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Monday, February 15, 2010

Vocation and Being the Enjoyment of the Beloved

Yesterday was the celebration of lust and materialism that this country calls "Valentine's Day."

For me, historically, it's one of the worst days of the calendar year and is quite antithetical to the true meaning of love and charity.  It's a day of personal tragedy for me and one I wish I could avoid...every year.

Yet, even in my avoidance of the day, God revealed His love for me, and did so again today, through a messenger I would not have expected.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to visit a cloistered community, free from pressure, all focused on what God wants of me, and with assurances of prayers from that community for my ongoing discernment.  It was a nice message and I replied, accepting the invitation albeit I won't be making the visit for months!

Today, though, revealed another facet.

This afternoon I went to a local restaurant to pick up my dinner. I am a fairly regular customer there, and go there because it is a Mom & Pop shop, the owners belong to a local Christian church and clearly run their business upon Christian values.  They get to know their customers and allow their customers to get to know them.  Last summer I learned of Mrs. Owner's pregnancy, I learned of the new addition to their family a couple months ago, complete with cute baby pictures, and today, I walked in and greeted the little darling and thanked him for "helping" his daddy at work!  

The owner and I chatted a little while he proudly cradled his very cute, smiling infant son, and the man asked me if I had children.

"No", I replied, wiggling my ring-free fingers.  "I'm not married.  I like children, but I don't believe God is calling me to marriage."

The man seemed to be a bit taken aback by such a statement. It's a reaction I expected;  I find that many non-Catholics have the same reaction to it, as they don't really have the same teaching or concept of "Vocation" as do we Catholics.  It's either Marriage or.....what?  Because of this, usually when a non-Catholic asks me about marriage and children, I just smile and change the subject.

Today, though, for some reason, maybe because the product of their love was present with us, I shared my own heart as well.  After all, my heart and soul are all I possess. 

But this man had something to say, and it bears repeating.  He understood the reference to God's call of course, and that God is the center of all that we do and believe. But he couldn't let it go.He clearly didn't understand my statement of not sensing a call, from God, to Marriage.  Looking me directly in the eye, he said, "Well, if you ever find that one person who just....ENJOYS YOU,  who just enjoys you for who you are, just...really ENJOYS YOU....he's probably the one."  

He didn't break eye contact.

In that moment, I heard the voice of God speaking through him.  It was John Paul II's Theology of the Body coming through a man who has probably never even heard of it.

I found the man's comment particularly compelling because, well, he wasn't telling me to focus on what I WANTED but rather to look beyond myself to the OTHER, and the reaction of the OTHER towards me as a woman, deserving of love.  This man looked at me through the eyes of one who saw my dignity as a woman worthy of being loved, and one who could not comprehend that anyone would ever NOT recognize that dignity inherent within themselves.

I realized also that he was speaking of his own experience of love for his wife, there, while holding their son, their third child.  But rather than telling me to focus on MY enjoyment of another, he was asking me to look beyond and to recognize the true enjoyment of ANOTHER...of....ME.

And....it didn't sound like selfishness.

It was a juxtaposition I didn't expect..He wasn't speaking of lust.  He is a decent man, and was speaking of something far deeper than the secular idea of lust in the place of love.  He was looking through the eyes of self-sacrifice and getting to the heart of marriage and what it is.  The "Enjoyment" of which he was speaking was a love that transcends, a love that looks to the other as something, someone, worth obtaining through great sacrifice.

He didn't say all of this, but it was right there in his expression, in what I know of him and his family, in the very obvious love he has for them, and in the sincere respect he has for everyone who walks through the doors to his business.

This man has given me something to consider, that being the true ENJOYMENT of the Other in the relationship.  We all know that in marriage, one enjoys the other and wills their good.

What is Vocation? 

Today's random conversation goes back to maybe one of my own personal hangups, for I always tend to approach Vocation from the perspective of sacrifice, yet knowing I should be delighting in God, which I do. Yet I always seem to forget that He delights in ME as well!  I tend to forget that in a true human relationship, the man delights in the woman and vice versa. It's not a one way street.

Yet I always seem to make it so, ESPECIALLY when the object of my love is God. I find it impossible that the Creator of the Universe the One who called me into being, would actually delight in.....me.

As I focus on discernment of my Vocation, I constantly seek to be what God wants me to be. I am looking to holiness, to "measuring up", to being everything a Bride of Christ SHOULD be.  I focus on the objective standard of the Mother of God, and of Christ Himself. I focus on finding my joy in HIM, and as selfish as I am as a human being, I have never taken the time to really meditate on how, well....I am worthy of delight.

I don't think in all my years of dating that any man has ever "delighted in" me.  I know I have been the object of lust, and that's all I was, and I thought it was love. I don't know that I was EVER introduced to the idea of the chaste "delight" in the beloved, one for another.

I knew that sex was sacred, was to be ordered within the Sacrament of Marriage, and that love was a driving force. But the actual idea of "enjoyment" of one for another...that was an absent connection. It SHOULD be natural, yet in our culture, we miss that chaste enjoyment in favor of lust or focusing on the purpose of marriage.  In all the dichotomy of our current culture of extremes, we tend to miss out on the simplicity, the most basic and natural part of the love of man and woman; the simple delight in the very person of another, in their very humanity,  a delight that demands nothing, asks nothing...simply revels in mere existence.

Thanks to this simple encounter this afternoon, I have something more to consider. I may never forget the comment directed directly TO me, something I never even thought to ASK for or recognize, for it was never on my radar screen.  Yet, I agree, it's important and I suspect ever married couple, every religious sister, at some point recognized the same truth in their relationship:   The Bridegroom DELIGHTS IN the Beloved!  He ENJOYS her!

I confess...I don't know what that means. I've NEVER experienced it!  Ever!  This lack in my own life is what I recognized in friends years ago, and which drove me to break up with the man I thought I loved;  for I saw that he did not love me.

But I've never been the "target" of that loving gaze of pure enjoyment. Ever. I don't know what it looks like. I don't know what it's like to be the focus of such delight, and if I do experience it, I don't know how to recognize or respond to it.

I don't want anyone to feel "sorry" for me...I'm not writing this post for that purpose. Rather, I am trying to explain a part of discernment that may be absent for many of us, through experience or understanding, for even if it lacks on the natural end, we should be able to seek to understand it through the supernatural. Yet, if it has never been defined, or a part of what we know, how can we recognize it?

Perhaps this Lent, I should meditate on the pure enjoyment of Our Lord for His Beloved, such that He would sacrifice so much to ensure our Union with Him. Perhaps I should make it more personal and recognize my own personal involvement, that it's not about how much I love...but about how much HE loves...and enjoys, not just us...but me.

I pray for the courage not just to understand...but to accept...and respond.

13 comments:

Matthew said...

Adoro, I am not sure if you have read "Story of a Soul" by St. Therese of Lisieux. I am reading it right now and I must admit that it is a bit above my head. The writing is so simple as she was a simple person but the nature of her relationship with God is so pure that it is hard for me to grasp it all. Her concept of God and the way that she KNEW he viewed her with love is just amazing. She had no doubts that she was his bride and that he adored her. It is really remarkable and your post made me think of this.

I would venture a guess that even if you haven't experienced it personally, it is there waiting for you in the form of Christ. I am in fact quite certain he feels that ENJOYment of you that you speak of.

Vocation discernment is hard. My own personal path in that regards was not easy and I am not certain that I really listened to God. I think I pretty much did my own thing. I am coming up on seven years of marriage and we have two kids but it has not been easy on either of us because we were both doing our own thing. Fortunately we share our faith and God has made it work for us but I can speak from experience that going about it the world's way is a tough road.

You remain in my prayers as you continue to discern. Being the bride of Christ probably has a lot of fringe benefits in the long run so keep that in mind.

God bless. Matthew

Adoro said...

Matthew ~ Thanks for your comment.

I have read "A Story of a Soul", wonderful book, and yes...that purity of her love and understanding of God is amazing, isn't it?

The man I spoke with today confessed that every part of his own life has been a struggle, too. God hasn't made it easy for him, either, yet he lives that sacrifice and that uncertainty every day with his family, to which he clings, for whom he works. And his pride in the is apparent.

Yes, I DO want that kind of love, and know it's there, through another or through Christ Himself...if only I could see it and accept it.

And that's the hard part. We recognize God through the love of others, and today...I saw God.

bleusmon said...

Adoro,

It does seem you are in discernment. My concern is that you might fail into the error of seeing the unconsecrated single life as a legitimate, Church-approved vocation. It is not, despite so many who advance this notion with the best of intentions (as an act of charity to singles) or by singles themselves, seeking some sort of imprimatur over involuntary singleness.

You'll find my views pretty well-covered in these two articles by Mary Beth Bonacci:

Called to Singlehood - A single girl questions the existence of the single 'vocation.'

http://www.catholicmatch.com/articles/details.html?article_id=100

AND

Is the Single Life a Vocation (Take a closer look at Church teaching)?

http://www.4marks.com/articles/details.html?article_id=437

I don't endorse or denigrate either site where these articles reside, although Catholic women friends have told me that men they meet at Catholic singles sites often misrepresent their spiritual journeys as a more serious struggle with achieving personal holiness than is actually the case, so caveat emptor.

Please read these only as a guide offered in true charity. God calls us into Communion with Him, and that calling is first expressed by the calling to enter into communion with another (or an Other – guess Who?) while still here on earth.

Unconsecrated singleness violates God's words in Genesis: It is nit good for man to be alone, after which He made Eve - our first clue that marriage between man and woman is a (poor) reflection of the Trinitarian Communion preceding Creation as well as that final Marriage of the Lamb to which we are ALL called.

The consecrated life (either in a marriage between man and woman or in a Marriage to the Lamb in a consecrated vocation as a priest of a religious sister, nun, monk, or friar) is the ONLY acceptable path countenanced by the Church as vocation.

Remaining single but unconsecrated is surrendering to being of the world in that one accepts one's lot in life (singleness looking like one's only or best option) instead of turning it over to the Holy Spirit, who will not only guide your path but will bring you directly to the door(s) that will open His Plan to you - and ALL in His time.

Remember, God is NEVER late. He is ALWAYS on time. The song "Four Days Late" by Karen Peck invokes the story of Jesus arriving at Lazarus' tomb well after He had been called by sisters Mary & Martha. The refrain rephrases how I just put it in a way I like a lot:

Isn't it great?
He's four days late,
and He's still on time!

Best wishes, and bone up on Theology of the Body. GREAT stuff in there that laays out the relationship between the TWO vocations of the Church: marriage between man and woman and the Marriage of the Lamb here on earth (consecrated religious life).

Read "The Body Reveals God" by Katrina Zeno. Also, I strongly recommend her first book, recently re-released under the modified title of "Discovering The Feminine Genius...Every Woman's Journey."

They're both excellent, and in particular I loved reading the second one (and I'm a man). In fact, I'm 60 years old, very young at heart (and looking young enough, I'm thankful to say), and I made a tragic series of mistakes that led to my having remained single to this day. In spite of this, I know I am called to relationship with a good Catholic woman, and I can see how He is preparing me for it.

Anyway, that is enough for now. I have to get to work. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but if you'd like to e-mail me to expand on any of this you're welcome to use my e-mail address to do so: bleusmon@comcast.net (I do not use my gmail account except to access other Google apps). If not, that's OK too.

Phil

Adoro said...

bleusmon ~ Thank you for your concern, but you're barking up the wrong tree.

Over and over again on my blog I have state that the Single life is NOT a Church-approved vocation. Please understand that this post is written in the context of my ENTIRE BLOG, and I have been in discernment for a very long time. Too long...but then again, what's time when God is in charge?

Please go to the bottom of my post and click on the links to "Discernment" and "Vocations" and you'll see a greater context to this post.

I do hope, however, that someone happens along and reads the information you've provided. It may help someone to avoid the pitfall you thought I am headed for. Again, thanks for your concern, but it is not founded in my case. :-)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Adoro, this year, I had the pleasure of meeting ladies called "The Consecrated." Having no idea what that term meant, I asked the young lady who was a Consecrated. She explained it's a vocation unto itself. She said she will not marry, yet she is not a Sister.

I then looked it up.

Have you ever heard of that?

The website is here: http://www.regnumchristi.org/english/articulos/categoria.phtml?ca=234&se=360

My parents were also members of "Third Orders," Franciscan and Carmelite.

I am curious what you think of those as vocations unto themselves.

Adoro said...

Katherine ~ Yes, I am quite familiar with that vocation, the Consecrated Virgins. Here is a link that explains the Vocation:

http://www.ewtn.net/library/PRIESTS/CONSVIRG.HTM

I know a couple here locally, one of them, we invited to speak to a group of Confirmation students and their parents. It is a very beautiful vocation!

I'm also familiar with Regnum Christi.

Third Orders, well, that's more complicated. SOME Third Orders, such as the Franciscan TOR's are properly religious communities that take vows, wear habits, take vows of celibacy, chastity, obedience, poverty.

I know many Secular Carmelites and Franciscans, which is kind of a Vocation within a Vocation. They live in the world, are married, or single, etc., and make promises, but not vows. It is a wonderful way to grow in holiness, and to make a committment to a particular spirituality in order to be more conformed to Christ.

I was actually, a couple years ago, working with others to try to form a chapter of Lay Dominicans (the preferred term with these institutes now is "Lay" as opposed to "Third Order" to avoid confusion.) It fell through but I may one day open that door again if I'm not called to religious life.

Does that help? :-)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

That really does help! I figured you knew about those vocations but wanted to get your take.

My parents obviously were 'the order within the order' as you described because they were married.

The Consecrated ladies are just lovely! I give them credit for taking on a vocation that many people might not be familiar with.

Anonymous said...

One of the wonderful things about authentic love whenit is offered is that it demands nothing and asks for everything! When we perceive that love or enjoyment of our very existence be it from God himself or from another no matter how broken we are we respond. It is either the nature of love or of us as humans that we love because (after) we are first loved. God loves us first, then we love Him and others. You know far more Theology of the body than I do, but I do understand this:
it is intrinsic to femaleness to receive (in order to give) and every human soul is female- even males have a female soul. The soul is designed to receive God.

Sorry to go on, my intended point is that love recognized touches us and we respond.

Samantha

Nan said...

Sunday was the Feast day of Ss. Cyril and Methodius.

Adoro said...

Nan ~ Yes, I know, and that's what I celebrated all day long! If I lived near the Cathedral I would have paid their shrine a visit!

Melody K said...

Adoro, I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to what someone else's vocation might be. I know that with the help of God you will find yours in good time; I think part of our vocation is actually the journey of getting there. I like your thoughts on the enjoyment of Our Lord for his beloved.
However I am having a problem with this concept that the only acceptable vocations are either the married or religious life. I am convinced that there are some people whom God intends to stay single, and who are not called to be priests or religious. Some of them have been in my family. I think God has tasks or missions for them to carry out which they could not fulfill if they were married or vowed to religious life. Maybe His purposes for them won't be understood until after they are finished with their earthly life. They don't have a wedding day, or an ordination, or a final profession of vows to point to and say, "There, I'm where God wants me to be." But who are we to say that God has no plan which includes the life they are living? Some singles care for family members. Some of them have disabilities. The list goes on. Maybe I am defining "vocation" wrong.

Adoro said...

Melody ~ That's also what I used to believe. But both through what I've learned in discernment and through what I've learned in theology (huge discussion on this in my Mariology class), "single" as a Vocation isn't single unto itself...it must involve a consecration to focus it. So yes, there ARE people who are called to remain single but that, too must be discerned as carefully as one would discern priesthood, religious life, and marriage. And it HAS to have a committment...or it's not a Vocation.

Sadie said...

Yes, a vocation is not about ourselves... but about God. He loves us so wholly and completely, and the purpose of all vocations is to come to partake in that love in the fulfillment of our lives, and in all eternity.

Whether married, single, or consecrated to Jesus in marriage.. we are all meant to partake in this very intimate love. This is why it does not matter what our state in life is, so long as we are constantly journeying to Christ with open hearts and moral lives.

Truly, it is right to echo St. Therese's words "My vocation is love" for there is no other vocation. One who loves Christ completely will live his life according to God's will for him. No matter what our current condition, committed or discerning, we are always both living and seeking our vocations until we reach their fulfillment in heaven.

God bless you for your beautiful and insightful post. You are in my prayers.