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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Please Don't Break My Heart

I never thought I'd write about this particular topic, but in speaking with a friend tonight, someone discerning the priesthood, I realized that it's not something that belongs to me alone. He revealed he has the same deep fear as I, and together, we think that others experience the same thing.

It is because of this that I've decided to put this "out there" in hopes that it offers some comfort to someone, just so that you, and maybe we all, can realize we're not alone.

I watch the reasons why people come across my blog, and I can't forget the day someone found it by typing in:

"Why is vocational discernment so difficult?"

I don't know who asked the question, or why, or from what perspective, whether from honest seeking from their own agony and looking for help, or from a standpoint of derision. After all, our hugely secularized world thinks it's just a "job" to enter religious life, and they speak of it in those terms. They don't ask the deeper questions, looking only at utility, at functionality, but never theology, eternity or conversion of heart and soul. The questions of the world don't address the whole person, but only look at the human being as a convenient (or inconvenient) machine to be used and tossed aside.

Those who are truly discerning their Vocation are looking deeply into God and into themselves, trying to find out not "who they are" but rather, the very reason God called them into existence. They are looking for their true mission in life, their very BEING, realizing that, fundamentally, they are Called to something that long transcends this world and their very lives.

Discernment is a process by which a person bonds closely with Our Lord and with the entire Church, past present and future, and in so doing, sees far more than he ever realized possible. It is awe-inspiring, it is is painful, for they come face-to-face with themselves and the questions that are most fearful to address. The questions most people want to avoid...and do avoid. That's why it's so painful. Not just because of the questions and resulting discovery of Truth, but because that Truth is rejected, not only within themselves as they try to flee that purifying light of conscience, but because the secular world has no sanctuary...and finds need only to attack, never to accept.

That's why it's so difficult. That, and far more.


I've never spoken or written of this before, and find it hard to do so now. But maybe it's important.

This summer, it was only through God's grace and some massively generous souls that I was finally able to visit some religious communities. I wanted to go, I was ready to go, and spiritually prepared. I had a lot of support from all sides, even my family. They weren't thrilled about the distance, but understood I needed to go.

I won't lie; I was apprehensive about this very new experience, and even more so as the plane drew closer to the East Coast. As it landed and we taxied towards the gate, I was nearly in tears as my most heartfelt prayer finally came to the surface and I let it come, praying it with my entire being: "Jesus, please don't break my heart."

There it was.

Jesus, please don't break my heart.

My heart has been broken enough. I can't take any more. I'm tired of being lost, I'm tired of being alone, I can't keep doing this. I'm weary from the battle, I have scars that are still bleeding, and if I take another hit, I fear I will fall and never rise again.

I prayed this, knowing the battle wasn't over. Hoping maybe I'd find my way home on this trip, realizing it's NEVER been that easy and I wasn't about to put my trust in that idea. Praying for strength to continue, no matter what.

There was nothing else to do; from that point forward, I was no longer in control, so I offered myself completely to Jesus, stripped before Him, laying everything bare, sharing my deepest, deepest prayer: Don't break my heart. Beat me, kill me, abandon me, I don't care. But don't break my heart. Not that. Break everything else, but don't reject me. I can't take it. Please.

Don't break my heart.

I knew that I'd broken His Most Sacred Heart so many times, and that my prayer was presumptive. How DARE I say such a thing to the One who was Crucified...for me? But love reveals itself in all its facets, and it is only by Our Lord's Grace that I was able to allow that very very deep longing to come to the surface, and to plead it before His throne...right there in that little tin can of an airplane.

There are many who will understand this prayer; there are many who won't. There are many who will misinterpret it to mean something it does not, and so I must define it as clearly as I can, although it will STILL be insufficient.

My prayer was one of Trust.

It was not that I was asking that THIS community be the RIGHT one. I was not arriving out of expectation of it being "perfect." I was asking for the very presence and blessing of Christ in my visit. I was asking to be shown the way to Him, to what He was calling me to be.

I didn't know if I was called to religious life or something else, and I didn't think that a discovery of NOT being called to religious life would be a bad thing. At the time I thought it WAS my calling and of course that's why I was there.

In my heart of hearts, though, as they say, I was simply asking that Our Lord not reject me, no matter what happened. I was begging for His presence and guidance wherever all of this would lead, for His comfort, and learning to trust that I truly WASN'T alone.

Jesus did answer my prayer.

It was, as I have written, an agonizing week and I expected it to be so. I spent a lot of time searching the depths of my soul and my relationship with Our Lord, trying to die to myself in order to live for Him. The daily routine alone demanded this. It made me think of prison and purgatory as I gave up my own will and freedom to willingly live in accordance with the structure of the convent. I even remained obedient to the boundaries given to the Sisters, those that did not bind me as a visitor. I could have left at any time, called a cab, asked to be taken to the airport, walked up the hill from the convent to investigate a berry bush, etc. And there were a couple days which, I admit, I desired only to be heading home. I couldn't wait to get "home."

But where was "home", really? Home isn't were the "heart" is, for the heart is so often wrong. Home is where God is...and that's what I was trying to figure out. How to get to Him, in spite of my broken, distorted heart that does not know love.

Jesus was made manifest, though, through His Brides, none of whom knew my agitated state and who would not have changed their demeanor if they had.

At that convent, I met some wonderful Sisters who received me enthusiastically and made me feel like family. They let me know that there was a place there for me, room in God's mansion. Many rooms. I was advised not to be afraid to answer God's Call, and every need I had was met, even those that were unexpected and forced me to depend on their own charity.

My life is better because of that week, because of that experience and knowing those dear Sisters. I can't imagine my life now without them. It was a great privilege to be one of them, even though I was apart from them. I was on the outside looking in yet experiencing all the warmth and joy of that life so many never see or experience.

But that wasn't the end. I can say the same about each visit this summer. Each was a direct encounter with God, answering my most heartfelt plea, all from different angles. I loved each convent or monastery individually, and loved Christ more because of them.

In each was His response to that little prayer of mine, asking Him not to break my heart.

"I didn't call you here to break your heart. Please don't break Mine."

I knew Jesus was with me, wanted me there, and spoke through His dear Brides. They wanted me there, too. Each invited me to deeply drink of God's Love, and, without pressure, to discern whether I was called to their life or some other.

It was clear that Our Lord was speaking to me, not as Master to Slave, but as a beloved daughter, as a possible Him...or someone. It was clear, ultimately that I simply didn't have the foundation to accept or reject anything. I was there to meet Jesus, to speak intimately with Him, and to learn to let Him be the guide, even if it made no sense to me.

Truly....NONE of this makes sense to me.

If I were in charge, I'd just choose somewhere and go, on my own time and when I chose.

Instead, God has given me impediments or opened doors as HE has chosen. HE has chosen my closest friends, HE has chosen my circumstances. He has made connections, drawn lines, and has asked me to follow. He has asked me to give up the wheel and let Him drive. Not because I can't, but because without headlights, He can see so much more clearly than I.

Jesus is asking me to trust.

It is only in trusting that I can give Him my heart. If I hold on to it, broken, it will NEVER be healed, I will never be made whole. If I don't let Jesus take my heart into His own hands...I will die.

My prayer, that day on the tarmac, was my offering. I gave Jesus my heart, entrusted it to Him with my breathless, tearful words: You can have it...just don't break it. I want my life to be yours. I want to live ONLY through YOU and in You.

I gave everything to Jesus in that moment, knowing that only He and I would understand that offering.

I still don't know what God is calling me to be. It's a constant battle not to give up. It's a constant battle to just NOT jump to a random decision among a plethora of good decisions...and some bad ones.

There is only ONE thing that I can say with certainty, and that is that Our Lord has not left me alone. He has not broken my heart. He has not rejected me, no matter how much I deserve it in every moment.

We who are discerning, in the depths of our hearts, we know we're broken. We are seeking God with everything we have, laying ourselves upon the altar and asking to enter into His sacrifice in any way He chooses. Deeply we fear that He will reject us, just as the world has and other people have, many times over. Not a single one of us has ever NOT experienced rejection of some sort.

The only thing I know now is that God is in charge, I've turned EVERYTHING over to Him, and He has promised that He will never reject me and will never break my heart.

Thank you, Jesus. I trust in Thee.


leah_carrier said...

As someone who is starting to discern her vocation, this post really helped me a lot. It made me realize that I am not the only one who is so scared and so broken. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting your story!

Adoro said...

Leah ~ It is really scary, and a lot of us are really messed up. It's good your're finding Jesus now. I'm 35 and running out of time. When I was in college, I was looking for God everywhere, having been chased away from where He IS by bad theology stating he WASN'T there.

God is faithful. Trust Him, give your fear to HIm...He will lead you when you're ready. If you're not ready now, you will be when it's time for whatever He is preparing you to be!

Mandrivnyk said...

Thank you, Adoro for another beautiful post! You've certainly presented an important, if often forgotten perspective. I'm sure many people will find it helpful; I certainly did.

Adrienne said...

Notificaton of an award delayed due to Verizon internet outages.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Adoro, I can never imagine God rejecting you (or anyone)! He may have other options for you, but that is not rejection; that is acceptance.

Adoro said...

Mandrivnyk ~ People who are outside of this don't understand this part, but I'm finding that there are many of us who ARE.

Elizabeth ~ That's one of the points of the, He won't. However, this post is a deeply personal one about a deep fear MANY people in discernment feel, think, whatever. Intellectual knowledge and understanding doesn't negate the reality of the agony of discernment.

Anyone who HASN'T been here won't experience it. That's why I wrote this post. To help those of you who DON'T know about this to understand, and to help those who DO know what it's like to know they aren't alone.

Mandrivnyk said...

Yeah, Adoro. I remember, years ago, being at Adoration on retreat with the SMME, and being nearly bowled over with the realization (I thought) that, while this was not the community for me, I was absolutely in the right place, and, eventually, that Christ was indeed calling me to be his spouse.

I've never quite gotten over that sense, really, which is terribly sad considering how much I've thrown away. I've too much of a habit of infidelity, to make that terribly plausible. Never mind the nearly $40k of student debt I have no way of repaying any time soon. I'm only 25, but by the time I have a stable enough faith life to know anything, and am debt free, it will have long since been too late.

It's very hard to trust, sometimes, that regardless of the damage we do to ourselves and the consequences that brings, Jesus will never, ever, break our hearts. Even if there's nothing else in the world we can trust, there's that. Still, it's so hard, sometimes, to let Him love us.

Mary333 said...

As a wife and mother, I don't know much about the discernment process except for what I have read on your blog and others who are going through this, but my prayers are with you. May the Lord continue to lead and guide you on your journey.

Adoro said...

Mandrivnyk ~ Try being 35, with unpaid undergrad loans, mounting grad loans, a house you can't afford and a paycheck (compliments of Church employment) that doesn't pay your own monthly bills, never mind the extras such as car maintenance, house maintenance, the townhome association fee...etc.

I'm so far in debt I can't afford to die. Forget religious life, if I'm even called to it, which more and more I doubt.

Take're ONLY 25. If I was only 10 years younger and realized a possible Call...that would have made ALL the difference in my life.

If there's little hope for YOU, there's absolutely NONE for me.

And NEITHER of us can really think that way, can we? Consider Sarah and Hannah. Impossible for them, too.

But again...I don't think I"m Called.

Nope. But I'm going to get through this and won't finish until I'm either professed or married or dead. I somehow expect the latter will happen first. It's most likely at this point.

Mary ~ Thank you. We all desperately need prayers.

Father S said...


You post often on my blog and I am not sure if I have posted on yours. I read it often and appreciate it. Anyhow, this post of yours is beautiful. I just thought I'd share an observation.

In my life as a priest and before, I have known what real heartbreak is. I do not mean this in the Hallmark card sort of way. I mean it exactly in the way that you do, namely, in that way that is life changing, in that way which is tremendously difficult and that can bring true grief. There is a benefit, to this, though. As wretched as it may feel in the moment and for years later, there is a benefit. We realize, if we are called to serve the Lord in vowed life, that He will bind up the wounds of heartbreak. There will always be a certain rawness to the wounds, but we will know that in serving Him we have no need for anxiety or fear. If He calls us to vowed life, He will provide. Recall the words of the father of the prodigal son to the older brother, "All that I have is yours." Our Lord allows us the difficulty of the brokenness so that we may not just abandon ourselves to Him, but be cared for. What I can tell you is that the life is completely worth it. As terrible as the heartbreak is, imagine the opposite. The hands of Our Lord are the hands of a healer. He will fill you with joy.

Anyhow, I hope that this does not come off as syrupy rambling. I know it to be true in my life. Would I take the heartbreak again just to know the grace? Absolutely.

May Our Lord Bless You Abundantly,
Fr. S.

Anonymous said...

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God bless you!

St. Conleth's CHA

Adoro said...

Father S. ~ Thank you for your comment. I've read it a few times and delayed in responding as I've turned your words over in my mind. It is this phrase that struck me:

Our Lord allows us the difficulty of the brokenness so that we may not just abandon ourselves to Him, but be cared for.

That is probably, quite likely even, part of my problem, part of trust. Are we willing to entrust our brokenness to OTHERS? Others who may not understand, who may abuse that trust, who might give us exactly what we need...and in a situation where we can't run away from love anymore?

No, your words aren't rambling, but exactly what I needed to "hear". Thank you.

God bless you even more abundantly than He has blessed me.

Father S said...


You bring up an interesting point, about "entrust[ing] our brokenness to OTHERS". I presume you mean in terms of vocation and formation. Here are the facts about that. Everywhere you go will have imperfect formation. Every person who does formation or even spiritual direction will be a sinful person. Every person who intends to do you well will have their own faults. Insofar as that is the case, formation is a mixed bag. There are moments of wonderful self-discovery, of dependence upon the will of our superiors or camaraderie with others. There are also moments that are very, very hard. What happens is that the sinfulness of others grates against us. In the end, we get both a desire for Our Lord and a thick skin through formation. But, as in all things, you will not get the joy and wonder of being around others without also sometimes feelings the friction and abrasiveness of others. I think you already know this, though.

What you may not know is that, if you pray, if you try to serve and serve and serve, something beautiful happens. You realize that as long as you continue to draw close to Our Lord, as long as your relationship there is sound and growing, you can put up with just about anything. Even in community life, which is not known to be easy, when you are surrounded by people whom you alternately love and hate, depending on the day, the driving relationship is not with them. The driving relationship is not even with your superiors. The driving relationship, the life giving relationship, the relationship of care and joy is with Our Lord.

You see, Our Lord provides. If He is calling you to vowed life and you trust and follow, while there may be difficult days, even almost unbearable days when your suitcase is half packed, He will provide. That is not an abstract type of providence. Really and truly, He will provide you with the security that conquers and assuages all fear and anxiety. There is a reason that religious life is compared to spousal life. Part of that is safety. Just as loving spouses feel no safer than when they are with each other, when they have true, vulnerable intimacy, the same is true for religious. As I said and you noted before, this has to do with being cared for. It has to do with being desired by the Beloved.

What I know is this. As much as there was a time in my life that I wanted a wife and children, what I have now I would not trade for anything because I know the Beloved and that is more than sufficient.

May Our Lord Bless You Abundantly,
Fr. S

Adoro said...

Thank you, Fr. S. I do know that the relationship religious/priests have with God is different than in the married or single life. I had this conversation with a friend this summer, and she provided her perspective from lived experience. It's not something I've written about here, although I've discussed it with a few people here and there, although I can't explain it as beautifully as she did!

In any case, she described how, in religious life/priesthood, the primary relationship is with God, and friendships flow from that union outward. In the married life, or single life, it is the relationships with others that drives towards union with God.

Ever since I learned this from her, I've been praying about that, trying to figure I being drawn to God through others, or are my friendships from others resulting from the way God draws me towards Himself? I think that this is key, because it is not a relationship that is learned or developed, but belongs naturally to us...because it's the way God created us. It's fitting, because, as we know, God calls each one of us into being and into a particualar Vocation. You were BORN to be a Priest, and you said yes to that, to God's great joy (and ours!). Some are born to be Brothers, or Sisters. The jury is still out for me (um..on my end, not God's. Wish He'd just send me an email and clear all this up! lol)

I'm explaining this very very badly and imprecisely so I hope you understand what I'm TRYING to say?

Father S said...


It makes perfect sense! That's just discernment. "Duc in altum." "Put out into the deep," as Our Lord said. The real question ends up being, "What have you got to lose?" This is a question about love, in the end. Do you find yourself falling for a life the way someone falls for a person? The answer will come. Right now if the answer is, "I am not yet sure," then that is fine. Where do you feel safe and where do you feel that you are the beloved? Attraction is not an exact science, so if you feel as if you are being drawn to Him, let yourself be drawn. As much as it seems counter intuitive, enjoy the anxiety and the strange sense of courtship.

I'd like to suggest a conference that you may find helpful. It was given to seminarians, but I think the principles are still very appropriate. It was given by the Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Bismarck. Here is the link:

-Fr. S.

Adoro said...

Fr. S. ~ Thanks for recommending the conference. It was EXCELLENT although I wasn't able to finish it... was at work and of course the phone rang, coworkers needed things, etc., so stopped it and lost it. Oh, well. I can try again some other time and hear the rest! Definitely worthwhile!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Hey, I know that friend ;)

You put this into words much better than I :)