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Friday, March 12, 2010

Embrace


It's been a long rough road, and the burden has been anything but light.

A year ago I had a "revelation" that I might be called to be a Passionist Nun. I went to my spiritual director, wrote to the Passionists in Kentucky for info. They responded via email, I responded in turn, then heard nothing more.Several weeks passed, and at the time I was having some technical problems with my email, so I re-sent my response and apologized if duplicate, explaining the email situation.Still nothing.

I realized it was a slammed door, and that slammed door was a bit devastating to me.Things worked out, though, and I went on other visits to other communities who invited me to visit even without my request.It was a good experience, if a hard one, and I returned home with much to ponder.

Then last fall, I entered a pretty deep "depression", so conflicted within myself, so confused as to what God was asking, certain He was calling me to religious life...but I didn't want to go. It was horrible; I wasn't certain of anything, but all I knew was that I was rejecting God, and I didn't know why. I was bitter, I was angry (bitter and angry are my default settings, as it seems), and couldn't seem to climb out of the pit from Hell I'd fallen into.

Slowly, though, the clouds cleared, I came back out by God's grace and went back into "I want to do God's will no matter how much I think it sucks" mode, which, in that case meant remaining single...or religious life. Whatever. Two sides of the same awful coin.  (And yes, I saw all my options as awful. I still do.)

Over Christmas break when I finally had time to read and pray for"fun", the contemplative life again tugged at my heart and soul. I couldn't ignore it. I've since written to a couple contemplative communities, one of them being the Passionists in St. Louis Missouri.

To my surprise, I received a wonderful, welcoming and joyful letter in return. Enthused by their response I wrote my own long letter...and couldn't seem to actually send it. I went back and edited, printed it, stuff  it in an envelope, addressed it...and it still sits on my kitchen table. Two months later.

I feel rude. Very rude. But...I can't pop a stamp on that thing and send it. I CAN'T.

Their reaction was so blessedly different than the canned response I got from Kentucky followed by a non-response, and here I am, NOW the one giving the non-response.

Eventually I need to respond and explain my delay, and I know they will understand. After all, they're in the business of discernment and don't want anyone there who doesn't belong there. And really...I don't belong there.

Today I was at a morning retreat and spent an hour praying a Passionist devotion; a Chaplet of the Wounds of Christ. Over and over again. It was in that repetition that I came to realize that, well...God wants me to embrace the Cross, but not in that particular way. It's time to close the door on my end and make it stop swinging this time.  I'm letting go of this particular idea. I am not called to be a Passionist Nun, so that particular romance is over.  That does not mean I don't love meditating on the Passion and the Cross. It means only that I am not called to reside in that terrible and joyful shadow.

Wounded Bride

In June, God willing, I'll be awarded my Master's degree, finally, if I can actually make it through or over this brutal wall of the last few months. As it is, every time I open one of my books I go cross-eyed and my brain goes into some kind of a coma. I am assured this is normal for last-semester graduate students at any level and in any degree field.

Still, the closer we get to our end date, the more I ponder why I am receiving this degree. I don't know what it's for. I don't know how I'm going to pay the loans, especially given that no one will hire me but the Church...and the Church isn't interested in paying my graduate school, or my undergrad loans, for that matter. In fact, the Church isn't interested in paying my mortgage or my electric bill or anything else.

So why have I spent three years elevating my debt?  Why? It sure doesn't help me enter religious life if that's what I'm called to.  I laugh to think of all the times people have queried either to me or to others, or just randomly about the idea in general, "Is this just an escape from real life?"

HA!

I've never seen religious life as an "escape" as much as the secularists love to offer that idea. Having explored religious life, it is ANYTHING but an "escape"!  Rather, it is life lived with far more intensity and  purity than anyone can find in the so-called "real world."

Even as I sense an attraction to the contemplative life, I am surrounded by the open wounds of the Mystical Body of Christ, and I find myself doing "damage control" here and there. I recall my training as an EMT and remember the chapter on Triage. Some days, I think that's all I'm doing.

Being Catholic is like an eternal September 11 (which as you may recall, I remember quite poignantly due to my Job at the time.)  Or maybe it's like being an army medic on the battlefield of a war with no end, in every time in history, all at once. The only thing the Faithful can do is to respond to the horrific wounds resulting to people who are victims of society and culture, even as so-called "friendly fire" continues to shell the city, and buildings continue to fall, and looters continue to take what isn't theirs until a building finally lands on them...and we are called to address their crushed limbs as well.

A friend of mine (CK) once advanced the question of how we would react if the wounds of the souls around us were visible as physical wounds; how would that change our reaction to them?

I go a step further...how would that change our understanding of the intent of Vatican II?

It's the difference between putting leeches on a man who is in hypovolemic shock and bleeding out (hello United Nations One World Government) or offering our own veins to be sapped of our blood to give to the wounded through IV's and personal treatment according to need...and Salvation.  And bringing them home to care for them ourselves. Bringing them into OUR Family...the Church.

There isn't anything in between.

Missionary

The Church is nothing if she does not live up to our Mission to the world.  This is the responsibility of all of us.

So often, this Missionary focus of Vatican II is interpreted solely as a response to physical need, but in our culture, in our politics, in our health care, the real need isn't physical; it's spiritual.

America isn't imploding and falling apart at the seams because of poverty; we are imploding because of a spiritual need that is not being fulfilled.

We have to remember that the works of mercy are both physical and spiritual, and right now, we have an overabundance of people wreaking havoc trying address physical needs of the world while they themselves are impoverished in their own spiritual deprivation.  Even as they seek to help the poor, they are limited and they are failing because they cannot give what they do not have:  spiritual health.

While praying today, I begged God to tell me what He wants me to do. Why am I getting this degree? To go into a cloister?

As I read the letter from the Passionists again, one of the things that unsettled me the most, I think, was Sister's comment about my education; great fruit for contemplation, but maybe a source of frustration for those who do not actually care about theological education.

I can't see God educating me to send me to a dead end where it will not be used (as dear Sister seemed to hint;  they aren't interested in theological studies in that particular monastery.) God MUST want this degree to go to some use, to build up His kingdom. Otherwise I'm nothing more than a welfare kid holding an expensive piece of paper with no actual value to anyone but me...and if it's just for me, it's of no value whatsoever.

We never really possess anything, and nothing has any value if it is not shared with another.
We can't give what we don't have, and we don't have anything until we can give it away.

I no longer have any passion at all. Not for religious life, not for anything.

I am at an impasse; I know I am called to respond to the spiritual deprivation in our society. I know that the best and most noble response is the contemplative life. I know I am not called to the physical missionary fields, yet, I am missionary for as a Catholic my mission is to all who are lost...and the lost are EVERYWHERE. Not thousands of miles away.

More and more, I think that maybe I am called to visit another monastery, but only so it can be put aside; I think God calls me to maintain a presence in the world, using what I've learned in practical ways, for there is a lot to be done, and few hands willing to do it.

I stand this Lent, at the foot of the Cross, in my arrogance telling Jesus what I will and what I will not do and He bears me in patience while He bleeds and gasps for air.

Yet my own hands still hold rocks and sand and gravel as I say to Jesus, "I can't do any more than this. I have to hold on to this stuff."

Then Jesus Crucified opens His own hands with great effort, in excruciating pain, struggling against the muscle spasms, and tells me, "If I can do this...you can drop what you hold...and embrace the same cross and the same nails I release right now."

No....I don't have any passion for anything at all.  Instead, Jesus has brought me into His own....and He will direct the outcome.

Thank you, Jesus.

20 comments:

Joe (defend-us-in-battle.blogspot.com) said...

Sometimes I wish I had half of your ability to express my thoughts....

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

This was by far the most beautiful entry I've read in a long time. I am speechless

ocd sister said...

As hard as it sounds, sometimes some communities want to see if you're REALLY interested by "ignoring" you and making you contact them continuously. I don't get that, but I know it happens. On the other hand, something more common in the traditional cloister is not to write letters during Advent and Lent as a type of sacrifice as we prepare for these Mysteries in the life of Christ and the Redemption of the world. So 6 weeks later, there can be quite a bit of mailed piled up and it's not uncommon to forget to reply to a letter.

Also, your education will probably NOT go wasted. What usually happens, in the cloister anyway, is that the first 1/2-3 years, depending on how long is the postulancy and noviatiate, you don't have any "independence" and no "offices" (tasks) are assigned other than housekeeping and the such. Once you've made first vows, my experience is the sister is put to work in those areas where she excels to complement the needs of the community. In some instances, you may start using your skills barely a month into your postulancy. But, trust me, NOTHING goes wasted. And if there's one thing or another that you're not able to "do", well, that's your very own oblation to God with which you can gain multitudes of souls. I've met my share of highly educated (instructed) sisters in the cloister doing those very things they never thought they would do again. I was one of them. Others have built upon their education and done unimaginable things with the skills they learned. Just look at St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Writing, translating books, music, needlework, sculpting, accounting, gardening, carpentry, nursing and medicine, rosary making, baking, photography, teaching (yes, in the cloister! and I don't mean "little things")... I can keep on going. Nothing's wasted.

Beautiful post.

Adoro said...

ocd ~ I don't mean to say it's wasted. What I'm getting at is that I'm discerning more and more that religious life at least, in the cloister, is not what God wants of me. He wants me to do something else....and He hasn't revealed it to me yet.

I'm actually aware of everything you stated, but it's a great summary for those who may not have any idea.

I badly stated that particular section and I'll see if I can "clean it up" to avoid feeding into that big objection of the world...I really DIDN'T mean to imply that what I have to offer would not be useful to any given community.

I'm also aware that some communities make people try them again and again...but I'm too old for that kind of game. Besides, I was sensing something else that was "off" and I've since found out what it was. Nothing to write about...just something that changed the course of my discernment.

ocd sister said...

Mea culpa, Adoro. :)

Adoro said...

ocd sister ~ No worries! It's what happens when I write late at night and am not clear!

I really should have been working on my Christology paper but every time I open the book my eyes cross! I don't think that's what Jesus meant when He said to embrace the cross, but that's what happens anyway. lol

Nan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adoro said...

Nan ~ I'm not saying my education is for naught. What I'm saying is that I do not yet know what it's for...I only know it is not for me alone.

And given how I finished the post, I'm saying it belongs to God and He will direct it.

Maria said...

Adore--would it be rude of me task you your age?

Adoro said...

Maria ~ Yes ;-) But I'll answer anyway as I have announced it liberally all over my 500+ discernment and vocation posts: I'm 35, I have wrinkles and gray hair.

Maria said...

Adore: LOL. I ask beause I older OLD and oh, never mind...35 w/ gray hair? Diescernment must really be taking its toll.lol.

Adoro said...

Maria ~ LOL...you have no idea!

Miłość said...

Wow! What a great post. It embodies a lot of what I've felt lately... I'm just in high school, preparing for college, and I've felt uncertain as to what I'm being called to, and if I'm going to go to school for the right thing, and if I'm closing my heart against a religious vocation God might want for me. Because, I want to be a mother, and I'm struggling between what I want and what God might want for me.


Anyway, I'm babbling. Wonderful post, very well written, and very thought provoking. :)

Miłość said...

Oh, and also, this really struck me; "I no longer have any passion at all. Not for religious life, not for anything." I kind of agree. I'm so lethargic lately, and I'm not feeling anything strong.

Anyway, thanks for the post :)

Adoro said...

Milosc ~ Thanks for your comment.:-)

Have no fear that God will reveal Himself to you and your path when it is time. The good thing is that right now, in high school, you are asking the right question: what does GOD want?

Prepare for college, keep your eyes on Christ, and remember that life decisions are NEVER based on mere "feeling" but on the will of God, and our rational understanding and acceptance of that will.

Keep in mind also that it's not a bad thing that you want to be a mother! Every Vocation sacrifices something...if it didn't, it wouldn't be love for Christ.

God bless you, and prayers for your discernment!

Mary said...

You said A lot of things in this post. and I think that one of the things that really got to me is when you said something about your getting your degree. And you don't know why he is letting you get it.
From what I understand is that you don't get it. Why would God let you spend all this mony to get a Degree that you don't understand way? If this is right. Let me tell you what hght me when I read that part of your post.

Why would God let a very bad thing happen to me. I did everything that was the right thing to do. and Why would God let something like this happen to me. I think he has something in plan for me. And I think that he has something in plan for you.

Adoro said...

Mary ~ No, you are totally misreading this, and you're not the only one.

When someone is asking the question "why", for some reason, people seem to default to the assumption that the question implies a negative. It doesn't. "Why?" is a question that belongs to reason.

What I am doing is posing a rhetorical question of reason, not to you my readers, but to God, with the positive implication that there IS a reason for it, and with the further positive implication that I know He will answer when the time comes.

Oy...this topic is worth a blog post!

Adoro said...

Mary ~ Thanks for the inspiration. You helped me finalize thoughts on something I've been pondering for a long time now! :-)

Mary said...

Well Thanks I think :)

Sarah said...

I am a woman who feels called to marriage... have for a long time. The reality of it though can also bring about mixed feelings. In my case, it's not that I don't think I am called... it's just that realistically, I am not sure how God is going to use me and my future spouse (who I believe is just about ready to propose). I think, "Gosh, this doesn't look like what I thought it was going to look like!" Everything from giving up an opportunity for a graduate degree to marrying someone who's strengths are VERY different from mine... it is a challenge of faith... don't get me wrong, I am joyful, but... I guess I always thought being a bride would be a more giddy, teenage feeling and instead entering this vocation is calling me to a greater maturity and sense of dependence on God.

Reading your post made me realize that I need to spend more time deepening my spiritual walk with Christ... only then can I be of service to my future spouse and the world. Thanks!