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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dangling Participle

Discernment is a difficult thing, especially without a Spiritual Director. For a long time now I have known that God has been calling me to something, whether Vocation or some particular point of service. Some things indeed He makes obvious to us, but other things, we have to figure out. It's part of how we come to know God and how we are conformed to Christ, and how we work to unify ourselves with His will.

I want with all my heart to be able to say "YES!" to whatever God is calling me to do, but I know that I'm not "there" yet. There is something holding me back, and it's not just not understanding; there's something that I'm holding in reserve for some reason. And until I can figure out what that really is, I'm going to continue to be out here floating around, a spiritual dangling participle.

From the outside, maybe it looks like I've got things "all together", but in reality, I'm a mess, and I'm out of place. I know it. Everyone knows it. People all over the place who know me are taking bets on where God is leading me. They're watching this quiet drama play out in front of them, I'm the main character...and I have no idea how this is going to turn out. How can they? But thankfully, I'm surrounded by people who are willing to make their bets quietly and not try to tell me what to do. Even an SD would not tell me what to do...he or she would work to guide me to realize for myself why I can't give my Fiat.

Last fall, I was invited to a local Convent to join the Sisters for prayer and dinner, and in the last couple weeks, that invite was renewed. Although life has been crazy busy and this is my only weekend to study, I suddenly knew it was time...and I accepted the invite.

So, tonight I joined the wonderful Sisters in a Convent they share with another Congregation, but I will not name either of the Congregations, or any of the Sisters in this post. Suffice to say they are local, they are faithful to the Magisterium, they are holy, and they wear full habits. And they are not Dominican although they do love Dominicans and one of the Sisters was a Lay Carmelite for 10 years. So...they are truly inclusive and love everyone!

It was wonderful to see the dear Sisters again, and this time, to spend more time in their company, really getting to know them. They do pray the full Liturgy of the Hours, and I was there for rosary and vespers. Sister M. saw right away that I didn't have a breviary, and I told her, somewhat ashamedly, that I've never prayed Liturgy of the Hours (LOH), ever. She quickly set up the breviary for me, told me where to sit in the chapel, and a couple things about when to sit or stand. But I'd be next to one of them and they would prompt me. And if I stood when I should be seated...who would know or care? There was only three of them. And Jesus.

The rosary...yup, that part went well. I know the rosary! And I just watched Sister next to me for the next thing. Sister M. had color-coded the sections of the LOH according to stoplights to help me remember what was next, and when I did get lost a couple times, the other Sister was watching and was able to quickly direct me. So, I have to admit my prayer was likely not very efficacious because I was so busy reading for place and for responses, worried about the next thing, when to stand or sit. And they also had special prayers for their congregation, which Sister M. gave me in a little book and marked the pages. Which the other Sister still had to help me find at the proper times.

But it was nice, and during the rosary, especially, because I was free in that prayer, I could take in the atmosphere, so to speak. And although the large chapel only contained the three Sisters and I, well...I can tell you we were not alone. That chapel was FULL; the presence of adoring Saints and Angels was nearly palpable. It literally felt crowded. I am convinced that when Sisters pray, although they are only few in number, the presence of the entire Church, past and present, fills the room.

After Vespers, Sister told me I could stay in the chapel if I wanted as they got dinner ready, and after a bit she came to get me...inviting me to either spend more time with Our Lord, or come out and chat. And while we can always spend time with Our Lord, well, I was there also to visit the Sisters, for a reason. So we took our leave of Jesus (only to go down the hallway), and sat in the parlor. And Jesus remained with us.

I was not in the convent proper, but only the parlor where they receive guests, so I can't describe what that might be like. We enjoyed a wonderful supper, and their superior came in during desert. She'd popped in to greet me and welcome me before prayer, and then had otherwise disappeared, only to return again later just to thank me for coming. The Sisters explained that she wasn't feeling, please keep superior Sister M. in your prayers.

Our discussions were all over the place, and of course, Vocations and discernment, in general, was a large part woven throughout. The Sisters have invited me back soon, for a weekend if I can, or at least an overnight so they can invite me into the Convent itself, and, of course so I can get a better feel for their life.

Or, if another visit and supper works out, they are open to that, too.

I have promised to bring chocolate...the Sisters LOVE chocolate...especially dark chocolate. And they also love dogs. And the motherhouse used to have German Shepherds.

Tonight, I was there to visit, and I was very much a visitor. I've never been in a Convent before, and such a place is as mysterious to me as a seminary. It's part of a "hidden world" most never get to see, mostly because they never ask.

And there is another door, one I'm willing to open and walk through, for it is only a trial, only another visit, but one that means something more. It demands more of me, and if I enter, I must give at least that small acquiescence to God's invitation, extended through the Sisters.

I know God is calling me to something. I don't know if this is it. I don't know if this is the place or the congregation or if maybe I'm really supposed to get married. Or remain single. But I think tonight was the first real step in trying to figure that out.

Before I went to the Convent tonight, I had my weekly Adoration hour, and I realized how accomodating Jesus really is. Not only is it all about God's timing, but He also works with the limitations of our lives and our hearts.

Not ready for an entire weekend? How about dinner? OK!

Not ready to say "YES" to taking a serious look? How 'bout you come and meet some of my family? OK!

Ultimately, I don't know where this is leading. But I know I love Jesus, I love the Sisters, I know that leading up to tonight I was at peace, and all through the evening I was at peace. I asked myself a couple times if this is where I belong, or whether God was calling me to this, and all I have is a huge Question Mark. But then again...I'm still not ready to give my fiat, so it's proper that the Question Mark remain.

After all...I'm just a dangling participle. We hang out just fine with Question Marks until someone comes by with a big red pen.


Fr John Speekman said...

Do you scroll down just to check how long the 'whatever' blog you are going to read is? I do .. and I was daunted but thank God I kept ploughed in. What a nice read .. absolutely with you in every word. I pray God will continue to lead you Adoro .. right to the place he has set out for you. Then you will no longer be a dangling participle and I'll be happy because dangling participles are one thing against which I am very dead.

Anonymous said...

I've had this sort of wonderful opportunity to spend time at several monasteries around the USA. Some visits were even before I became Catholic. For myself, I'm personally drawn to their ministry, but fairly certain it is not my vocation. These experiences are a spiritual spa resort for my ongoing life in the world. Keep listening to what the Lord invites.

Anonymous said...

YOU GO GIRL... to do God's will, of course.

I do NOT agree your prayer was not efficacious. There is a saying, "The holiness is in the struggle." Your struggling through your first LOH HAD to be efficacious, as you were praying the prayer of the church with the church. It's impossible for it to not be effective! :)

I'm watching the progress!

ignorant redneck said...

I so hope you end up in the consecrated life!

I wish I had that vocation, but I don't, so I'll just muddle through as best I can, and pray for you.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

adoro: If YOU are a dangling participle than I must be a gerund.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this post esp. the paragraph about wherever a few sisters are gathered the entire Heavenly Host is too. Beautifully stated.

I remembered you and the Sisters in my Rosary before Mass. Because I overslept, I ended up going to a nearby parish for Mass. Let's just say, it was not an accidental location. :-)

Adoro te Devote said...

Father ~ Thanks for your comment, and your prayers. And I hope not to remain the bane of your existence! Oh, and about long posts...for me, this one is short! And you've got some pretty lengthy ones.... lol

Monte ~ Always nice to see you. I've spoken to a few people who visited monastaries on retreats, before they were Catholic. One I spoke with recently, is not Catholic, but I think that his experiences there are leading him to Rome.

Eliztrin ~ Yeah, you're watching, I know, and I'm glad you're "around"! One of these days hopefully I'll get to visit you, too.

IR ~ You're living your Vocation, aren't you? But I have to ask...if I become a religious, will you still trust me? ;-)

Cathy ~ At least, as a gerund, you're flexible. Thanks for your prayers...and isn't that a beautiful Church? You should SEE the stained glass in the chapel....I should go to the website and see if photos of it are posted.

Melody said...

Your evening with the Sisters sounds as if it were a positive experience! What is their main work or apostolate? That would make a difference, too. I considered a religious vocation as a teenager. But that was in the 1960's; not a good time to be joining a convent (also I concluded that I was not called to that life). I do think things are better lately as regards religious orders. Praying for you to discern God's will for your life.

Angela M. said...

Keep us posted and you can count on my continued prayers!

Is it your finances that are keeping you from saying "yes" or is your dog keeping you from giving your assent? Sometimes its the little things....

uncle jim said...

keep on keepin' on.
sometimes the next step - the next discernment - is meant to confirm a way not to pursue.
and how could you know without sampling a little of it.
so keep going 'til God says "Yes! This is the one."
and because you were bold enough to have checked elsewhere you won't have to wonder and question the answer.

Adoro te Devote said...

Melody ~ They are diocesan, so they go wherever they are sent, anywhere from keeping the Archbishop's residence to teaching in schools, administration of nursing homes...anything.

Angela ~ No, if that were the case I'd come out and say it. I'm talking something much deeper that even I can't recognize...and even if I do it's not something likely to be discussed with anyone other than an SD I don't have. :-(

Uncle Jim ~ Um....I HAVEN'T looked elsewhere. This is the FIRST community I've ever visited.

uncle jim said...

i meant to imply to not feel badly if this one doesn't seem to be IT

adoro said...

I'm not even CLOSE to making that decision. And in any case, they make that decision with me.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of vocations that I am living out--one is as a married person and that is first place and the second is as a Franciscan Tertiary (not SFO).

What I might suggest is to begin to learn and pray that Divine Office now on your own--that lovely prayer of the Church. A daily Rosary is important as you know. Do you go or are you able to go to daily Mass? That is imperative as well. And the increase of the weekly holy hour to a daily time which I generally do before or after morning Mass.

To sum it up: an increase and intensifying of your prayer life.
It is in prayer that we come to know that will of God for our lives and to know and love Him ever more. The intense sacramental life will bring one, bit by bit, to that union with Christ that is desired. Frequent confession is necessary as well to see the things in our souls that are a hindrance to union.

Step by step these things can be added even into a lay person's life. And if the call is to religious life, one will be better prepared to answer that call.

Like I know it all??? No. But I know these are the building blocks for what your heart desires.

Ave Maria!

Adoro te Devote said...

Anon ~ Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, that's what makes my post so tragic...because I'm not new to prayer or discernment. As I said, I don't pray LOH, but I do pray with the Magnificat and I do attend Daily Mass when my schedule permits. (And actually, I WANT to pray fact, a few posts ago I discussed this very thing...)

I'm so happy for you in your Vocation, and I, too, have been looking at Lay communities...a few of us are working to actually start a new Lay Dominican chapter in my local area. And I know a great number of Secular Franciscans and Carmelites. It's a beautiful way to live.

Ray from MN said...


My love and my prayers!

swissmiss said...

Haven't been by in ages, but continued prayers for your ongoing vocational discernment! I can't imagine how frustrating it must be.