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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Invitation to Vocation

Today I was doing hospitality at the morning Masses (four of them) as part of a ministry with which I'm involved at our parish.

After the last Mass, as we were cleaning up, one of our three priests and I were conversing about a few things. At some point, in response to something, Father asked me if I'd considered becoming a nun.

(smk, stop laughing!)

People, that is the FIRST time a priest has asked me that Question. And truth be told, I'm flattered, because that question from a priest means more than that question from any of the laity.

Why?

Because priests go through extensive discernment, they know how important that Question is, and I don't think any of them (that I know) ask it lightly. So I take it as a highest compliment. Please correct me if I am wrong to do so.

Just to be clear, I am not disparaging any of our other priests or any other priests I know for NOT asking that question of me. A couple years ago the topic had come up with them and I had revealed my discernment. Why bring it up again? They know that if I had questions, I would bring those questions to them. Discernment is not about hounding; it is about seeking God's will, and it is a highly mystical and personal thing. That, and they may be too polite to point out that there is no way God would choose someone like me.

(Tongue firmly implanted in cheek.)

So, that now behind us, I told Father that yes, I had considered it before, and I don't think I'm called.

"REALLY??!!???" He asked. There was actually a note of surprise in his tone.

In turn, I was surprised to hear that note. His genuine surprise told me that he had asked the Question in sincerity, and in that same sincerity, was surprised by my negative answer. As he seemed to be seeking an explanation, I told him that I had discerned, I don't see myself living in community, etc., and I thought that it was a closed door. At the same time, I admitted that every so often I see a Community on EWTN, either Brothers or Sisters, listen to their stories, learn of their apostolates, and I think, "Yeah, I could do that!"

I admitted to him that I'm conflicted, and I have NO IDEA where I belong or what God is asking of me.

This wonderful priest, who hails from war-torn Vietnam, who left as a refugee, said to me, "So you are lost!"

Father knows about being a refugee from first-hand experience, and I think that he sees many of we natural-born Americans as being spirtual refugees. He recognized me as one of them.

In so few words, he summed up my whole life and my entire discernment. I'm an emotional person, and in hearing that truth, I nearly burst into tears. (I didn't, but wanted to. It's so good to be understood!)

"YES! I'M COMPLETELY LOST!" I had to state this truth, because he knew it already.

He smiled, understanding my dilemma, acknowledging it's a hard place to be inhabiting, but he didn't offer any advice. I'm not sure any advice would be helpful; this is God's territory, no one else's. And this priest recognizes this.

I also told him about my book idea, he liked it, and agreed that for women, it's so hard to find a community, especially a faithful one. He agreed Vocations Directors, most of whom really want to help, have their hands tied. He also was very candid about the majority of women's religious communities who "kicked the habit" also kicked the Church out of their lives and have become pagan in practice and "theology." He even named local orders.

My respect for this priest has just grown in leaps and bounds. He's not afraid to call a spade a spade, and acknowledge evil where it exists.

As usual, you may be asking what is the point of all of this?

So I'll tell you...this post is mostly directed at priests. There are a few of you in my "audience", and you know who you are, even if I don't.

I'm not sure that Father's invitation to me really makes a difference or not, but I can tell you this; his invitation is a compliment. We, the faithful, especially those of us who are single, need direction. We need to be invited. Some singles have NOT considered all of our options, but the word of a priest we respect goes a very long ways. That goes for men and women both.

Maybe you wonder why; I'm certain they never taught you this in the seminary, so I'm happy to explain. The reality is this: you are our Spiritual Fathers, whether you are younger, the same age, or older than we are. You typically know more about the spiritual life than most of us do (I hope!), and you know all about discernment and how hard it is. You also know the power of the Invitation, the power of the Question because at some point, you experienced it.

I think you also have the ability to see those of us who are lost, and if you are unsure, please consider us to be lost until you find out otherwise. It's always wise to err on the side of caution, and I doubt you will ever offend anyone by asking them if they have considered God might be calling them to something. This does not just apply to religious life, but to other "every day" charisms as well.

(As an aside, if this question is offensive to them, you have another pastoral concern and you may want to consider calling an exorcist).

Seriously, you're in a wonderful position to serve as both the voice of God and as an anchor for those of us who could really use the help. Those of us who are faithful to the Church recognize your authority, we recognize the reality of your own sacrifice, and if you see something in us that speaks to the ability to offer the same tpe of sacrifice, it means a great deal. We look up to you, we WANT your advice, we appreciate your willingness to listen, to speak, and to guide. I'm certain you may feel incapable some of the time or even all of the time, but please know that God doesn't care what you feel; He cares that you take the time to recognize and invite.

Father's comments today have made a big impression on me, not so much for my sake but for the sake of others. I'll admit I may still be Called, even though I have doubts...in any case, it makes a huge difference when someone we see as a Spiritual Father is willing to extend that word of encouragement, for even if we are not Called, it means that Jesus is present in us, Jesus is using our hands, our voices, our very beings, to complete His work...and there is no greater encouragement than that.

Pastorally, if all you accomplish is a validation of our work and our value in the Church, then you have done your duty. Just as we are all meant to be Jesus' hands, we can also be your hands, and we all want to be useful and our work valued. Please, call us, ask us to offer our gifts, and validate our offerings, even if God has different designs on our lives.


Just a few things for priests (and anyone else who cares to answer) to consider:

* To whom to do you extend this Question? ie, what qualities?
* Do you focus only on men who may consider the priesthood, or do you consider other vocations (for men)?
* Do you actively invite women to discern religious life?
* Do you recommend men to consider a celibate vocation as non-ordained religious life?
* Being that I am a woman, and thus have an agenda, how can you help women discern and enter religious life? Do you have contacts? Do you care? Would you do all you could to help your spiritual daughters discern God's will?
* Again, coming from a faithful female perspective: what can and are you doing to encourage women to enter religious life and what advice can you give?
* Do you realize how important your Invitation is to women you know????

30 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

Yeah, so? Don't listen to me.

Adoro te Devote said...

Terry ~ And? Did you get ordained any time recently??

And really...I don't think I'm called, even if you do. I'm with Fr. V. in my previous post..I'm supposed to be a faithful Catholic, not necessarily a consecrated one. :-)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

smk, laughing? What about me?

Just kidding.

Very good post. I think priests spend more time, naturally, looking for young men who may be called then women. It's only natural that they do this. But, see, if we HAD more women religious who gave a hooey, they could do the "head-hunting" rather then Father.

Except, really, I think EVERYONE should be encourage a vocation when they think they see one. That's means lay people which is, what I think, Terry was getting at.

nab said...

So I have to ask this question...would you be influenced by someone who has discerned the Call in their own life even if they are not yet in their community or the seminary? Does the influence come from the fact that they've gone through it, or are going through it?

Terry Nelson said...

Thanks Cath - Adoro hates me.

Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy....laugh it up! You know some of my history, you have a right to laugh! LOL


And yes, we all as the laity need to encourage vocations, but there's something about the invitation from a pries that means something. Maybe I would also have something to say about faithful religions orders in our local area if we had any but we don't, so they're excluded from the post, as outside my experience. (smk, your opinion means somethin but your'e not local). :0-)

nab ~ Yes, it has influence, but it is depends.

I've had a lot of married people telling me what I should or should not discern, but given how many marriges end in divorce, and how many of the married people I know think that singles have only two choices, and it must be as obvious to us as it was to them..well...PPPHLLLLBBBTTTT. Those folk tend to have not experienced what I am experiencing.

I love them to death..but they can't fathom the sense of being lost.

But as for those who know what it is to be "lost", to be going through discernment, to have recently discerned, it does help.

I think people who have been "here" know best how to help, how best not to help, when to speak, when to just listen, when to direct, when to let be.

It's hard to explain.

And agian, I do not think I'm Called...but it was nice, today, to be recognized even in light of not being Called. (Wow, does that sound weird or what?!)

Adoro te Devote said...

Terry, I don't hate you. I regret that you often resemble Tom Cruise, because I think you could do better.

swissmiss said...

Adoro:
Great post! I have the same opinion as Cathy. Priests, naturally, seem to be more tuned in to helping young men discern a calling. Way back when, families actively encouraged their children in discerning a vocation. It wasn't uncommon to have families with a son who was a priest and a daughter who was a nun. But, with the women's rights movement, we've been feed all this hooey about having it all, racing towards material things, career, etc., and never giving a glance at a religious vocation. No wonder you and many other singles are confused!! No wonder marriages end in divorce, no wonder...

And, as one of the married clan that read your posts, discerning marriage, at least for me, was possibly as difficult, painful, lonely, confusing, etc., as discerning a religious vocation. Falling in love with someone and wanting to marry them isn't the same as sincerely discerning marriage. Not that my husband isn't wonderful ;} but, the process was agonizing and tortuous given the sad state of marriage today, considering I was marrying a new convert, and knowing I wasn't the easiest to get along with myself. We, the old married folks, may not totally understand or be the best to get advice from on discerning a vocation, but we can relate. I wish you the best in discerning this. You're in my prayers!

Tony said...

After the last Mass, as we were cleaning up, one of our three priests and I were conversing about a few things. At some point, in response to something, Father asked me if I'd considered becoming a nun.

:)

paramedicgirl said...

Adoro, there is a Benedictine order of nuns in Kansas City who are traditional and pray for vocations. Have you ever checked them out?

Adoro te Devote said...

swissmiss ~ That's a good point..., of course, but as there just aren't a lot of sisters in habit anymore, it's a detriment to us all. (Cathy said this, too).

I think any kind of discernment is painful; anything worth doing is painful.


Tony ~ What's teh smilie for?

paramedicgirl ~ I'm sure I've been to their website before. But you know, I haven't requested any prayers from religions communities any time recently....must do so!

Father Kyle said...

Adoro,

Thanks again for the excellent post!

As a Diocescan Vocation Director, yes I do tend to focus on vocations to the diocese. That's my job and the position that the Archbishop entrusted me with. However, I also see the Vocation Office as a clearing house for Religious Vocations, whether men or women, hence on our website (www.cincinnativocations.org) we have a large selection of religious orders, both local (some of which I do not like having on the site, but politics demands) and national orders.

I think a telling fact is that 70% of men in the seminary responded after repeated invites from priests that they knew. I can only think that there would be a similar number among women's religious, for the simple fact that diocesan priests generally know their congregations well. (At least, I hope so!)

So while, yes, I agree that it is the responsibility of every Catholic to support vocations, it does have a unique ring when someone who has 'walked the walk' mentions it.

Alice said...

Adoro,

I read your idea for a book on orders in the U.S.
Although I'm in Australia, I think that it's a GREAT idea!!!
In terms of publishing and grants etc....
Why don't you approach a bona fide director of vocations and the archdiocese could fund it.
Or.... get in touch with Fr. Joseph Fessio who's also on the board of Ignatius Press (I'd be suprised if you didn't know him..he's famous everywhere!)
His email is: jdfsj@avemaria.edu

But I think you mentioned that you are studying at Ave Maria, is this the same one that Fr is at?
I'm not up with the U.S uni's etc..

If it helps, say I told you to ask him, but I don't think he'd remember me! He was in Melbourne last year, v. popular speaker!

Sanctus Belle said...

Sometimes over analyzing something waters it down. If you are being called, ask God to make it very clear to you. I've had many questions of mine answered due to this.

With that said, I tend to take everything from the mouth of a priest (uh, a faithful priest as far as I would know) as coming from Jesus. They are in persona Christi. It sounds like you are being called to a religious vocation. What one "feels" about a calling is rather irrelevant.

UltraCrepidarian said...

Father K: I think that's so exciting. All it takes for the call to be heard, is repetition, some times. It was thus, for Samuel, right? :-)

Adoro: bless you! You are open and you are listening. The last time I spent time before the Blessed Sacrament, I made a particular point of offering myself again, for the umpteenth time, completely to God. You probably do that already, in some way, but maybe making a special visit with these intentions, and feelings, in your heart, could be a good experience! I am so excited. I see your lively faith, and your heart for God, and I can't help but be certain that you are awake and fully alive, and in some way (even unknown to you) already taking the first steps towards the next amazing chapter in your life. Even if it's uncertain right now. I will continue to pray for you, and father K, I am praying for you and all priests involved in the vocations ministry.

Pax et Bonum!

+W+

nab said...

Don't forget that someone who has taken steps towards entering a community or seminary still needs to be confirmed--especially as everyone in his or her life might not be so happy to hear of his or her vocation.
Confirmation from a priest or religious of the "rightness" or suitedness of a person's discernment goes miles.

Adoro te Devote said...

Father Kyle ~ Thanks for your comments! I am not a bit surprised by those percentages. And I'm definitely not exclusing Sisters here; it's just that there aren't really any where I am (none that I would consider, anyway- they've gone the route of misguided feminism). Overall, though, I think that of the faithful communities I know, they seem more likely to invite women to discern, but still, there's something about the invitation of a priest we know specifically. I can't really explain that...must think about it.

Alice ~ I hadn't even considered Fr. Fessio! I totally forgot he founded Ignatius press And yes, that is my school, although I'm not likely to be in contact with anyone at the main campus as I'm thousands of miles away. :-)

A guy at my church yesterday also suggested I pitch the idea to our Vocations Director to see if he has any ideas, too.

Sanctus ~ I have to disagree on that one, as far as the really being called thing. I agree it's not about "feeling", but I do have an internal sense that is not a feeling that I am not Called to be a Sister. In fact, I'm even somewhat repelled by religious life for many reasons, none of which I'm willing to discuss here. I know that God is calling me to SOMETHING but I don't know what it is, and I know that at least for RIGHT NOW I'm where He wants me to be. My parish does need me, and I'm thrilled to have something to offer. But, all that said, I'm open to what God is asking of me that may be for the future. I'm just very frustrated because it's so hard to not have control over what's around the bend, and I've always made the mistake of living my life that way. God doesn't work like that, and believe you me, I've been praying for YEARS now to make His will obvious. I'm glad that prayer works for you, but for most of us, God doesn't make these life choices obvious, at least not on our time. It could be that you were inspired to pray that way when God had the answer ready. But He seems to make me want to squirm for a bit.

Warren, thanks for the encouragement. Indeed, I do visit Jesus regularly and offer myself to Him, and admittedly, some days I mean it more than others! LOL

Adoro te Devote said...

nab ~ great point! I think that word of encouragement from such individuals also serves to tell us that, in spite of all our imperfections and struggles, somehow we're on the right path.

I would think that for many priests, they much be very encouraged by those in their flock who are trying to live up to the precepts of our faith. I know their day to day lives can be so hard and can be filled with so many trials. There's so much dissent in the Church, there's so much division, people don't know their faith. I know just as a lay person that when I see people who know their faith and wear it like a badge of honor (in humility, that is!), I'm encouraged. How it must be so for our priests who see the whole picture?

Father Kyle said...

By the way, there is an annual guide published caled "A Guide to Religious Ministries for Catholic Men and Women." It provides listings of the religious communities of priests, brothers, and sisters active in the US and also includes diocesan Vocation offices, volunteer lay ministries, associates, oblates anad secular institutues.

Chech out the website: www.religiousministries.com

One caveat, only the basic information is included for each community, there are no editorial comments about where they stand and so forth.

Hope it helps

swissmiss said...

Adoro:

Seems like you have gotten several good places to start. I just wanted to pass this along. I saw it at the homeschool conference I went to over the weekend, thought of you and wrote it down. I am not familiar with this convent, but you may be or might want to check them out.

24 Hours a Franciscan
June 23-24, 2007
contact:
Sister Patricia Tekippe
St. Jerome Convent
380 Roselawn
Roseville, MN 55117
651.695.8124
tekippefspa@juno.com

Anonymous said...

swissmiss ~ Thanks, but I want to be clear....I have discerned a religious vocation before this and I have more links and info than anyone can possibly handle!

My frustration has nothing to do with not knowing the communities. It has to do with not knowing God's will.

And the point of this post, of course, was to encourage priests and others to remember to ask women that question, too.

And thanks, Fr. Kyle for that link...I'll add that one to my list, too. Maybe one of these days as a service to those who are called, I will do a post with links to good communities and resources.


~ Adoro (not signed in)

Anonymous said...

swissmiss ~ Just out of curiosity, were any of the Sisters from that convent at the conference? If so, I'd be interested to know whether they were in habit or not. The only religious orders for women I'm aware of in this area that wear habits are the cloisters and the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hawthorne Dominicans and Nashville Dominicans. (the latter attend UST), and the Sisters in Jesus the Lord, a very new community. I've blogged about them - they're awesome!

There just aren't many good communities in this area, and we know what all the hot ones are, the ones that are growing because they're FAITHFUL! :-)

~ Adoro

Ray from MN said...

Adoro:

At a minimum you should sent that post to your Seattle (?) contact. Are you still working with them. You might mention the link again as I guess I didn't save it.

On my prayer list, I have a "Sister Mary Michael" in "Lincoln" in the UK who is a consecrated nun who is not in a community.

There are 270 hits for her on a Google Search.

What about the possibility of "consecrated virgin?" I know nothing about that route.

Adoro te Devote said...

Ray, send what post to who? This post? To who?

Consecrated Virgins (I believe Regnum Christi has consecrated virgins) have to meet certain qualifications, and they do take vows.

But it's not something I would consider or that would work for me.

Fr. V said...

Adoro!

Excellent once again (and what you have posted for tomorrow too - I'm behind in my reading.)

One of the reasons priests promote priesthood vocations over women religious (which you may have already divined) is that it is so much harder to promote women's religious vocations.

So a woman comes in and says she has been thinking about becoming a nun. Now what? What KIND of nun? What KIND of order? What are your preferences? Unlike the priesthood than can have a range within the Catholic playing field from right to left, living in community thusly is not always that easy - assuming they are truly living in community in the first place.

Great distances may be involved - other obsticles - it can be quite disheartening. You are not just going to drive the person over to the local seminary . . .

The hestinacy builds on the difficulty and the situation gets worse.

But I believe things are changing - just because of sign like this blog.

Thanks.

Adoro te Devote said...

Fr. V.!

I missed you!

It IS hard when there is such a range, distances to travel, etc.

You know, though, just a thought that popped into my head...

You currently have a contact in the Sisters of Life. And I'm guessing (hoping!) you know other women who have entered other faithful orders. That can maybe help you with women who come to you with this issue, just to give them somewhere to start, a place to visit, a person connected to you who has been on that path.

And with blogging...well, there's a whole community out here with lots of info, and those of us who have done some research might be a resource for others.

Anyway, don't be afraid to ask women in your parish if they've ever considered the religious life...I mean seriously considered it.

Unfortunately, as there seem to be more faithful priests around and not so many faithful sisters, the "burden" to invite falls on your shoulders, too, and if you're willing to ask, then it may help us to be more willing to consider.

Not me, though. I'm done. :-)

Antonia said...

Adoro, I've been lurking here for awhile now, and only now I'll chime in your combox because what you wrote has articulated EXACTLY my own situation right now!

Right now, I'm discerning between a vocation to apostolic celibacy & marriage. I think I pretty much know that living a religious life in a convent is not for me, but oh how true is what you wrote: "I know that God is calling me to SOMETHING but I don't know what it is, and I know that at least for RIGHT NOW I'm where He wants me to be."

For years, since the last year of college, where I got engaged & subsequently left the relationship, I've felt a restlessness, of not knowing WHAT it is exactly He wants me to do.

I have some options to consider right now, but am fearful to commit to one, because I'm not 100% sure it's the one, and because of its permanent character.. (well, who can remain intrepid in the face of a lifetime commitment?)

What I do know, is that, waiting & uncertainties are placed before us for a purpose. Sometimes it could be a test of faith.. and it's true that there are times that it's not up to us to decide: not unlike the job search you wrote in your next post.

You've written such beautiful, excellent reflection on this topic; I'm sure it's helped many other readers out there tremendously! I'll keep you in my prayers as I offer up our discernment intensely in the next few days :)

Adoro te Devote said...

Antonia ~ Thank you for your comment and for coming out of hiding! I KNEW there were others out there who feel like I do!

Do you have a Spiritual Director? If not, you may want to find one. I don't have one, can't find one, but I know that when it's time God provides what is needed.

I will keep you in my prayers.

beez said...

Sorry, I am way late in finding this post. I want to thank you for it, though.

There is nothing more valuable than hearing those words of encouragement from a priest. A good priest knows how to encourage without pushing, to offer support without seeming to thrust you into a situation for which you are simply unprepared.

This is a post that I hope to keep with me in the future -- to remember that, priest or not, we all have things we can do to serve God's call to the religious life.

Adoro te Devote said...

Hi, Beez,

That's exactly it...there are things we all can do, and should do.

Those words do take on additional meaning coming from a priest, and I would say the same thing if, say, my parish was populated by Sisters such as the Dominicans of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Their word would likely mean even more, as I am a woman, but even so, that does not take the weight away from the words of a priest we know well. Or rather, who may know US well.