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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adoro's Monastic Adventure Continued

God (and several generous human beings working for and with Him) has given me six weeks this summer to focus on discerning whether or not I have a Vocation to religious life.

As you know, so far no questions have been answered. Which, really, is fine, as my spiritual director assures me.

I worry because I'm not getting younger. Others think I should jump off a pecipice just because I'm not married, and others want me to be a nun or a sister because they have a romantic idea of monastic life (which is no more romantic than married life, actually.) And still others fall into other categories in their bet-taking as to what they think I should be doing and why.

So really, it is those few voices, who are the chosen designates, who are keeping me on track both to keep me from being too discouraged and to keep me from making a hasty decision much like a person who runs a red light and is flattened by a semi just because the guy behind them beeps in impatience.

We've all passed such accidents, haven't we?

This Thursday I'm going to make another pass at monastic life, this one really intense. The Cistercians of Common Observance pray 7 times per day in community, work in silence, study in silence, and seek God in solitude while living in community. It is their practice to rise at 3:40 am in order to begin praying Lauds at 4 am, so that while you sleep you can rest assured that people are praying...for you.

I'll be driving to this monastery, only a few hours away, and this week I received the instructions as to what to wear, what to bring, what not to bring and whatnot.

The process for even VISITING this community has been quite the experience! We've been in contact for months, I was required to read a book, "The Cistercian Way" by Andre Louf, and I now learn I have to bring it with me.

Unfortunately, I don't own it. I got it from the library, and as it was an order from another library system, it took them 3 weeks to get it to me. Thankfully I have a friend who is sending me his copy and hopefully it will be here in time!

The communities I just visited didn't require much for the visit: only an open heart to hear God. Certainly I'm sure other contact is required, but that was fulfilled long before my plane ticket was purchased.

The Cistercians, on the other hand, sent me a form for a recommendation to be completed by my Pastor or Spiritual Director and believe you me, they were asking some heavy questions! I wondered why they wanted this just for a "come and see" type of visit where I would not be admitted to the enclosure, but so be it. I turned over the form, and my SD filled it out and sent it on.

I also had to write an autobiography, and the one I wrote on my blog or for grad school wasn't appropriate as those had the wrong focus. In addition to the actual story of my life, they wanted a self-assement of strengths and weaknesses.

All of this has been completed and sent, and in response, Sister sent me a list of instructions. I am to bring a Bible, a rosary, The Cistercian Way, the Liturgy of the Hours, toiletries, clothing proper to the outdoors and weather, and nothing else that logic doesn't dictate. I am asked to leave all other media at home (no problem! I don't have it anyway!)

I've been told I'll meet with her, the Prioress and the Novice Director, and alll will have read all correspondance between Sister and I, including my autobiography and reference from my SD, and they will keep it all in strict confidance. Comforting.

I feel like I'm under a microscope and I haven't felt like this since my law enforcement background. I'm still waiting to be told I have to meet with a background investigator from the CIA before my arrival at the monastery.

In speaking with others who also considered the Cistercians, they found the process so off-putting that they never continued and thus never visited. The Sister with whom I have been "speaking" explained that in the past they required the autobiography and recommendation with an application for entrance to the Order, they now require it at a 3 day visit.

By the way, they also define the 3 days; it wasn't by my request. They asked me to plan for five days, to include 3 full days there, 1 day for arrival and a day for travel home, and this, of course makes sense. I believe the monastery has hermitages for private retreatants and this kind of a schedule likely helps them keep things running at a proper pace during their busy guest season.

I wonder if my perseverance through this arduous application-to-visit process is maybe not as big of a deal for me because I've been through intense background investigations in the past? Both police and fire put me through my paces, sending me to intense physicals, psychologicals, physical tests, personal interviews, etc. I've been fingerprinted multiple times, my family and friends interviewed, my hometowns visited, employment records searched, etc etc etc. By comparison, this process is NOTHING!

It still seems invasive, yet I'm wi
lling to undergo it because something about the Cistercian Order has gotten my attention, has made me consider things more deeply, and that means I have to go.

So now, armed with my slight monastic experiences in an active community, a day and a half with my beloved Dominicans, now I prepare for the silence of an ancient Rule, one of austerity and early rising, something so contrary to my very being that it MUST be of God. Why? Because the idea of ME going there is totally insane.

Closing comments for obvious reasons. Thank you.


Hidden One said...

Comments not closed yet.

Adoro said...

LOL, thanks! I'm not used to closing comments and I don't want to make it the default!

OK, closing now in oder to stave off the serial-advice-givers who don't even realize their own default position is to give advice! lol