and expect him to take me seriously.

The Lord is faithful and the tears did not fall.

But a heartfelt prayer welled up in the place of my tears and found outlet,

"Jesus, I love you, I praise you, and I thank you! I surrender to your will. I offer you everything I am, everything I have, everything I was and everything I will ever be. Let thy will be done".

And I meant every word, to the very core of my soul...I meant every single blessed word.

And softly, the Lord spoke to me in the silence of my trembling heart, "Do you know how many have knelt where you are and said those very words to me?"

I had such a sense of the love of God, the continuity of the Church, and the peace of knowing how many had gone before and how many will come after me. I had a sense of eternity in the space of only a divine moment.

I went to my meeting that day and left with a sense of peace. I had a road ahead of me for the first time in a long time. And although the pendulum is still swinging, I am committed to a course of action not based on impulse or emotion, but upon actual events I need to attend, things I need to learn and decisions I have to make which affect my everyday life.

The Lord is faithful, forever faithful.

And ultimately the question as it applies to me is...how faithful am I?

4 comments:

Gregory said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel. I have felt the movements of the Holy Spirit in my soul to join the religious life now for about two years. The movements are only getting more intense as the days go on.

I am in a delimma,though; I want to go to the religious life but I have senior yr.of school,football, and Boy Scouts to complete first. I just don't want to let my team, my parents, and my coaches down by ditching out just to get a nine mth. head start in the seminary. However,I am still very eager. My parish priest, my diocesian bishop, my parish sister, and tens of laymen and laywomen have told me that I need to consider the priesthood. Well, I have, and it is for me.

Now, I really would love to be a contemplative priest-I think that's how you say it. I always feel an "energy" that sparks and rushes all around me when I am around monks. I truly admire these men and their dedication to fulfilling God's will. I also love the idea of letting the glory of Jesus Christ exposed during Eucharistic Adoration radiate into and out of my soul through eucharistic adoration.

Just think, Moses had to mask his face after going to get the Ten Commandments from God on Mt.Sinai because Moses's face was glowing with glory. We today don't have to mask our faces. Instead, we are encouraged to let God's glory fill us and radiate through us and out to others.
I am ready for this new life. Please put me in your prayers! I will put you in mine! Remember, there are no coincidences; we were meant to find each other! That is what is so great about the way that God works!

Adoro Te Devote said...

Gregory,

Thanks for dropping by and be assured you will be in my prayers.

I have an update, though...I do think I am called to marriage, not to religious life. Then again, maybe I should be single for life or God is readying his 2x4...who knows, at this point? I certainly don't have the enthusiasm that you have for this, although that is not an indication of anything at all. Faith and a calling are not based on feelings, so please use caution if you are basing your experience on emotion or "vibes". I admire your enthusiasm and so I encourage you to continue seeking God's will in this, and with many people endorsing you, you are in a good place.

The Lord is so good to us and He has a place for each one of us.

May God bless you abundantly!

Hidden One said...

So I went way back to see what you blogged about (and how) way back in the beginning, Adoro, and was pleasantly surprised with the even-initial writing quality and subject matter.

Figured I'd leave a note saying "I've been here", for whatever reason.

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ Thank you for drawing attention to this post...I'd forgotten about it! Thanks for visiting it! :-D