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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Vocation - Who We Really Are

Vocations have been on my mind a lot lately, for a number of reasons.

My own discernment is one of them, for I still need to find a Spiritual Director, I still need to visit the Sisters that it seems God has drawn me towards, and I can't seem to get there! When I am available (ie in between semesters), they are at the Motherhouse. When they are here, I am busy with school and weekend job requires that I be there. And their cutoff age is 35.

There is no chance I could enter before my next birthday...too much debt. Housing market not good for sales. I'm willing to quit school to enter, but I'm not willing to quit "just in case". For now, it seems that continuing with my Master's is God's plan for me. I can only continue until I'm told to stop. And no knowledge will be wasted. So I go on, trying to discern God's time and not my own. He doesn't know age. Only I do.

The second reason is that I'm reading Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede, which is a story about a London businesswoman who leaves her life behind to enter a Benedictine cloister. It's a fascinating read, and does reveal the reality of religious life; that it is not romantic or glamorous. It's actually showing me the world that I know exists, for I've been devoid of "romantic" notions for a long time. I can't say this book is helping me, though. Although it is fascinating, and I'm totally absorbed, I read it as a single woman and realize how easy I have it. How set in my ways I am. How hard it would be to enter a community, cloistered or active, and have to deal with people ALL THE TIME, and even the politics. There would be no real escape.

The luxury of my own life is the amount of time I have to myself. If I want to get away, it's easy. I simply don't answer the phone or door, and I disconnect from the internet. Done. (And do you see the the word "I" is so central to this?).

Giving ourselves to God means dying to ourselves, giving up our little luxuries, being available to others, whether we like it or not. Living in community means we have to either flounder or grow in virtue and grace. Religious life is a hard life; it means we don't get to run away when it gets difficult.

All of this is especially important now, for as I read this book it points to the third reason why the idea of Vocation has been so close to my heart of late: my dear friend, Sr. Mary Gibson, has her Investiture in the Holy Habit of St. Benedict on this Tuesday, December 6th. As I've been reading Brede, I've been trying to see her there, what she is going through. I can't attend this Tuesday, for I am in Minnesota and she is in Kansas City, but I will be there in spirit and in prayer.

My friend is a great inspiration to me; although she is a few years younger than I, she has also had many careers, she has also struggled to know God, and her Vocation actually took her by surprise. She had not really considered religious life, and then, suddenly, discovered the Benedictines of Mary. Through her job in a parish, no less. (Just as I have discovered, through my current job in a parish the Sisters I am discerning). Sr. Mary was a socialite, never knowing a stranger. And that's how we became friends. She has a great sense of humor, an eye for beauty, a love of travel (having lived in Rome for a year), and we even identified on the career front; for awhile, she was a paramedic, and loved the work. (While I once aspired to that career, I stopped with EMT and used the training only in a volunteer capacity, somewhat marginally professionally through my short firefighting career.) As it was, I think we understood each other, but what was most important in our friendship was and remains our love for God and desiring to be what He calls us to be.

Although I cannot receive direct letters from her, for she is limited, I can send her blog posts, I can send her letters, and know that she is praying. And every time I pick up my Liturgy of the Hours, seeing her name inscribed inside the front cover, I pray for her.

It seems she has found her Vocation, and I wish I could describe to you her happiness the day I met her on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. She'd just visited the Monastery and that evening had a meeting with her Spiritual Director. She ran out to me from her meeting, as we were to go to Mass together. You should have seen the GLOW emanating from her! I'd never seen her so happy, and she told me that her SD had never seen her so at peace.

God calls each and every one of us. I'm still struggling to find my place in His plan, and just today was in a conversation with a friend about this very thing. We are all formed by our backgrounds, our choices, the things we once thought we desired or thought were right, only to have to face the fact that they were not. Maybe for someone else, but not us.

I've been so confused given my own background, having to re-adjust my perspective to something other than the world's view, and it will probably be a struggle for a long time to come. And that's perfectly fine. It was what it was, and it now is what it is...but it doesn't have to be where I remain. God is calling. He has a plan. He always did. And He uses EVERYTHING. the end, we become who God called us to be, if only we keep trying. I'm not sure if I have a Vocation to religious life. I'm still very torn on this, especially recognizing my own ingrained habits. I'm certain I am not called to marriage, and the idea of a single, celibate life seems perfectly natural to me. Yet it's important that I take some time to discern if perhaps God might be calling me out of myself to live in a community, something that really does seem to go against my being...or maybe not. For is that really what I was seeking as I trekked through law enforcement, firefighting, and ski patrol? Was I really looking for a community home?

We, in our brokenness tend to look among the wrong things instead of the greater. We feel unworthy to approach the King, who calls us His children, recognizing in us the design to be princes and princesses. Instead, we eat the slop of pigs and look to foreign ideals for definition, when all we need to do is come back to the house of our Father.

I know that I'm still straddling these worlds. I have one foot in slop, the other in the King's Court, and for the life of me I can't seem to let go enough to let Our Lord clean me up, offer me a ring, and clothe me in the finery He's had on reserve. I can't seem to let go of my own definition of "freedom" in order to embrace true freedom.

And that's what it is about; our Vocation is not something that we do. It is who we are called to be; it's who we were brought into existence to become. And in the end, it is a call to eternal union with God.

I'm still searching, I'm still trying to come to terms with my past so that I can embrace my future. I'm still trying to die to myself so that I can live for God.

Only in finding my Vocation can I do any of it.


uncle jim said...

and your current course of studies might [to me, at least] suggest an 'active' order or no order at all.

seems to me that God has planted you where He wants you and He will use what you learn to draw others to Himself.

i know you've been 'used' before ... but not in this way - God wants to use you - now just figure out how

The Ironic Catholic said...

I have to say as a rant (not against you) that this 35 yr old age limit is annoying as all get out to me. If orders are really sticking to that as a litmus test, it seems to me they are discouraging honest vocations. I frankly find it appalling.

Ok, moving on....

Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ I agree. But then again, my friend Mary seemed more active, too. And I can ALWAYS count on you for encouragement!

IC ~ I can't entirely disagree with them. It has to do with how we get set in our ways, in the lack of success they have with women who are older. It would be far harder for me to conform to obedience in a monastery than it would be for a 25 year old.

And that kind of struggle threatenes the entire community. I'd rather not enter than to cause that kind of problem.

As a single woman, I can be my own dysfunction. As a postulant, I have the potential to disrupt a LOT of people.

That knowledge doesn't aid in discernment...the reality leads me away. I don't want to do that to people.

Anonymous said...

You would really enjoy reading "A Right to Be Merry" - even though it is about Poor Clares it is entirely applicable to understanding the joy of a whole hearted response to God's heart.

Also, some communities will work with a person over the age they prefer but I think you should establish a 'relationship' with them of some kind if possible rather than just waiting for a ideal moment.

My experience has been that is much like some people plannng their family when they have some illusive financial security.

Please pray for me and I am also for you :)

Adoro said...

Coletta ~ Thanks for your comment. I am aware that SOME communities will work with a woman that is over age, and I am actually in contact with a community...have been for some time now. Because of that, their "cutoff" age probably isn't going to be real firm. But I don't know.

I'm not at all waiting for the "ideal moment" as you put it, but rather, direction from God. And He is subtle, but can often be very clear. I know it's not time yet, there's a lot to do, and things I need to work on myself...not the exteriors, but the interiors.

Or maybe it's not the life for me in which case, the house the debt, etc. don't matter at all.

Anonymous said...

+I am happy for you. We are in similar situations though I do not have the house debt to worry about. I wanted to encourage you not to worry about the age because I am ten years older than you are and there are two wonderful communities that are very possible for me, God willing. I can even see how certain "delays" or "obstacles" have been used by God for myself and others. Let us pray for and with each other?
Could be I was reminding myself that my time is to be moving forward without delay?
Bless you

love your blog:)

Anonymous said...

and the spelling should have been elusive :)

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation on "A Right to Be Merry." If you like House of Brede, you'll love this book.

Thank you also for the update on Sr. Mary. I loved her blogs and I am happy to hear about her progress; I was wondering how she was doing. Prayers for your discernment! I always have to remind myself that things progress in God's time, not my time. And it's still a struggle. :-)

Anonymous said...


Once again, thank you for the inspiring post! I actually chose to respond and wrote one about the reality of religious life. It's the top one on my blog.

As for the age limit, I think that the orders are turning away people that would otherwise be excellent candidates. It's a shame, but there are orders that have late vocations. I've seen quite a few for men out there as well.

With debts and things like that, some orders will pay off your debts when you enter. I know the Brothers of the Christian Schools do that for their novices, but I wouldn't know about others. It might just be an incentive to join. Who knows.

Anyway, thank you again for the post and I will be praying for you.

PS: I think you should Mother Mary Francis's wonderful book, "Anima Christi" during Lent. She's a wonderful author.

Anonymous said...

I second the "some communities will overlook the age limit" ... but some will not. That is God's will beyond any doubt. And don't be too hard on yourself regarding an inability to adjust and conform to community / obedience. If God calls, HE will give the grace. And His timing is always perfect. From what you write, it doesn't sound like you're dragging your feet... but be careful it doesn't become that. Kinda a spiritual passive-agressive in reverse. You may have to work out a time to take time off work to visit communities, no matter how inconvient it may be. If you're serious about discernment, you need to visit. There's NO WAY to discern in a vacuum. (Just my 2 cents).

Adoro said...

Coletta ~ Prayers always! :-) And thanks for the book recommendation...unfortunately, it will be summer at the earliest before I'll get to it. (Downside of grad school = not reading what I want to read when I want to read it! lol)

Melissa ~ I'll try to keep posting updates as I get them, most of which come through her family. Pray for her tonight and tomorrow!

Youknowwho ~ The Vocations director at the community I'm discerning said that they will work with's all a "depends", and we'll go from there. She passed on to the Sisters that were visiting the motherhouse to tell them I want to visit for a weekend, and made sure I have their emails...I do. We've kept in touch. The problem with getting time off from work is that with parish work...there ISN'T anyone else that can do the stuff. Missing class for a weekend isn't an option. In general I can take time off work, but not when it's an event that I'm responsible for. And that's a frustration. I am looking for another job now, anyway, hopefully something that is weekday, pays more, and has regular hours! But...again, God's will. It will work out when it can.

Or maybe it's not supposed to.

I don't really care about "inconvenience"...that will happen no matter what. But I can't plan a retreat and then announce I won't be present and expect my volunteers to step in. That's not an option. SOME things can't be worked around. Life in a church ironically doesn't make discernment easy.

owenswain said...

I have no idea who I am anymore. I lost myself somewhere in the past 10 years since we moved to this city, went through the things we have gone through, converted so I am no longer a pastor but neither am I working fully as an artist. I still have a strong sense of "call" but to what, whom, how? I sought the help of two spiritual directors both are fine, fine men and priests. I have had more un-slept nights in the past five years than I can track. I have fought depression. I have wept for the uncertainty of vocation and of my own person hood not of what I may do but of who am I? A ontological nightmare. I don't need easy answers. I don't need to be told what SDs think I want to hear - as dear as these brothers are to me. I am simultaneously found and lost. I am weary of being weary. I am now seeing a secular social worker. That plus very regular Confession.

I am sorry to take up your combox talking about me when I should be doing what others before me have done and talk about you. It is your blog after all. But this is what your heart's sparked in my own heart.

God bless you Adoro.

Adoro said...

Owen ~ Perspective! In the Catholic context, "Vocation" is the foundation. It is priesthood, marriage, or religious life (maybe single life). You DO know your Vocation! You're married! You're a father!

Your angst isn't with vocation; it's in career and how to live out the evangelical call. Is it possibl for you to be ordained to the Priesthood? Do you fall under that convert category that the Church would consider? If not...then your struggle is with the wider term of "vocation" which really means "job".

And yeah, I'm there, too. But I've realized that if I don't figure out #1, I'll never figure out the rest. You've got #1 out of the way. Breathe. Trust God.


God bless!

owenswain said...

Hi Adoro.
Yup, I do understand the Catholic context of Vocation.In terms of my vocation of marriage I understand that much better now as a Catholic, thanks be to Our Lord. Really, I do understand this difference.

But you are correct about the angst being present, there's wads of it. If it were money I could give it to your country and the recession
would be over.

But there is a very real sense of vocational calling; vocalling perhaps? My primary occupational calling has been "artist" - I believe this was true even during my 20 year hiccup as an ordained minister.

From where I am, and I do appreciate your word of encouragement, being their (marriage) already isn't making my breathing any easier. Trust God. Girl, that's all I have been trying to learn to do for the past 10 years and thankfully, I am still trying.

God bless you back :)

Melody K said...

Praying for you, Adoro, and also for you, Owen.
Owen, if the priesthood is not possible for you, have you ever thought of the diaconate? (Though that won't solve the job problem; most deacons aren't paid.) It does however open opportunities for ministry.

Adoro said...

Well, do need a director, that's for sure!

I can't find one at all...been looking, called another today, he's going to refer me to other people I can add to my "rejection" stack. All good priests, just really busy. Because the good ones are!

And there you had TWO directors! lol

Is it possible you were getting direction from too many sources? Or are now?

If it's an evangelical call to ministry, have you spoken with your Bishop? (I would have no idea how these things work, but it would seem the local ordinary might be of assistance?)

You probably already did that, though, so ignore me.

About trustig God....I wonder if I'll EVER learn how to do that!

owenswain said...

Hi MelodyK - yes, the diaconate is within the realm of possibility and I would put it this way, I am not closed to it. However, in my part of the world one must be financially stable to even enter the program or have a super patron of your potential diaconate and I have neither of those situations. Not long after becoming Catholic I thought that was the path for me. Now, I know there is no hurry, not even at age 49 and what I need to do is sort this other stuff out first. Thank you for the prayers. I embrace them.

Interestingly as one newly minted deacon pointed out the diaconate also closes opportunities to minister. It is a specific calling with wonderful but limited responsibilities. What does God want of and for me? Don't know.

No, Adoro, not now. I've had two SDs. What I need now is a clinical social worker and thanks be to God I have one and weekly confession (yes I saw that part of that post too). Maybe again in the future, near or far I will need an SD but one who will not feed the self love but be a real director.

And did I really have two directors? I had two wonderful men but had one of them been a director for me I would still be with him.

Oh yes, too many willing voices. I want to clear some of the sludge out of my ears and heart with the help of my Confessor and my social worker.

Evangelism - gosh, I've had that one too. I am, (mr. humble) a proven and dynamic public speaker for the faith but would I call that my call? In part but I am not passionate about being the next pseudo Hahn, as it were. Not that I have a quarter of that brother's brains. No. I've also bucked "the book" the conversion story that "everyone" says I should write.

I believe there is a job and a calling, a vocalling again say, in art and I have to work that out or die and go to Heaven (via Purgatory naturally).

I suppose it's enough to say here, please pray for me vocallingly and I will continue praying for you Vocationally. ((X))

Adoro said...

Owen ~ You are awesome! And if you DID write that book, I'd want an autographed copy. And I'd love to hear you speak. (I'd like to be a speaker but I don't know that I'm interesting. Full of info, and maybe even full of hot air, but interesting? Not so much. That's a GIFT.)

Who knows? Maybe that is where you'll be headed someday, but not now. I've done all sorts of things I said I had no interest in doing...and then the time came and there I was. God is like that.

You have such a way with words. Thanks!


Chris said...

Adoro- is this the same community which FrZ has feautred on his blog today (from Kansas City Catholic)?

Anonymous said...

Chris ~ One and the same! She's of course pictured in her new white veil, and is in the row of Brides, third one in from the right (your right!)