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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sister of Perpetual Discernment

I don't know where I saw that phrase, but I like it. It's so true, for too many.

Just when I think I had it all figured out, I must, in all humility, admit that I DON'T. I don't have a clue. I have no idea what's going to happen next and I'm not even willing to hazard a guess anymore. And humility is not my strong suit.

Even further, I can't believe I'm writing this post. A certain Sister I know is likely falling out of her chair 'bout now, reading this, ready to dash off an email to me.

I had ruled out religious life. I hadn't ruled in married life (no one on the horizon), and had just come to be comfortable with the idea of perpetual single life...although truth be told, that "comfort level" is just a sham. I made it up.

Tonight, EWTN had a few Brothers on, and as usual, when I watch these shows, I think, "I could do that. I like that MUCH better than what I'm doing NOW!".

I like prayer, although I'm often distracted, and I get bored with the Rosary (There! I said it!), I don’t like praying the rosary with a large group, I'm lazy and most of the time I think I'm entirely useless to God or anyone else, but here I am. My regular, willful, confused, train-wreck of myself, wondering if I should open that door I already closed. Does anyone really WANT me to open that door?

I don't think I'm called to religious life, but I'm going to admit that I haven't fully let it go. Or rather, it hasn't let me go. I had a terrible family life; I can't see myself in a community setting and able to deal with it. Then again, it's not as if I'm a stranger to dysfunction, but that's why I crave stability, and is stability really an option in community living? I mean, really. Let's be honest. People are human all over the place and all of us have our various disorders. We're all disordered in some way. It's called "the effect of original sin." Yup.

But then I watch these shows and I start wondering again. God knows I haven't found success in the professional world. On the surface, maybe. On the surface, it looks like I'm making decent money, I own a house, a car, dogs, I have good credit, I'm heading off to grad school (maybe), and man, I'm "livin' the dream!"

Yeah. Some dream. I'm miserable. Completely miserable. My joy is in my faith, my joy is in the gift of life God gave me, my joy is in the Lord. But when I take a step back in the midst of that joy, I know I'm completely wretched, because I haven't figured out where I belong. I so envy people who know where they belong, even with all their own trials. I don't want their lives, don't get me wrong. I just want their secure knowledge of Vocation. I don't have that, and some days I wonder if I'll ever have it. I’m completely adrift, being pulled by different currents, sometimes left to float, abandoned, always trying to keep my eyes on the cross. Unfortunately, the crucified Jesus does not speak from the cross in ways that give obvious direction. “Offer it up” isn’t going far enough these days.

There's a big piece missing somewhere, and some mornings I wake up in complete terror, thinking I've lost it forever. Except that I know God is faithful and He remembers the location of whatever I've misplaced, or whatever someone else has hidden from me.

Back in high school, when I revealed to people that I wanted to be a cop, they laughed at me. Some of them, anyway. The cops I knew didn't and took me under their wings. I'll be eternally grateful because it was their support that fueled me through the difficult training (all the more difficult being a woman). In High School, I was quiet, I was "a brain", and I was a troubled kid. Of course, the school didn't know it because the troubles were kept under the surface. No one knew of my suicidal leanings, few knew of my days as a runaway, but every time I jumped, God was there for me.

I remember one day, having dodged flying objects all night due to one of Mom's psychotic rampages (bipolar), I had packed a few things and fled to school, praying that my best friend's family would take me in for the night. I didn't care if I had to sleep in a box. In my hand I gripped a permission form Mom had refused to sign because she thought it was a commitment order or a death order or some such thing. I was 17 years old, and Mom wouldn't let me go on a class field trip. And it wasn't so much the field trip as the helpless of my situation. I spoke with the guidance counselor that day, some to do with upcoming college admission, and he suggested I look into Minor Emancipation, and sent me to the Principal. I ended up presenting myself before a surprised Principal, in whose office I had never been, in tears, in panic, and explaining my Mom's illness. I explained that the GC had sent me to him for info on a Minor Emancipation. He was surprised to see me; I'd never been in trouble, I was one of the "bright" kids, and it was so rare for one of the top students to come from such a position with such a request.

He had a file in front of him, I remember, and he told me that he didn't think such a court proceeding was the way to go. I learned that day that our Principal was a compassionate man ruled by a great deal of common sense; he suggested that in the event, throughout what remained of the year, if a permission slip was needed he would accept the signature of another adult (I had to give him some names; that of my best friend's parents, and he knew them as they were affiliated with the schools, and of my aunt and uncle), or I could simply bring the issue to him and he would assist.

I left the office, still in tears, but this time, with hope. Just one of the times God caught me before I went off the deep end. God is faithful.

Skip ahead...I worked hard to do what I thought I was called to do, only to fail. Again and again, I have failed. God has given me what I needed, and he's made me rip through thorns both natural and those of my own choosing, but he's provided results.

I used to have my life planned out. I was going to be on the SWAT team. I was going to be a canine officer. (Um...I DO have a German Shepherd). I was going to own horses. I was going to be married, maybe have a family, I didn't know about that. Well, law enforcement lead to disaster, other trials lead to other trials while outside of work, my volunteer work in ski patrol (training) and working in probation as a volunteer exceeded my wildest expectations. On paper, I was the stuff.

In reality, I was lost. So lost.

Then I met my boyfriend, a firefighter, who lead me into another childhood dream I hadn't wanted to admit; to be a firefighter. He thought I could do it, I at first argued, then let him talk me into it. He helped me train, he introduced me to some of his friends who were likewise enthused at the idea, and once I got into training for the test, I had the scent and I went after it.

I ended up being hired...over 3,000 applied for that job, not many got it. I was in the second class. I kicked butt in the physical test, but I'd trained hard for it. The interview seemed tailor made for my experience.

But my judgment proved to be just as bad there, as once I was well into training, 4 months of academic training, 3 weeks into the meat of the job (the Tower), I realized I didn't belong there. I wasn't cut out for the job. I didn't want to be there. That's when God got me out of it via an injury, and I left a piece of cartilage on the apron at the base of that tower. It cost me more to get out than it did to get in.

Admittedly, though, I'd drawn closer to God in the process.

I ended up where I am now, but that's a boring story. 'Nuff said that I'm in corporate America, working for a company based out of Cleveland, OH (the only place I haven't been sent for training), hate my job and found that I've committed professional suicide by accepting this position.

I'm stuck. But life isn't about a career...there's something more, and I'm missing it.

I'm God's wayward daughter, the one who looks good on paper but happens to be really messed up. And in reality, I have to wonder how many of us (esp. singles) feel the same way?

The world teaches us only to look good on paper. It was always about the resume, the expensive parchment with the academic degree, the money to be earned, the career to love, the children never to have. It was about the stuff.

I don't care about the stuff. If my house disappeared overnight, I don't think I'd care, as long as the mortgage went away with it. If my car disintegrated (not likely, it's plastic), I'd be thrilled. One less bill to pay...and opportunity to just get a horse. (They generate their own gas).

Most of the stuff in my house...well, there's many sentimental items, and the computer aids me in my true love (writing), and the art I've bought to grace my walls, I'd miss. But I'd get over it.

My dogs...that's the hardest; lives for which I'm responsible. But God can have them, too.

It's been a rough road, and I don't expect it to get any easier. It seems I'm only going in circles. Again and again, I'm stuck in this rut I can't seem to climb out of, and it keeps bringing me back to Vocation discernment.

It had been hard to tell my friends that I was considering a Vocation a couple years ago. I expected them to laugh at me, but they didn't. They told me they'd considered it, too, or at least thought that I should. Some had come to me independently and suggested I consider it. Telling my family was torture, and Mom, in her style, assumed I'd disappear off the face of the earth into a cloister. I had to explain to her that this is not how it works. And she admitted she knew that; she'd wanted to become a nun, and they thought her too "worldly". (This shocks mother is naive as they come). She didn't regret her decision to marry and have children. But she understood what I was seeking. My brother wasn't shocked, but his girlfriend, seeking Buddhism, was amazed, but supportive.

But it was hardest to tell my then Spiritual Director (SD). Out of everyone, HE was the most difficult, I told him over the phone after much hemming and hawing, and almost died in the silence after my revelation. But he didn't condemn me, either, and he didn't laugh at me.

Of course, after everything I'd done up to that point, people had learned not to laugh at me...I usually did exactly what I told them I was going to do. Even my SD knew that and understood that if I was saying this, it was for real. And of course, he realized how hard it was for me to tell him. But this had a different element to it, something new, something that didn't originate with me like everything else had.

When I "discerned" that I wasn't Called, my friends revealed immediately that they agreed; but they had never before wanted to say so because it's a journey and they did not in any way want to discourage me. I wasn't surprised they didn't think I was called...I had gleaned from some of their reactions that they didn't think so, but then again, I'd seen that reaction before.

But as we all know, God has a sense of humor. A really big sense of humor. I still don't think I'm called, but my curiosity is back, and that door is nearly irresistible. I'm a writer...and I have not written of religious life from the inside. That's a challenge....but is it a challenge from God to attempt such a thing and remain aloof...or is it a challenge to answer a Call, created just for me, to appeal to me as He created me?

The Call is unique to the individual, and God, in his great wisdom and great humor, just LOVES to contrive ways to entice us into our Vocations.

I don't think I'm called, but somehow, that door doesn't seem to be entirely closed......


Anita Moore said...

What about being a lay member of a religious order? I so never wanted to be a lay Dominican, but Bl. Margaret of Castello cornered me.

Adoro said...

I have considered a lay order (and I read your piece on Bl. Margaret of Castello - and I lean heavily towards the Dominican charism!). But for now, I don't feel at all called to a lay order.

I won't rule it out, though...I think that once I KNOW my Vocation, then I can consider the third orders, but one thing has to come before the other. That's the sense I'm getting right now. Already there are too many doors..that is yet another, and nothing in my area appeals to me.

I am a member of CUF, though! :-)

Cathy said...

I get bored with the Rosary in groups, too. So sue me.

Seriously, what a great post. You're in my prayers, as always.
I KNOW God will lead you - just let Him.
I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Anita Moore said...

Well, I neither felt nor thought I was called to the lay Dominicans -- until the very day I was admitted as a postulant.

You never know!

Fr. V said...

You know . . .

There is always the possiblity that you are called to take your current life more seriously. If it weren't for people like you in the pews, the parish would not survive. You might have more flexibility in bringing faith to the world also in ways religious and others can't. Opus Deiesque. (How's that for word? If Will S. can make them up, so can I.)

But have you REQUESTED to be sent to Cleveland for training???

Warren said...

Was it the Little Brothers of St. Francis you saw on EWTN yesterday, in their denim habits?


Adoro said...

Fr. V. ~ That could be it, but as it is, I am taking parish life very seriously. But something is missing somewhere.

As far as requesting to go to Cleveland...well, they haven't sent me to any training for a few years, and the one I'm up for next is only offered in AZ. But if something comes up, I'll request Cleveland...and you'll be the first to know! :-)

Ultra ~ Yup, that was them. I don't want to be a Brother, though. :-)

Anonymous said...

You KNOW that email is a 'comin ... lunch today, probably! :) You said the key words: "I'm going to admit that I haven't fully let it go. Or rather, it hasn't let me go." Your OPENNESS amazes me! smk

Adoro said...

OK, I'll get the email when I get home tonight. * sigh *

Cathy_of_Alex said...

This is what I get for being out late last night! I'm dashing off my email now!

Unknown said...

I ache for you, Adoro.

I always used to have problems saying the Rosary. I'd always get distracted and would lose count and generally would never be concentrating on the prayer aspect of it.

A couple years or more ago I began to say a "scriptural Rosary", assigning a further "intention" to each Hail Mary bead.

I'm still not great at it. It adds five or ten minutes to each Rosary, but I generally feel that I do a far better job of concentrating on the prayers of the Rosary.

Some of the Mysteries of the Rosary are difficult to "parse", but for example, this is what I would meditate on for each Hail Mary of one of the Sorrowful Mysteries, which are said on Mondays and Fridays:

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

1. For the remission of sins.
2. Jesus dies on the Cross.
3. "Father forgive them, they known not what they do."
4. "Amen, I say to you, this day you shall be with Me in Paradise."
5. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
6. "Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother."
7. "I thirst."
8. "It is finished."
9. "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."
10. Jesus dies on the the Cross.

(Those are the Seven Last Words of Christ).

Having an easily remembered "intention" for each of the 40 mysteries gives me something to think about and keeps my mind from straying into the secular world.

Adoro said...

Ray ~ I have a scriptural rosary, too. The reality is that I just don't use it. I still get bored. I do pray the rosary almost daily, but it's a chore all too often, and I don't like to do it in a group, esp. a large one.

This post isn't really about the rosary, though.

I actually just prefer to sit and be silent with Jesus, as opposed to practicing mental prayer such as the rosary when I am in adoration, although admittedly if I have a problem I will go to Adoration, pray the rosary first, get through it, and then the Lord seems to answer. Yes, it's valuable, but I don't have to like it! :-)

Staying in Balance said...

Excellent post, Adoro! I heard the Little Brothers of St. Francis last night on the radio. Didn't know they had denim habits, tho!

God bless you on your journey. It is God you are hungering for--and that's a good thing.

Staying in Balance said...

Have you looked into the Brothers and Sisters of Penance? They are a lay association of the faithful who live a modern version of the 1221 rule of St. Francis. Here's there url:

Adoro said...

Thanks, 4HisChurch. I know people involved with them; they don't interest me in the least. I'm not a bit interested in a secular order right now.

I actually have Dominican leanings...those were the religious orders that interested me the most. I like their charism (teaching, apologetics, etc.)

But who knows, for the future?

Emily said...

Your post is exactly what I am feeling right now. It looks like I have everything I could want but I am not spiritually fulfilled at all. And no religious order will take me because I have health issues. So what to do? You are not alone, at all! Thank you so much for the eloquent post.

Terry Nelson said...

I haven't read anyone's comments but I have something to say:

Go to the Cancer Home, talk to the Sisters, volunteer or something. Check them out - there are so many women in the Order that you remind me of - especially before they entered. They are an unique order - contemplative but active. I don't know if you know them - but just visit and talk to Sr. Teresa marie - she's the superior of the St. Paul Home - She used to be a dealer (cards) in Las Vegas or Reno.

Anyway - that is my 2 bits - I know, I should mind my own business and everyone and their mother general is going to try to get you when you leave yourself open to a religious vocation - so I won't do it again.

But I have a feeling.......

Terry Nelson said...

OH! MY! GOSH! Look what you said:

"I have considered a lay order (and I read your piece on Bl. Margaret of Castello - and I lean heavily towards the Dominican charism!)."

The Cancer Home Sisters are Dominicans!!!

If you enter, can I have your dogs? :)

swissmiss said...


I feel for you!! You have my prayers in your discernment.

My situation was a bit different. My husband and I had been married for almost 15 years. No kids. Got used to the idea, both of us were working, happy together, no real cares. I wasn't sad I hadn't had children. Unlike many women, I never had a desire to have kids. I was open to them, just never had them. Then God decided to completely pull my life in another direction. Two kids later and I'm still a boat without a rudder! My life, in a large part, had been my career and now my daily conversations are about monsters, dinosaurs and robots!! It has been the hardest adjustment ever, but it is my vocation. Maybe you are called to religious life, you won't know until you close every door. Maybe you are meant to be right where you are at and God is just trying to teach you patience and trust. I'm still struggling with that every day as a mom!!

Ditto with the rosary, sister!! I was always told, "You just have to keep getting back up on that horse." I guess that's what makes us saints and it ties in with your horse theme :)

Anonymous said...

In one of the theology classrooms in a school I was in recently had this sign, "Failure is God's way of saying ... Excuse me, you're moving in the wrong direction." I thought that was a good sentiment. I think this unsettling, miserable feeling comes when we are at a crossroad in life and don't know which direction to turn. It happens many times throughout the years as our life situation changes. All you can do is keep praying and live each day, one day at a time. Easier said than done - I know. But it's in God's time not ours! I still keep you in my prayers.

Adoro said...

LOL! Where did you all come from??

Terry ~ Yes,I'm familiar with the Hawthorne Dominicans. The Nashville Dominicans are actually in Stillwater again this year, I think. And I've gone out to the cloister in Demonteville (Carmelite) and spoke with the Sister there. She was really cool. But I LOVE the Sisters in Jesus the Lord (the are more of an Augustinian / Missionary order), and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucahrist. I met Mother Assumpta last summer. She's just precious!

My dogs...well, I'm under contract to return the greyhound to Northstar Greyhound Adoption, but I could tell them you're an interested party! And my'd have your hands full but if I did have to give her up I'd be hoping to find a home for her myself. Besides, that way I could keep tabs on them from afar! :-)

But I really don't think I'm called. Really. Community living does NOT appeal to me in the least. I don't want it. And I don't think I could handle that regimented of a life. It would squash me.

I think what I really need is to go on a retreat. I've never been on a weekend retreat EVER and that's likely what I really need.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and prayers.

Emily said...

Oh weekend retreats are wonderful. I went on one in April and it did help me, somewhat...although I'm still confused! (as you can tell from my comment!) It was a silent retreat, all women, and absolutely delightful. My time in front of the Blessed Sacrament was very fruitful. I go back and read what I wrote in my journal, and sometimes that just makes me more frustrated, because it seemed really clear then! I am planning on making another in October.

Terry Nelson said...

Okay. That's all.

Anonymous said...

OOH. Go on retreat with the Sister Servants in Hanceville Alabama.
Everyone I know who has gone to one of their retreats has left with great blessings. (I have not gone...but I have met several and my SD is a "friend" of the the Order).
They sometimes have Father Mullady, O.P. give retreats and they have a Dominican and Franciscan charism, so it might be right up your alley for some peace and spiritual refreshment.

Melody K said...

Praying for you in your discernment process. (Are we ever finished with discernment? I don't think so!)

Hidden One said...

"“Offer it up” isn’t going far enough these days...But God can have them, too."

I must admti that I think it might be going further than you think, Adoro.

Sincerely in Christ,
Hidden One

Mairin :o) said...

Maybe this is God's way of giving you a little poke so you'll look closer at the religious life. Think of all the graces you could be given for living charitably with others. I prayed for something for 12 years and finally said "Fine! I accept Your will is for me not to have this" Not long after that, I received what I had been praying for. (Then I was really confused!!) God is so good.

Anonymous said...

Once when I was struggling a wise person said to me that I seemed to be fearing that I was failing a test to figure out what I was supposed to do. Maybe, instead, he said, Jesus was with me, walking right along with me as I struggled... rather than standing at the end of the road with His arms crossed, patting His foot and saying "C'mon, c'mon, haven't you made your mind up yet?" I.e., maybe struggling, while walking with Him, is what you are _supposed_ to be doing, at least now.

You can write. You are drawn to religious orders. Maybe you can associate with them, if not take vows, and write about them with great enthusiasm and compassion. That would be a wonderful thing, no?

Adoro said...

nab ~ I actually get the retreat schedule for the Sister Servants, but I can't afford those retreats...or even getting there! Esp. with grad school on the horizon (and I can't pay for that, either.) But I'd love to go down there. I don't think I'd like it in the summer, though....too hot and humid! LOL! Ever since I got heat exhaustion the summer I graduated college, I've had difficulty with hot, humid days. But they are fascinating and have AWESOME speakers.

Melody ~ Thank you. I don't think discernment is ever truly done - there's always something more that God is asking of us. One good step always deserves another, and He never leads us to a bottomless pit..the trick is to figure out whether we are taking ourselves there.

hidden one ~ I don't know about that. Really. But I keep trying, anyway.

:0) ~ (Love the "name") LOL! I really don't think I'm Called, but even when I made that "decision" I did leave the door open to God, because I know my own track record and how much I've been wrong. Whatever He's asking me to do, he is asking for a reason, but boy, do I need His help to figure this out!

anon ~ I would LOVE to write about religious orders. I read a book some time ago, still have it, but it ticked me off and made me cringe so I never truly fininished it. A Methodist (fallen away, I think) reporter went into cloisters and convents, etc, visited many communities, both solid, traditional, orthodox, faithful, and dissident Gaia-worshipping lost orders. She didn't have a Catholic understanding and admitted that, but it was clear she liked the dissident orders...not a surprise.

Ever since I read that book I have wanted to write another one...but from a Catholic perspective. To visit different communities, interview them, learn from them, write about them....and show the world how vibrant and real our faith really is!

And yes, the book would be biased...I would not be able to stomach the communities that have lost their ways, and I don't think they'd let me in, anyway. I wear my heart on my sleeve so even if I tried to be just an "observer" they'd know immediately I'd be praying for their conversion...and my own as I'd be fighting my temper!

But I like the idea, and if God provided the ability for me to do this, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Quit my job and start contacting communities, set up a schedule, and let fly.

I'd have to be able to pay my bills, though...find someone to care for my much logistical concerns! What rich person would invest in an unknown author trying to get involved in such an endeavor?

I can dream, though. :-)

Anonymous said...

sleep tight ... sweet dreams

life is about others, not about me


someone helps me ... i help someone else ... someone else helps another ...

to serve as Jesus served

'when the time of our particular sunset comes, our thing, our accomplishment, won't really matter a great deal ... but the clarity and care with which we have loved others, will speak with vitality of the great gift of life we have been for each other.' [Fr Gregory Norbert, osb]

benedictine charism of hospitality

we are not victims ... we are responsiblle for the choices we make ... choices have consequences

Adoro said...

uncle jim ~ Yup. And it's my own stupid choices that brought me to where I am right now. I'm still paying for them.

Our lives are useless without reference to Jesus..our lives mean nothing without reference to the Cross, useless if not lived out for others. None of us is here for ourselves, but as a gift of God to others.

And why are you up so late??!!!

Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

I'll keep you in prayer. God bless you

Xavier Martel said...


Definitely go on retreat with the Dominican Sisters in Nashville (St. Cecelia Congregation). Once you're in Nashville you're only 3 hours away from the site of SOV2!

Great post, by the way...

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro--it's way late and I'm off to Alabama in the a.m.

But I wanted to say--watching something about the Brothers on TV--I am happily married. That is my sacramental vocation. My work is very fulfilling as well. But I get a twinge whenever I see people giving themselves totally to God. It's just so moving, and what we are ALL called to, in our own way.

I don't know if it helps to remember that. It's about giving one's life, moment by moment, totally to God. I'm not saying don't discern a religious vocation at all...but that attraction to union with Christ has many legit roads....

Unknown said...

Proof of God having a sense of humour:

1.The Irish.

2.The duckbilled Platypus.


The fact that even catholics can enjoy a good laugh.....


Adoro said...

JZ ~ you've done it! Not only am I Catholic (with a wonderful sense of humor, thank you very much, and what was THAT supposed to mean anyway?) but I also happen to be Irish, and got the stubbrnness and temper to go along with it!

You just picked a fight....