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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Vocations Personality?

Can I be honest with you all?

Now that I've "come out" about my discernment to religious life (which I still hope you won't get all giddy and comment upon - I hate sappiness), I have to share with you one of the issues that will likely bother me forever and an age.

I have some wonderful friends who are very holy Catholic women. Yet I feel alienated from them; for some reason, I can't identify with them on some level. This was true even when I was in college, for I had friends then who lived holy lives, exuded holy values, and were wonderful people. Even as I saw their joy, and even their purity, I always felt like I couldn't come into that light, and so it repelled me. I wanted to have what they had, but there was something that made me want to run the other way.

There is a local group of good young adult Catholics that, even though they are wonderful and friendly and holy, I've never felt a part of the group. We see each other on occasion, greet each other, and sure, there is friendship, and if there was a need, this group would respond. They are true Catholics. I do love these people, but they aren't the people I call if I am looking for something to do and just in need of friendship.

Some of them have considered the priesthood, and some have or are considering religious life. Some are married, some are single. All of them are faithful, practicing Catholics. This summer I went to a wedding of a person in that group, and found this group of friends, but still felt apart from it in some way.

Earlier this year, I attended a dinner at a restaurant, very informal, for a friend leaving to join a religious community. It was just a few friends, and I met one young woman, a little younger than I, who had discerned religious life. She was kind, she was considerate, and I liked her. She was pretty much like everyone in the group, and of course, we all got along. Yet I saw in her the same things I've seen in other women I know who are considering or who have discerned they are called to religious life. And there is something about them with which I cannot identify.

This is hard to explain. I can't call it a "dislike" or even a "friction". It's more of a realization that, in comparison to these women, I'm really really crusty. Some of it comes from things that I've seen and done in my adult years. Some of that comes from my own sinful life that some of those women have never experienced (pray God preserve them), and some comes from the things I've chosen that have lead to my own cynacism. My general personality is pretty ditzy and hopeful-seeming, but that doesn't always come out; it's a shadow inside of me. An inherent mistrust, something I'm always fighting in the presence of others.

But I have to say this shadow influences me. Whenever I meet women discerning their Call, I wonder at how I could ever live with people like them. They have a peace about them, and a certain purity, even confidance. They are patient and kind. I can't help but wonder how they deal with my temperment which is one moment calm and reflective, the next impassioned, and the next, completely dispassionate. And yet, they are so constant and dispassionate.

I've met seminarians that make me feel the same way. It's not that they do anything wrong; it's just that I see their holiness and their constance in temperment, and see the parallels to the women discerning their Call. There is something about the majority of people who are called by God that gives them a certain peace, a certain temperment, a certain sense of certitude that I can't seem to emulate.

Where they are calm, I a furious. Where they are constant, I am passionate. Where they are joyful I might be gleeful or cynical depending upon the events.

No matter what, I can't seem to identify. And this has been an issue for me. I look at holiness, and see myself as I really am. They reflect my reality, and maybe I just can't face my own shortcomings. Maybe it is that I fear I will NEVER measure up and I'm afraid to try.

Maybe I'm terrified of rejection. We've all experienced that. Let me tell you a secret; I've NEVER had the feeling, in my entire life, that I've fit in. Anywhere. As a child, as a teen, as an adult. I've never felt a part of this world. Yes, I've always had friends, but it seems that I've never found my "niche". Not through family, not through friendship, not in my career.

Even though I think God might be calling me, I can't seem to truly find identification with any of the Sisters or future-Sisters that I've met. They transcend me. I can't understand them, and I have a feeling that they can't understand me.

I'm rough around the edges, and those largely-innocent souls can't or (believe me!) don't want to fathom some of the things I've faced in my life; things that on my end, I need someone to understand on some level. And yet, I've also had some extraordinary things happen to me, things that are solely of God....but I lack the people in my life to help me incorporate these things and understand them in proper context. And so they float, part of me, but not fully accepted, even by me.

So I wonder if, on this earth, I'll ever find my temporary home, or if I'll be the Pilgrim to Pilgrims, always adrift, forever seeking to be a part of something, getting along with everyone...but belonging to no one.

I know I belong to God, and that the Cross defines me. And maybe that's sufficient. Maybe I am supposed to be a hermit. Even with the friends that I have, a part of me wonders if I've been completely rejected by the world in order to, in solitude, offer myself on their behalf and that of the world so that I may remain objective in my suffering and offering.

Or maybe I just need a good Spiritual Director to give me focus, to help me see were God is leading me. I can't seem to find an SD, and indeed, I'm not worthy of one. Who can be? But life goes on, God is present, God is constant, and if it's not hard, then it's not real.

So for now, there is my Vocation. To wonder. To walk. To inquire. To pray. To offer.

Perhaps that is all that is needed. It doesn't matter if I find a niche; it only matters that God is loved, and that I help others love Him. That is the foundation of the spiritual life, and that is the beginning of humility.

Maybe that's all that is needed for now.



Mark said...

I don't think there's a "typical" personality that's suited to the religious life. I certainly hope not, or my own vocational discernment process is dead in the water! I think any monastery/convent/friary positively requires a good mix of the calm and the furious, the constant and the passionate.

A lot of the saints, both inside and outside the religious life, strike me as people who haven't fitted in. In any case, I remember you saying you're interested in the Dominicans. They've always, right from the outset, been a bit furious and passionate - most obviously the friars, but Catherine of Siena was pretty fiery...

Mark said...

PS - apologies if my earlier post infringed your request that people shouldn't comment or offer advice on this subject. I meant it more as a general comment...

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Just wanted to comment on where you said that your true personality is more "hidden" -- how do you know that the same is not true for all those religious/seminarians/holy lay people you have met? How do you know that they are not putting on a mask?
I don't think that any person, if they are honest with themselves, can completely identify with any group that they may find themselves in.
And I do understand the feeling of not fitting in, because I have that feeling exactly.

Anonymous said...

God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. :)

Adoro said...

Mark ~ It's true that monasteries are made up of many personalities. So it isn't really that; it's more of a certain...sweetness...that these people have. It's entirely impossible to explain. And I do think that sweetness is their holiness, or my perception of it. Again...really hard to explain!

And no worries...I really just don't want people to comment on the whole Vocation thing with stuff like, "I knew it! Finally!" and then follow up with a bunch of links to religious orders or communities. You're not doing that! lol

Barb ~ Thanks for your comment. It's not a "mask" though that I'm getting at or that even I have. For myself...what you see is what you get. I have my interior battles, yes, as does everyone. We're all a lot deeper than we appear. See my response to Mark...maybe that will help.

And you know...about the "not fitting in", my friends would be utterly SHOCKED to hear me say that. But it's good to know there are others who feel the same way. It's not necessarily reflective of reality, this sentiment, but then again, it could mean something. And that's what I'm trying to figure out.

Tony ~ yeah, I know. Thank God!

The Ironic Catholic said...

Woman, St Jerome wasn't sweet. 'Nuff said. Keep your eyes on God.


Fr. Andrew said...

Or maybe I just need a good Spiritual Director to give me focus, to help me see were God is leading me. I can't seem to find an SD, and indeed, I'm not worthy of one. Who can be? But life goes on, God is present, God is constant, and if it's not hard, then it's not real.

SD would be appropriate, very appropriate. Sometimes our perceptions of reality are unjust, even to ourselves. Further, any vocation is a process. Ask a long married couple if they had everything "sweet" when they first married...5 years later...25 years later? Vocations are two-fold: a call to relationship and a call to work.


Anonymous said...

IC ~ No, he wasn't a bit sweet, but he also wasn't a girl. :-)

Fr. Andrew ~ If only I could FIND an SD! We have a new VoD here..maybe I should try calling him to see if he can point the way to someone. (Didn't work last time I tried, but that was a different VoD)

Anyway, again, this is hard to explain; it's not about the "sweetness" of the Vocation, but there is something in the people I know, and I can't quite put my finger on it which is why I can't explain it! But there seems to be a common temperment or something common to the people I have observed. And whatever it is, I don't have it. Maybe it's acquired. Maybe it's a personality thing. Dunno.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

expect an e-mail on this very subject :), since there are thoughts that i wish to convey that I do not want the world to know.

Anonymous said...

Well, Adoro, you could always be another Mother Angelica ;)

Anonymous said...

LOL! I'm no Mother Angelica! Believe me! I'm MUCH meeker than she is!

Hidden One said...

Adoro, do not look at yourself to see if you are called, look at God and see if you are called... read His lips if you cannot hear Him on the matter.

Banshee said...

I'm never going to have a camp counsellor personality, either, if that's what you mean. :)

It is a bit puzzling, how many of the camp counsellor types seem to end up in Newman Clubs and Bible studies and stuff like that -- usually in charge, because they're good at it, or because they step forward and make stuff happen. A lot of the homeschooled young Catholics I've met have this kind of personality, too -- probably because it takes a fairly confident set of parents to homeschool, and because homeschooling encourages people to be positive and active.

But even when these folks are holy (which they can be), they aren't the model of how all Christians ought to be. God made me to be emotional - easily depressed and easily lifted up, enthusiastic about odd things, geeky, shy. Some of those things have a touch of fallenness or a touch of the consequences of my sin; but a lot of that is my virtues. It's good that I have passion, or enthusiasm at odd times. It does come in handy that I'm so unlike most people. And I know perfectly well that religious orders used to have plenty of drama queens and geekesses; and even crusty chicks who've done a lot of stuff and have odd families.

My point is that it's not a matter of which personality is fitted to religious life. What you're seeing is which personality type is currently responding in numbers -- and that's probably a function of who's doing the calling.

No order I know goes trolling the bookstores looking for geekesses, or the coffee shops looking for Goth girls who really want to stop dressing up in pretend habits and get a real one. They are much more likely to, say, troll an apologetics site or a homeschooler conference or something like that.

My personal feeling is that every religious order in Christendom could be filled up with Goth girls within the year if anyone started asking, but there you go.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro, I just came back and did a second read...and I know I always say this...but I really agree with Fr. Andrew here on the spiritual direction. I know you say it is hard to get a spiritual director...or at least a "good one"...but I really think you are in need, and God will provide.

p.s. don't let the perfect get in the way of the good here. Remember that the Holy Spirit is the true spiritual director. You say you're not worthy (hello????!!!!! Christ died you, chica! That makes you worthy!), but heck, as spiritual director in training, I'm not worthy either. I'm stunned with what people share with me, and how God works through the conversation, bringing me to say things that aren't typically "me" but what she says a few seconds later "that's it!" All to say--I become more and more convinced this is God's work. It's so obvious. The best thing I can do is get myself out of the way.

Also, I do think you are on to something (although I'm not sure what exactly) with certain orthodox Catholic women having a common least, I have always felt like the odd person out in some such company. That's why I started a weird humor blog. :)

p.s. I know a lovely religious sister named Jeroma. And she can be a kind of feminine Jerome!

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ I think you misunderstand. This post is NOT about whether I'm called or not. It's simply an observation of personalities of people I personally know who are entering religious orders/seminaries, and my musing about that.

Maureen ~ Are you saying I should stop dressing like a Goth girl and hanging out in coffee shops? But...what will I do with my time? (ROFL! Thanks...loved the image...that provoked!)

IC ~ Yes, I need an SD, there don't seem to be any available to keep praying. I want one and I need one, have for a long time. But I also know that having an SD is also a gift; not many people are able to have one.

And, IC, I have to argue with you here; although Christ decided we were worth His Sacrifice, that doesn't mean we can go around deciding we're worthy of this or that thing we think we need or want. I stand by what I said; I'm not worth to have an SD. I'm not even worthy to approach God to ask for anything. But the fact that we all CAN approach Him; that points to HIS love and mercy, not our own worthiness. Or would you prefer that I substitute the term "merit"? :-)

And yes, thank you for seeing that common personality. It's hard to explain, isn't it? But you see it, too! That's awesome....I was beginning to think I had lost my mind!


Hidden One said...

"Hidden One ~ I think you misunderstand. This post is...simply an observation of personalities of people I personally know who are entering religious orders/seminaries, and my musing about that."

I know.

Unknown said...

I heard someone say that one should be willing to drive at least an hour for good spiritual direction. Have you widened the search for a good director to include an area that would include a bit of a drive?

Also one of my previous directors was a laywoman. She was awesome, and we did wonderful work together while I was with her. Don't limit yourself to just religious.

Also, have you asked God to reveal your director to you? That is how I have been led to all three of the directors I have had. Pray as if it all depends upon God, then act as if it depends upon you.

Mrs Doyle said...

Maybe it's a certain 'innocence' Adoro that some of these people have?

I've found that too, and I had a similar feeling towards them. Because you feel as though you have seen the very worst in people (through your work etc..) that the very opposite sometimes seems a bit, well phony-ish/vacant?
I don't know if that makes sense, but its something I've picked up on in terms of those discerning a religious life, almost as though they are 'other-wordly' but not necessarily of the heavenly type!

That's why I think I would suit the single life and perhaps be a member of a Third Order (like Opus Dei or something similar) as I am tricky to live with!

Melody K said...

I think Maureen is probably right, that "..what you're seeing is which personality type is currently responding in numbers." I am thinking of Sisters I knew in the past, and I didn't see so much homogeneity, though they were good and holy women.
As for feeling a bit out of place, I know the feeling. I have been a square peg in a round hole my whole life. There's more of us than you think. Good thing I married another square peg. We would both drive the round pegs nuts!

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro, all I have to say is for sure is that I agree we are not worthy--that was kind of the point--but God is merciful and works through us anyway. And when God has declared us worthy in His eyes through his love and crucifixion, I would be careful about putting limits on God;s generosity through saying too often "I'm not worthy." God wants to draw everyone to Himself more than we do....

I'm not sure we're actually that far apart on this point.

Peace today!

X said...

Wow - you just wrote the story of my life. OK, I am married but that whole falling short of serenity - that's me. I know some women in my parish who led a bible study once and one of the topics was purity. I had to quit. It was too painful for me. It was easy and beautiful for them because they had always lived it. I know God forgives me for living a hedonistic, stupid life during the 70's - 90's but that lost innocence marks me as different forever. I know you are not specifically pointing to innocence and purity in your post and it's my take on it but you put into words what I have not been able to do. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

angelmeg ~ The reality is that no matter what, I'll have to drive an hour or more. I live in a large metro area, and the good priests are scattered to the four corners and beyond. We don't have any good religious here that do spiritual direction (ie...there ARE religious into new ageyness), and I don't know of any lay men or women trained in spiritual direction. Certainly I would consider them. Also, from what I've read in areas where there are laypeople practicing this art, well, they charge for it as would a counselor. It's not like I can afford that - I can barely pay my bills. I can meet for free with a priest or religious and find another way to contribute to something they need for their parishes, etc. (Not that I've had that opportunity as I can't find an SD...)

Mrs. Doyle ~ Yes, that could very well be it, and I'm so glad you can see it, too! Although I wouldn't go to far as to say "phony-ish" although certainly that can exist. The women that I've known were definitely themselves, not a bit phony, but they DO have a certain innocence. Maybe I'm terrified I'll remove that innocent outlook that they have? And that's not to say they haven't seen suffering, of course. I know of one woman who has this persona, but has been through some incredible stuff most people wouldn't want to face! But I do think I know what you mean...we're seeing the same thing.

Melody K. ~ Maybe you're right, and I KNOW that many many personalities enter religious life/priesthood. I've never met clones in those worlds! But it seems at least with the ones I have known well enough to observe, that there is something they have in common. Maybe it is a certain innocence.

IC ~ Yeah, I think we agree. :-) But to be honest, I HAVE to constantly remind myself that I'm not worthy; if I don't, I quickly go into demands of entitlement (ie pride). It's very easy for me to start thinking, "I need an SD because I say so and so do other people so why aren't you providing one for me?". And there might be a reason...a good one. I might know what one or two of those reasons are; one is sharable, the other isn't.

Angela ~ Wow, I haven't had that particular experience (ie having to leave), but I understand what you mean. There have been talks and such I've attended that brought back, in a big way, my very real regret. And in those who don't have the same regrets, well, they have something you and I never will. No, I wasn't necessarily "going there" in this post, but maybe that's part of what I see in SOME of those people. (Not all, though).

Anonymous said...

1) Once you're in the convent, ALL streotypes fall away. We are as human as the next soul.
2) What you see externally is NOT what others experience internally. I can almost guarentee that if you were to tell any one of the women discerning ( or having recently discerned) a religious vocation they appear constant and dispassionate, they'd laugh in your face. It's true the decision to accept a vocational call after a huge struggle does create peace ... but it's not something others will see.
3) I am reminded of God's words to DAvid "you are judging by human appearance, I see the heart." (paraphrased). God alone sees the hearts ... those you are comparing yourself with, or yours.
4) ABOVE ALL ... don't compare! God calls, you answer. end of story.
5) Don't worry about how you will ever be able to live with x, y or z personalities. IF God calls, he will provide the grace. end of story.

Anonymous said...

ps: you're in my prayers.

X said...

Adoro, I understand. I just love your posts because you might be writing about something and my take on it has nothing to do with what you're thinking but it still touches me in a profound way.

Anonymous said...

You Know Who ~ I sent you an email since I now who you are. :-)

Angela ~ Well, you do that to me, too, and so do others. I often get my "inspiration" from other people. None of us is really alone. It's one of the things I like about blogging...we find out that even in these really weird things where we think we're alone...we're not. :-)

So there ya go, Sistah!

X said...

Adoro, I could not imagine sitting down with any of my church friends and telling them how I really lived while I was away from the Church. But blog buddies are great for that!

ignorant redneck said...


one of my favorite Saints is St. Camillus DeLellis. he started as a mercenary in the time period of the thirty years war. he was mean, avaricious and violent.

He went on to found a religious order, and to be canonized as a saint.

and he was a rough ol' bartard right through! he was actually known to have thumped a few evil doers, "in Jesus' name" so to speak.

Bl. Theresa of Calcutta was known to be a bit of a "general" to her religious and to others who worked with her.

I think we have more than enough sister sonshines--we could use a strong woman with some rough edges in religious life, if only to give the rest of us hope!

Banshee said...

I'm trying to remember which guy it was who became a saint... after assassinating another saint! Talk about your nogoodniks turning over a new leaf!

It's true that God may often make us appear different to other people than to ourselves. Like when I sing something, and everybody hears something better than I actually performed, sometimes people see me better than I am. I think, like singing, this is a gift flowing through us to other people, meant more for other people's help than for us.

Either that, or God just has a horrible sense of humor. :)

Adoro said...

Angela ~ Well...if we met in person we'd likely have those kinds of conversations, but you're's easier this way. WE know there are others who regret things. It's just hard to talk about it in person. It's even hard on the phone. If I've referenced things, it's always veiled, not as direct as I can be in writing. But writing it helps.

IR ~ There are a LOT of rough Saints...St. Ignatius of Loyola, for one! And Bl. Mother Teresa...don't get in her way! Now, I'm not NEARLY as crusty as any of those, and I wasn't QUITE as bad as St. Augustine. your term: Sister Sonshine! ROFL! Nope, I'll never be one of those! Yes, I have a generally cheerful disposition, but it gets clouded, I wear my heart on my sleeve and that's hard to curb (ie...if I'm grouchy EVERYONE knows it...)

Maureen ~ Are you thinking of Alessandro, who killed Maria Goretti?

I know that our views of oruselves are often (or usually!) not accurate. We are either too critical...or not critical enough. We read the writings of the Saints, and how they called themselves "wretches", and yet...we can't understand why they thought they were so awful. Um...can't compare myself to one of them by ANY means. But you're right...there is a grace that flows through us when God wants a certain thing...and uses us to carry it out.