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Saturday, January 24, 2009


My vocational discernment is not taking me to comfortable places.  

I think that when one considers the idea of discerning one's vocation, it leads to the impression of "warm fuzzies", of finding one's mate, or of finding a joyful happy religious community, or the amazement of the priesthood.  And of course, all of that is true, and so it's valid.  But it's only part of the story. 

Sometimes discernment is very uncomfortable, whether it pertains to a vocation or something else in life.  We pray that we are following God's will, that we are open to His will, and that we'll be obedient enough to follow where He leads, even if we don't understand where we are going.  

The problem is, that once we ask God to help us be obedient, and once we express that we're open to whatever He desires of us...He answers.  When we sincerely pray, and sincerely intend to do as He asks, when we make that prayer of trust, the revelations that come aren't always what we want to "hear."  

Sometimes they're the opposite.  

I still don't know what God is truly calling me to do, although I'm more and more convinced that religious life lies in my future.  And the closer I get to the answer, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't even know all of my options. 

I thought I was Dominican, and perhaps that IS my spirituality, but I am not drawn to most of the Dominican communities, even the really popular ones.  There's nothing wrong with them;  they are faithful to the Magisterium, they preach, they teach, they wear habits, they're not mislead radical feminists out for politics instead of holiness.  And I've looked at Dominican cloisters.  They are beautiful, but not a single one has "spoken" to me. 

My friend Mary has become a cloistered Benedictine nun, and she, too thought she was Dominican in spirituality. I have her Liturgy of the Hours, and can testify to the abundance of Dominican holy cards found within the pages.  And the Benedictines also don't pull me in. Yes, I recently read a book about a Benedictine monastery, and enjoyed it, but it didn't make me want to run out and join them.  

Then I "discovered" the Cistercians (who are also Benedictine). In looking at a website, in reviewing a Trappist booklet sent from Iowa, in surfing a Cistercian website in Wisconsin, something has drawn me there.  There is something so beautiful about their way of life.  There is something about the pull of silence, of the idea of chanted prayer, ongoing, in a particular cycle. 

I'm going to be honest:  I don't WANT to be a cloistered nun!  

It's one thing to enter active religious life and be apart from the world but within it. I'd still have certain contact with my friends, even if restricted.  I'd never again be hanging out in someone's backyard playing Bocci with a drink in my hand.  And climbing bell towers...fogeddabodit!   There won't be regular blogging, if at all, or just deciding to do certain things.  But overall, it would be a life a lot like the one I live now, enough to be able to adjust reasonably well. 

I love the idea of not owning a house or a car in my name. I love the idea of simplification, of getting rid of all my clutter, most of which is useless (if not all).   

And I'm not ruling out an active/contemplative community. It's still possible. They're still on my radar screen. 

But something about the austerity of the Cistercians draws me, when it didn't before. 

This is shocking. 

A few years ago, I was in contact with a gentleman, a friend I'd met through Ave Maria Singles (yah, did the website thing), and he was serious about holiness.  He wanted to be a Saint. He was looking into lay communities, and knew he was called to marriage although he'd seriously discerned the priesthood.  He was hoping to get married, and then enter the permanent diaconate.  Let me tell you, this guy is the reason I looked into grad school, and I'll never forget how he expressed that he wanted to be a Saint.  

I wasn't, at that time, ready to say I wanted to be a  Saint. I didn't think it was possible. My favorite sins were even MORE favorite than they are now, and I didn't even know that some of the things I did then on a regular basis were sins!  

But he inspired me, he apparently served the purpose in my life that God wanted him to serve, and although we're no longer in contact, it wasn't out of poor regard, just life in general.  I actually wish I could thank him.  

My point?  I was uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a Saint. It meant I had to change. I had to give up stuff I liked and focus on God. 

That's what's going on now, too, but to a different degree.  I now know what he was thinking then;  I want to be a Saint, too.  I'm also looking at a lay community, even to help start one!  

But even more radically, I'm sincerely interested in the Cistercians, and if we had them in America, I'd want to visit the Carthusians.   Really. 

Remember the movie "Into Great Silence", about the Carthusians in France?   I own the movie, I enjoy it, but it didn't really get my attention on the discernment front. 

Maybe because they're men and not women. 

Who knows?  Suddenly, that austerity, that silence, that life of prayer and everyday work is appealing. 

But there's another dimension, one of which I've spoken before:  purgatory on earth.  I have sensed for a long time that I'm not "long" for this world. I don't have any fatal diseases that I know of, although anything can happen at any time.  When God calls, we will go, that's the simple fact. But sometimes God calls some people early, but to serve while on Earth. To pray for a world that won't pray for itself.  To live in penance but without all the fire of purgation.  

I realize that if I were to enter a cloister, it would truly be as if I've died.  I'll leave my friends, I'll leave my family. I'll no longer have a life to go back to. No home, no car, no stuff. Everything I've collected over life...either in the trash or given away or sold.  

It IS like death, a life of chosen isolation, but joy if that is what God has chosen a soul to do. 

I'll admit I don't want to go to such a life.  I don't want to be a cloistered nun. I don't want to sleep on a hard bed, I don't want to live such a harsh penance. I don't want to be silenced for so long. 

The last couple nights I've dreamed of the Great Silence, and it seemed natural to a certain degree. I do think I'd like a lot of it.  

But then I wonder at what I'm doing now;  what is the point of my degree?  Why am I in Grad school?  Why have I been a cop and a firefighter and why was I an insurance investigator?  Why do I have so much debt, and a house that I won't be able to sell in this market?  

I don't know what I want, and I don't have a good track record of choosing things for myself.  When I do what I want, it usually ends in disaster.  

I don't want that to be the case in this discernment, and so I keep praying for a Spiritual Director. Someone who can help me figure out if I'm attracted to the Cistercians for the same reason I was attracted to law enforcement;  because it's tough. Because it means having to overcome myself.  Or maybe if my background was part of God's will in order to prepare me to enter such austerity. After all, I have learned in training what I'm capable of both mentally and physically, and I've learned my weaknesses, which is even MORE important than knowing strengths.  

After all, as St. Paul said, we can only boast in our weakness.  Our strength is Christ, and we ONLY find Him through weakness. 

For now, I don't have to make decisions, and I don't know where this will go. I know my next step, I'm working on it, I'm actively doing what has to be done, but some of that action is fully dependent upon God. I can only deal with what's in front of me.  And maybe if I go step by step, it won't be so bad as I think. 



X said...

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for her.

Rachel said...

Thanks for this post! So hard to find a spiritual director; I prayed you will.

Catherine Lucia said...

I'd also suggest looking into third orders (such as that of St Dominic). And remember that God wants what is best for us--He knows what that is, and we don't. Be confident! :)

Adoro said...

CL ~ I haven't written of this in some time, but I'm working with some people to restart a chapter of Lay Dominicans in our area. I still am considering that, however that's a vocation that goes with either single or married life and doesn't solve my own Vocational discernment problem.

Until that's resolved, I've decided I won't be doing much with whatever happens with the lay thing. (They call them Lay communities now, not Third Orders, as some Third Orders are actual formal religious communities. Habit-wearing and the whole bit.)

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro, you do need to figure what is attracting you. It doesn't mean you are called to be a Cistercian, but this attraction could hold a key to your puzzle.

p.s. logically, if there is an attraction to the Cistercians, there would be some affection for the Benedictines in general, I think.

Also, for the record, I'm not sure anyone should enjoy penances in and of themselves. They enjoy them as an offering to the God they love more than anything else.

Just go. :) Seeing and experiencing tend to clear things up more than thinking and thinking and thinking (and worrying--pray don't worry, God's in charge)....

Adoro said...

IC ~ I AM intending to go. However, I'm waiting for materials that they are sending me, and I've been told to get in contact with them after I've looked them over.

And then it'll be a matter of scheduling.

I'm not acutally "worrying", just writing out my thoughts on the matter. You see...if I don't write, I go crazy. Simple as that.

And I'm actually just hoping this is a passing phase. :-) But if it's not, well....

Adoro said...

OH, forgot to say...I don't want to do this for the idea of penance. Just pointing out that's part of the way of life. It IS a penitential life, and there's no getting around that fact.

Rae said...

*hugs* I think that whatever God really is calling you to do, you'll be happy to do it--my mom was talking about it yesterday, explaining that we each were made for certain things, and sometimes we can't find those things to do by ourselves. Then God nudges us (or shoves) and we sometimes stumble around before we finally find IT: what we were created for, which will give us joy.

Because hugs are a gift from God:


Unknown said...

My prayers are with you. You seem to be doing what you need to on your end. God will do the rest. (I know you know that)I know for myself being patient with myself and with God can be the greatest and most dificult penance. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.

Warren said...

One of the happiest people I know is my friend Sister Christine, of the Felician Sisters here in Toronto. The felicians are a Franciscan order.

They are a branch of the Third Order, and are a Religious order, with vows, not secular.

My friend Sister Christine is in one of the pictures. There are sister houses in Chicago, and Buffalo.

I am sure there are orders like the Felician Sisters, that are part of the Benedictine, Dominican, and Carmelite traditions, as well. There are so very many orders out there.


Hidden One said...

"Let go and let God."

It's a classic line for a reason.

ignorant redneck said...

Ummmmm---just speaking out of turn here, but have you read anything about the Franciscans of the Immaculate? They exist to further St. Maximillian Colbey's work of using communications and print media to further the Gospel, have a traditional life, and have sisters who are active/contemplative.

YOu might look them up.

Adoro said...

Thanks for your comments, all.

Hidden One ~ It's all well and good but "letting go and letting God" doesn't get me to the retreat. I actually have to DO something here.

IR ~ I've heard of them, but I'm not in the least Franciscan so they're automatically eliminated from my consideration. I'm sure they're wonderful, though...for someone else. :-)

Deacon Bill Burns said...

Dying to yourself so you can live fully in Christ. Maybe that is what your intuition is telling you.

Christina said...

I just wanted to thank you for writing. The Lord has used it to help me several times in my own discernment.

Sponsa Christi said...

Hi, Adoro—

I read your blog occasionally, but never commented before. I just wanted to tell you that I have had the opportunity to meet and form friendships with many cloistered nuns, and they are some of the most joyful, “normal,” and well-rounded women you’ll ever meet. And while I’m not sure that I can get away with making this sort of comparison, from my own personal experience it seems that on a whole contemplative nuns laugh even more often and tell more jokes than do active sisters!

I had a difficult discernment period as well, so my heart goes out to you. I don’t know if you’ll find it helpful, but I wrote a post on my blog about what worked for me:

Adoro said...

Theocoid ~ I've had that thought, too. We'll see...just gotta move forward.

Christina ~ Praise Jesus. I am only His humble (very humble in reality if not in virtue) servant.

Newly Consecrated Virgin ~ Thanks for your comment, and for reading. I actually visit your blog on occasion, too! Already left a comment on your post. :-)