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Monday, June 04, 2007

More on "the Call"

Since I'm on a roll on the discernment topic, I thought that I'd actually put some advice out there gleaned from my own experience.

Many of you were not reading my blog back in the early days, so perhaps a little history is appropriate. When I began, I was discerning a call to religious life. I heard "the call" on one of my first trips to the adoration chapel, and it completely freaked me out. I literally FLED the chapel, I was so rattled. Then a pendulum began to swing...one day I was so attracted to religious life I was ready to get rid of all my stuff and get on with it. The next day I'd get up and the idea would be completely abhorrent to me. Then the pendulum began to swing wider, so I'd go days leaning in one direction, and days in another. This moved into weeks.

But whenever the pendulum had swung into the negative, it seemed that someone would randomly approach me and ask if I had a Vocation. I would always deny them because I did not want to admit what was going on in my mind. I was not ready, and I was not sure.

Whenever the pendulum was in the positive position, I'd be on the internet researching various communities, I'd watch EWTN (they often interview various orders), I'd be praying my heart out, ready to lay it all on the line. And then it would all disappear. I was in complete agony, and literally felt like I was being torn in two.

Finally I revealed to a few people what I was thinking, cringing as I waited for them to laugh at me. (You'd have to know me...I'm the LAST person on earth you'd think would consider such a thing, especially as I was a recent revert.) Then I told a few more people, and a few more. Thankfully, most of them just offered me their prayers and support, and I will be eternally grateful for that.

Now, all that said, I'm going to share with you a few "To do's" and "Not To Do's" that I learned in this experience, and - it's directed at YOU.


WHAT NOT TO DO:


I have been quite headstrong for a very long time, and I have always been a very "driven" person. Whatever I wanted, I went after, and that's what lead me into law enforcement and firefighting. I worked hard, knowing there might be failure or even death in there somewhere, but there were results from the difficulties.

However, discernment is not a job search. Hard work may be required, but more importantly, prayer is needed. Good research may be needed and helpful, but if God is excluded from the search and discernment becomes all about qualifications, it ain't gonna happen.

Yet I could not keep that tendency to want to be in the driver's seat out of my discernment, so God used that as a lesson for me; every time I wanted to do something, like go on a Search and Discover retreat, or go visit a couple communities for a discernment retreat, it wouldn't work out!

And I knew that as things weren't working, I needed to slow down. I realized I was trying to be in charge, but God was trying to tell me to stop and listen, not charge full-steam ahead. So I listened, and I backed down, having an interior knowledge that the time wasn't right.

That's when certain people I knew began demanding to know why I wasn't doing this or that, why I wasn't attending X retreat, why I wasn't doing everything I could to overcome these obstacles they interpreted as Satan getting in my way.

I knew that it wasn't Satan; he was far more subtle. The roadblocks came from God, and time has taught me that this was indeed the case. Had I gone on those weekends, it would have been a mistake.

The problem was that some people saw discernment as something like a job search, and determined that I wasn't doing enough or wasn't pursuing something when THEY decided it should be done.

I became very irritated throughout this. It was really hard to sit back and hear God's voice when a thousand people were shouting their preferences and opinions at me, emailing me religious communities I had already looked at or just had no interest in, and I think 10 people sent me the same link to a religious life resource I'd found months before when I first began my research.

Every time some people saw me, they were asking for results, and if I had nothing to say they falsely judged I was doing nothing. But I WAS doing something: I was trying to listen to God and not parishioner X.

So, my friends, that's what not to do. Don't try to take control of someone else's discernment; remember that this is a very personal, mystical process involving a soul and God and no one else, save for a qualified Spiritual Director. It's not like sending out cover letters and resumes. It's all about learning to listen to God and understand His will, not the will of Ms. Well-Meaning Friend.

What I ultimately discerned was not that I was Called, but rather, God was getting my attention. He was asking me to look around, consider the possibilities, and above all, learn to hear HIS voice over and above all the racket, and in many ways, to overcome my own will.

Yes, I still have questions, and I'll admit I have not ruled out the potential of being Called. However, I no longer believe that this is what God is calling me to do. He is most certainly calling me to something, for He has a specific place for each one of us. For now, God is teaching me to live in the present, and I think the source of my frustration is that I still am seeking to know and control my future, whatever it involves.

God has placed me in the midst of a wonderful parish and He has put me to work. He has surrounded me with wonderful, faithful Catholics so that I might be inspired by their example, and learn to be more like them. He has made me a teacher, He has given me a home, and He is asking me to wait and trust and let Him reveal what is to become of me.

I will not be researching any religious communities, unless I do so for my book idea. It really is behind me, no matter what the angst of my last few posts have indicated to you. I was somewhat sad to realize that God was not calling me to religious life, and sometimes I remember that sweet ache, but in reality, that life and I are not suited for each other. As Fr. V. pointed in in the comments section in one of the posts, parishes need faithful Catholics willing to offer what they can, and right now, that's where I'm called to be.

Definitely invite people you know to consider their appropriate Vocations, and then let them be. Don't hound them. Don't overwhelm them with info without being requested to do so, and don't inflict your timeline upon them. Let them learn to listen to God, and they can do this more easily without your well-intentioned assistance.

DO be available to assist where needed, be a listening ear but try to hold your advice, and only give advice when you've had time to pray about it yourself. Offer your prayers, and if the discerning person needs any physical assistance (like a house or pet sitter, etc.) do what you can or offer to help find someone to take care of those needs. Often the practical hands-on assistance is needed; unsolicited advice, not so much.

Always remember that discernment is part of a very in-depth conversation with God and God alone, whether it is you who are discerning or someone else. God does not move suddenly (usually), so if you invite someone to consider the priesthood or religious life and a few months later they haven't applied somewhere, let them be. Just pray for them, offer your intentions to God, and let that person know they are in your prayers.

There is nothing more powerful than prayer, and nothing more helpful.

11 comments:

R2K said...

: )

uncle jim said...

and the most frustrating, or difficult, was to learn to recognize 'that' voice in the midst of the racket ... and once I did, the volume went up on the racket - more 'noise' to filter out.

but it seems to me you're doing a good job of it ... and the realization goes a long way to keep the interference away.

Anonymous said...

I'll pray for you Adoro.

I love your blog and read it every day. I have an opinion but won't offer it. I don't really know you, but feel like I do. Hang in there.

I'll just pray for you!
Potamiaena

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Your best "material" is that in which you lay bare your discernment process (whether it's life, job, singlehood, or, Faith).

I think we should start a conference entitled: Called to Blog.

Excellent advice.

I continue to pray for your discernment-whatever that may be.

tara said...

adoro:
There's our plan, and then there's God's plan--and our plan doesn't count.

If God wants you to be a "religious" I suspect He will get your there. However, as Mother Angelica puts it on EWTN, "Were all called to be GREAT saints." Everyone of us is called to live in communion with God--whatever our state in life.

The best example is the Holy Family, did they do great and wonderful things? Yes. Mary kept house and raised a child, Joseph worked, came home, went to bed, and started all over again the next day.

Sometimes the best way we serve God is in our everyday tasks--every moment is an opportunity to love God or turn away from Him. All of us have a vocation--to love God in all our circumstances.

adoro, I think, from reading your blog, you are doing very well at living the vocation God has called you to live.

Adoro te Devote said...

uncle jim ~ I'm probably not doing as well a job as it appears. And yes...every time I find that silence, the racket goes up.

Potamiaena ~ Thanks for your prayers!

Cathy ~ LOL! "Called to Blog!" Let's do it!

Tara ~ Thank you. I try, every day, and I think I fail more often than I succeed. I think Mother Angelica also said something about the fact that when we fall, God is holding our hand so that we won't fall further. Or something. I forget, but I loved the quote.

Hope someone knows it or I can find it!

the.real.trogdor said...

Good post, with your permission I would like to do a link to it from my own site, www.asimplechristian.com

What you've said is something that alot more christians need to be told. It's in the silence that we hear Him better.

Peace, love and blessings.

JZ

Adoro te Devote said...

JZ ~ Absolutely. However, it may make more sense to some people (that is, if they don't know "Catholic Speak" lol), the term "Vocation" as used here refers to a very specific thing: that being either a call to Religious Life (Sisters, Nuns, Monks, Friars), Ordained Priesthood (Holy Orders - a Sacrament), or Marriage. :-)

God bless!

the.real.trogdor said...

Hey,

I believe that it was summed up rather well by Umberto Eco in The Name of The Rose, when he reffered to the people in the church falling into three categories. Sheep, shepherds and sheepdogs.

I certainly ain't the first, not nice enough to be the second and I got landed with the third.

What about you?

JZ

Adoro te Devote said...

JZ ~ As I haven't seen the movie, I don't know the context of the quote so I can't comment. If I were to make up my own definitions, well, sheepdogs don't seem bad to me...if they are defenders. But I don't know how the movie defines them.

the.real.trogdor said...

The book is better than the movie. Ridiculously better.

The context given is that of a knight, a warrior. The context I usually use is someone like Chesterton or Lewis.

JZ