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Monday, December 21, 2009

Perpetual Pilgrim Awaiting the Dawn

O Sapientia
O Adonai...
O Radix Jesse...
O Clavis David...
O Oriens......
O Rex Gentium...
O Emmanuel.....

We await the coming of our Savior, waiting to celebrate His birth even as we continue in our own time to await the Second Coming.  

But that is not all. Some of us still await the purpose of our lives, even as we try to live it out as best we can with what we have.  Given this and my incertitude, I have to confess that I'm still looking at religious communities, trying to find out if there's one I haven't discovered. Today I looked again at the Trappists (Cistercians of Strict Observance) given how my taste of monasticism has so taken hold of me and awakened my very soul.

Just as Mary pondered things in her heart, so do I, although without nearly so much depth, without nearly so much silence, without nearly so much holiness.

We recognize in the Church three Vocations, formally:  the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Marriage.

Two of those require Sacraments:  Holy Orders and Matrimony.  Those require supernatural authority and supernatural grace, whereas Religious Life is not gained through a Sacrament because it has all the needed grace from Baptism and Confirmation.  God alone is sufficient, for He is the sole object.

Then we have the Single Life, which some argue is a Vocation unto itself. In a way, it can be, for we have Consecrated Virgins and we have Hermits; but those are a form of Religious Life, not the Single state.

The reality is that the Single Life is not in and of itself a recognizable Vocation. Especially in our culture of commitment avoidance, we cannot give into the temptation to call it such just because there are so many singles.  To do so is to endorse what is so prevalent in our time;  the refusal of the individual soul to inquire of God what He has called them into being to BE.

There are a thousand reasons for being single, but every one is anecdotal, not objective Unlike the Married, Religious or Priestly Vocations, there is no one to ENDORSE with any authority the "call" to be single  for Christ.  Sure, I can cite LOTS of single men and women who live holy lives, but can any of us actually stand in the place of judgment and authoritatively say that those people were NOT called to some recognized Vocation?  Can we? Especially if the Church of which we are a part and look to for guidance has not done so?

Vocational Discernment is the Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do

I've written of this before and really am not free to tell individual stories for fear they would be recognized, but I learned a great deal last summer of the reality of Discernment...and that for some, it DOESN'T end.  I know of a Sister who had made her Final Profession and ended up leaving her congregation when things went south....far, far south.  She didn't leave her vows, but sought only God's will, landing in a cloister where she was greatly aided by those dear nuns, only to find that wasn't her place, either. She struggled, wondering if she should write to Rome for a dispensation from her Vows, but didn't want to do that. At long last, she found her community and although when I knew her she was still in formation there, this Religious of 20-something years (ie in her 40's, having been in religious life since her teens) seemed to have finally found her Home.

I met another who had entered the community of religious that had taught her in school, only to face a major betrayal LONG after having made her final vows.  She was forcibly ousted, was never told why but went, and finally found her true home.

Through speaking with many Sisters, I learned this is common. It's not just common for someone to be a postulant or aspirant or novice in one place and leave only to try a few more: it's fairly common for some to find, even after perpetual vows that they are NOT where God intends!

This knowledge really didn't help me in my discernment, to be perfectly honest. As it is I have problems with trust, but the information obtained this summer made me realize that even if I DO find what I think is "the place" for me, I may face that same kind of total betrayal.

Or, of course, as I think now, I'm not called to it at all.

Certainly, though, my heart goes out to all of those dear Sisters who have discerned so sincerely and found themselves out in the cold with the Infant Jesus.

Perpetual Pilgrim

I have written many times of how I feel like a perpetual pilgrim.  I haven't had a proper "home" since I was 10 and we lost our home to foreclosure, had to lose many of our things, and in fact, I recall even losing the privacy I'd taken for granted for so long.  Instead of having my own room, I had to share a room with my Mom in a tiny apartment. Instead of enjoying the expanse of a huge acre lot with a little grove of trees to feed my imagination, we had a postage stamp of a yard on the edge of one of the busiest streets in town...yet another new experience.

That apartment was never "home" to me. It was where we lived, and I was embarrassed to live there. Of course we all adapted, but having had our own space once, well, it's hard not to see the world in those terms anymore.

Two weeks after I graduated from high school, Mom was hospitalized for 3 months then sent to live in a half-way house for another 9 or so. We lost the apartment and were, officially, without a formal address.

When I came "home" for Christmas that December, I split my time between friends and relatives, trying not to be a bother to anyone. When I came "home" on weekends to work, or on Easter, or that following summer on break, I tried to make sure I was as invisible and out of the way as possible. After all, I didn't want to be anyone's problem.

Even when Mom got her own apartment, it was hers alone and I couldn't formally, by law, live there because of the reason for her housing.  It was only another place to crash for the night. It was never "home".

When I graduated college, I found myself in the Cities, moving from place to place, year to year, lease to lease.  I purchased my town home in 2003 or so and even then, when I signed the papers I knew this was more like a long-term temporary place. This isn't "home". It's a place to crash for awhile.

Even as I laid down the cash to bind the deal, I realized that this box I keep my stuff in is transitional, not permanent.

Eternal Pilgrimage

A couple years ago, when I visited my friends in Ohio, my eyes were opened.  I knew that my REAL home, at least on this earth, is the Mass.  It is only at Mass that I can really let go of everything and be present for God, knowing I am dependent upon HIM for everything.

It doesn't matter WHERE  I go to Mass....because Mass is transcendent. It is the past, present, and future. It is all times, all places. It belongs to God and therefore it is eternity.

Mass is the ONLY place in this world where I KNOW without a doubt, that I belong.

It is the only place where I am myself, fully, unequivocally, without reserve...because none of us can be other than that in the presence of God.

That July, I GOT it.  I understood what it means to be a Pilgrim here on this earth, homeless, in true spiritual poverty.

Our lives are not about material possessions and in many ways I think it's ridiculous to claim any political or national affiliation.  We Catholics far transcend by our very Baptism and Confirmation the governmental structures that try to lay claim to our lives, our attitudes and our spirits.

It is WE who, if we were to really live up to what we have been given, would be laying claim to the government and exerting God's authority for the proper good of ALL!

The Letter to Diognetus, a document I've posted many times, more and more becomes my anthem.  Here is a powerful excerpt:

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.

Today in complete jest while lamenting yet another pair of cheap boots wrecked (they have holes in the sole) I suggested to friends that maybe I have a new Vocation, one unrecognized but maybe I am called to formalize it.

Maybe I should found the Order of the Discalced Pilgrims of the Holy Sacrifice.

Who are we?  Men and Women who realize we are called to be Pilgrims on this earth, Single men and women who WANT to commit ourselves to Our Lord but don't seem to be called into the Priesthood or Marriage, and can't seem to find our home in Religious Life either. Yet we know we are not called to just be "single".

God did not bring us into this world to just hang out as bachelors and bachelorettes.

All I know is that I am God's own Pilgrim Daughter, still homeless, apparently shoeless, and no resolution in sight. I am perpetually cast upon the sacred shores of God's Divine Providence.

If I have any identity at all, even though I've never been on a recognizable pilgrimage, I realize that my very existence is the only pilgrimage that is necessary.  As I seek my place in this world, I have the next as my goal, knowing that whenever I need to come home, all I must do is attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

One day, I will finally go to my true Home, hopefully having accomplished whatever it is God would have me do in this life.

This Advent, I await the revelation of my Vocation just as I await the Second Coming of Christ. I wait, knowing that I am a mere pilgrim, dependent upon God for all things, grateful for our Dearest Lord and Savior, seeking, above all, the pilgrimage into His Most Sacred Heart...for eternity.

I hope, that, when I die, if I can afford it, the following epitaph will be etched into my tombstone:

A Pilgrim No Longer:  I'm Home.

If we do not live our lives (our pilgrimage) on earth with our final end in mind, it is guaranteed we will never find it...for we will never find Him.

Antiphon 3 from LOH:   "When the Son of Man comes to earth, do you think he will find faith in men's hearts?"  

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

I am nothing but a Pilgrim awaiting the Dawn...