Friday, October 28, 2011

No more nunsense

I interrupt this 7 Quick Takes Friday to bring you something much heavier and more necessary for my sanity this weekend. I'm going to the mountains with my beau and good friends and I cannot wait for the fresh air and marvelous views that remind me how much more credit I need to give to God on a daily basis.

Anthony challenged me to write a post about the religious life that dives deeper into my true feelings about the chaste, poor, and obedient vocation. In good faith, he offered the same.

The truth is I have no idea how to discern my vocation. I flip-flop between certainty about marriage, a general openness for God's plan in my life, and back to terror. This (and the profound Love of my unblackened soul) is why I can never be a politician.

I spend a lot of time talking to God, praying the Our Father and Hail Mary, reading what people have to say that either affirms or juxtaposes (therefore confirms) what I believe, and thinking I have most of it figured out. Yes, my faith grows in and through God, but I limit it with my fear when there should be nothing scaring me.

I listened to this sermon, "How to discern your vocation," which a commenter on offered. I wish I heard it in middle school, not because it cleared anything up for me, but because it explains why it's important to discern the religious life before dating.

As I lay in bed, having listened to the sermon, I wept. I wept when I became aware of a darkness filling the void where discernment belonged. I wept because I vehemently don't want to choose away from my boyfriend, if that's what God called me to do.

I ached, a violent, physical pain in my chest, at the idea that choosing a religious vocation meant my children would never exist. My ribs caved in with my silent sobs.

I cried thinking about writing letters to my family and friends instead of seeing them daily or weekly. I cried at the thought of Alternate Elizabeth explaining a choice for religious vocation to her family and friends. My tears fell because the religious life has rarely been a serious consideration and I realized that meant I had walled up a path to God.

As I mentioned in my original post, I know it would be a fulfilling life. The priest in the sermon linked above went so far as to say it is the most straightforward (albeit toughest) path to Heaven. I could work with children, speak a different language, live simply, and create strong bonds with a community.

How beautiful the life of a religious! You choose the tougher path and become a joyful light in the world because of it! Your day is ordered between prayer, service, simplicity, and a healthy helping of patience.

Like the rest of the world, you encounter stress, sorrow, doubt, happiness, surprise, and God's sense of humor. The difference is that you carry the weight of a community on your shoulders with a great sense of humility that it is really Christ's yoke.

The other side of my head (Is it my heart? Is it my self-tradition?) wants to scream out, "I can do those in the vocation of marriage, as well!" Obviously, I have not "solved" this puzzle, but I have seen a void in which prayer needs to erupt. Immediately and without fear.

My sorrow over what is really a new realization doesn't necessarily mean married life is for me. The joyful nature attached to the habit is not exclusive to religious life, as marriage might be my calling. Everyone makes sacrifices in their chosen path. It's about time I start sacrificing that wall of fear and tear it down.

Now, God, I need your help figuring out how to do that.

Ahem: Enough with the kooky titles? This post needs a kooky title because it emotionally exhausted me beyond my abilities to keep things peppy in the body of it.

15 comments: said...

Allow me to help.
Be a nun.

Jessica said...

I saw several guys I knew in college struggle mightily with wanting both marriage and the priesthood.

I may get flamed for this, but I do believe that eventually the Church will allow both married priests and female priests. I know there are many good reasons for the way things are now, but I think there will eventually be a critical shortage of priests that will force the rules to change. I believe that God can put the call for marriage and the call for a religious vocation on the same person's heart, and that it's just human laws that prevent both paths from being followed.

Until then, my only word of advice is not to shut any doors prematurely--that doesn't mean you'll end up going that way, but I believe you'll feel more at peace than if you'd refused to consider a particular option.

Jackie said...

This is off topic but maybe some humor will help.

I took a class in Immigration and Religion in college. The professor was very pro-everybody, she loved everyone's religions and was not belittling at all. And I've had professors who were. There was this one girl in the class who I would call, um, super-uber-Catholic. Anytime she would hear the word Catholic mentioned she would get all up in arms about it. Even though it was, as I mentioned, a very non-confrontational class.

So one day the professor mentioned something about Catholics and our celibate, male priesthood. The girl saw it as her opportunity to yet again defend Catholicism. So she started talking about how we have a male priesthood because women just weren't called/able to be celibate and how instead they were meant to have babies and children and so they just wouldn't be able to handle the single life.

I really really had to bite my tongue not to raise my hand and ask her if she had forgotten of the existence of nuns.

Anyway, I've toyed around with the idea that if my husband dies before we have children (God forbid) of joining a convent. Who knows though I hope I don't have to make the decision!

Julie Robison said...

I'd like to counter the first comment with a: uh, no. Not that easy of a decision. That was one of the hardest things, when I was in that discerning period. I felt called towards marriage, but I opened up myself wholly to the possibility of being single for life as a lay-person, because I know God is not calling me to be a religious. That was frustrating for me, personally. Single people in the Church have the hardest time finding and showing purpose in their singleness for God. When I did wholly accept it, that's when I met B. Our God is an awesome God!

And I LIKE the kooky titles.

Praying for you, E!

Liesl said...

It's definitely not easy. I don't want to comment too much here, but let's just say I understand, and I'm right there with you (minus the boyfriend!).

The Catholic Couponer said...

@Jessica while I was reading your comment I was thinking...I wonder if they will ever allow deacons to say mass..but then I guess what's the point of a priest so that is kind of dumb. But I do know in the near future there is going to be a problem with priests.

In my old diocese very few parishes had more than 1 priest to say mass on Sunday. My parish was without a priest for almost a year.

Anthony S. Layne said...

"Be careful what you wish for," he said to himself ruefully.

You really stepped up to the plate, my dear Elizabeth. And I'm humbled by the openness with which you displayed your struggle.

By the way, do you have a confessor or spiritual advisor? Such a person may be able to help you with that wall of fear, as well as help you discern where your vocation lies. Talk to your pastor and see if he can do it or knows someone who can.

And, like Julie, I'm praying for you too! (Especially to Ss. Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux!)

Anthony S. Layne said...

@ Jessica: Not my intention to flame you. However, the possibility of women priests has already been definitively ruled out by Bl. John Paul's apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which the CDF stated fell under the ordinary infallibility of the Church's teaching magisterium. But while the Church will most likely continue to require celibacy of single Catholics entering the priesthood, we'll probably see more married priests coming in from the Anglicans, Lutherans and other communions under B16's rules in Anglicanorum coetibus.

@ Catholic Couponer: We've got a bit of a problem right now, although somewhere I read (sorry I don't have the source handy) that the number of priests we had prior to Vatican II was actually abnormally high compared with other times. But the last couple of years have seen an uptick in seminarians and ordinations; plus we've been getting some help from the Third World, so things are looking up!

Anonymous said...

Dear, go on a come and see retreat. You don't have to "know for sure" that you have a calling, you just have to wonder what God wants for you. I haven't read all of your blog, and perhaps you have already done this, but if not please just go on a few vocation retreats.

Lisa said...

I'm currently discerning the religious life, and let me tell you, even when you come to some level of acceptance, it's still HARD. It's a challenge to distinguish what's your will and what is His desire for your life. Echoing what was said above, if you don't already, consider finding a spiritual director.

There are still days that I ask myself "what on earth are you doing?," but the much greater joy in my life is trusting that through a spirit of openness, I'm moving toward His will. God Bless you!

Elizabeth said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Fire of Thy Love - I can't tell if you were trying to help like when you use a coin flip to show what you really want to do. Thanks for the effort! Right now I feel like I'm walking on a tightrope, which is good and bad. Good that I'm finally relying on faith that I will not fall off and bad because I don't know to where the tightrope leads. I have an idea, however, it's time to consult God instead of others and my surface desires.

Jessica - I waiver on that. I know it's not dogma that priests are celibate, but I think it would be SO HARD to be both a married priest and married to a priest. Thank you! I'm trying to leave doors open.

Jackie - Thank you, that did make me laugh. hahaha

Julie - :) Thank you for your support!

Liesl - Thanks, homeguuuuuuuuurl.

Couponer- Deacons can offer the service, but with already consecrated hosts. They won't ordain Deacons to say Mass because then they'd be priests.

Anthony - Thank you! One thing that I need to keep in mind, as we all should is: just because I am now considering it and I know the benefits and sacrifices of both vocations does not mean religious life is the path for me. Just recognizing that I need to discern properly isn't a ticket stamp into the convent :) I think it's important to remember that as much as it is important to remember to discern the religious life.

Anon- Thank you! I'll look up a few.

Lisa - Openness, yes! Thank you, God bless you and your journey!

Katie said...

@Catholic Couponer - deacons can preside over communion services - that is, they cannot transform the Eucharist but they can serve transformed Eucharist without the presence of a priest.

My knowledge of the Catholic faith, tradition and history is still small in comparison to many, and I continue to expand on it as I get older, but I am taking a pretty intensive course on the History of American Catholicism, and I can say with confidence that a shortage in priests is not enough for the Catholic Church to change 2,000 years worth of traditions based on the actions and legacy of Jesus Christ - if temporal struggles were enough to shake the Church's roots, I'd be a Lutheran/Presbyterian/Anglican combo.

Awesome post Elizabeth! It's a great representation of the very necessary struggle and fears that come along with true discernment.

Rachael said...

Such an honest post of the reality of discernment. I remember having many of those same feelings as I went through my discernment process. The one thing I kept reminding myself of was that I knew that the vocation God called me to would bring me the most happiness and fulfillment. After surrendering completely my will for my life did God bring me back to the deepest desire in my heart, marriage. Only after the complete letting go was I able to fully understand the beauty of my vocation.

God bless you on this part of your journey. God will lead you. Embrace the process of letting go.

Sarah said...

Beautiful post, and I'm sorry I missed it last week. I remember having similar conflicts about the religious life in high school and college. My advice is to actually spend time with nuns, and really get to know one or two. I had barely any "nun experience" until my volunteer year with the Daughters of Charity. They showed me what it means to dedicate your life to serving God and His Church. Living in a former convent with 7 other girls that year was fun, but also convinced me I could not do that for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

I thankfully am from the traditional diocese of lincoln, nebraska.... and we do not have a priest shortage. Only boys are alter servers, and the priests we have are amazing and zealous, and traditional. our seminary is doing good. the youth are coming back to the church. i don't believe we will have a problem.

just pray, pray, pray for your vocation. God will give you choices, he doesn't want you to worry, or be unhappy.

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