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.
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?"
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.
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.