Thursday, March 15, 2007

TO VOW OR NOT TO VOW: THAT IS THE QUESTION

Says Brother Parker in Colleen Carroll’s book “The New Faithful”: “I’ve learned that’s the key to discernment. If you’re really doing what God wants you to do, you’ll have peace and you’ll have joy.”

Here are two sad little stories. The sad part is the frequency with which they occur.

Coming across a mother with kids in tow and making some passing comment about how many of them might have a religious vocation she says, “Oh no Father, I don’t think I want any of my children in religious vocations!”

A man comes in the confessional and sadly tells about the state of his marriage and how he has always kind of known that he was not meant to be a married man with children.

If someone feels the call to religious life (and is likewise called by the community) it is not a done deal. There are years of discernment that takes place while everyone figures out if this is truly the best fit for the person and the community. On the other hand, it is pretty much a given that people are inherently cut out for marriage and children. “Now, when you grow up and have children of your own . . .” But not everyone is cut out for it and pressuring someone into it will cause not only them to lose that joy and peace, but the joy and peace of those around them will suffer. It is imperative that a person looking toward the future not only discern if they want to marry, but if they are cut out to be married (or live a religious or single vocation.)

There are several categories of discerners. There are those who would be happy in any of the three lifestyles. This can be a cause for angst as the person struggles to learn exactly to which God is calling. But sometimes there is not a “right choice.” Sometimes there is choosing and then living it to the best of your ability.

There are those who feel called a certain way but are pressured to choose differently: to meet other’s expectations. This is a dangerous route as it may lead you down a difficult path. Nothing like living somebody else’s calling and not your own. That is a recipe for a hard life. Often these are the ones who feel pulled in more than one direction: heart one way, mind the other. It would help if this person sought the advice of a trusted spiritual director and spent some serious time in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Happily, there are those whose path seems as clear to them as a Clarion commercial.

Then there are those who have made a vow. They are no longer discerners. That time has passed. Now is the time to live one’s chosen vocation to its full.

Every path to a vocation, religious or otherwise, is unique. But for what it is worth, I thought that I would share my discernment story with you over the next couple of days in hopes that it might aid someone else on their journey (or at least provide some entertainment.)

12 comments:

sparky said...

I'd love to hear your story. It's so weird to me that something so ordinary as saying "You would make a good priest" can start the road to the seminary. Closet romantics like me imagine that all religious knew at the age of five that this was their calling, and that their call was completely uncontaminated by worldly wants.

Adoro te Devote said...

Amazing you write about this.

I thought I was done "discerning" as I had discerned a possible call to religious life. And for the most part, I think that I am NOT called.

But at the same time, somehow I suspect that maybe I'm not as "done" as I thought.

Unfortunately, I don't have an SD and can't seem to find one.

I look forward to reading your story!

Habemus Papam said...

Can't wait to hear your whole story. Personally, the discernment process is very nerving, especially when one feels they have a call but is to afraid to step forward.

Lily said...

A friend of mine wanted so much to enter the Sisters of Mercy, and everything pointed to it. Suddenly, however, an Italian man showed up and swept her off her feet. Both families were delighted. She wondered for a long time if she'd chosen rightly. About a decade into marriage and children, she became a Mercy Associate and now helps to draw others. She hangs around with the sisters as much as with all others, works with as well as for them, goes to the Motherhouse often, and overall is beside herself with delight and gratitude and peace in God's gifts to her.

Lily said...

I am guessing it is very very hard to discern a call when one is single and no one marriageable is on the horizon, or if that has never beckoned, or if one has not been asked if one has considered a religious vocation. (I've often asked that of others, for you're- right--it really does help!) But pending any definitive answers, I would suggest that someone might spiritually apprentice him- or herself to a favorite saint, and ask if they might be granted you as an interim SD. I think it would be a saint's delight to be so approached. Whenever I see it, I'll pray harder for vocation clarity for you who are trying to discern.

Rob said...

I am looking forward to hearing your story. I think more priests should do this. It would be another way of garnering vocations: simply telling your story.

Myself, I have commented before about having wanted to be a priest. People have told me I would have been good at it (Not that that is a good indicator). But I think, ultimately, I was destined to raise my own family and try to correct the wrongs that occurred in my own childhood.

I imagine that there are many who come from the detritus of the last two generations that need to do the same (rebuild catholic families) before we see a real resurgence in the priesthood.

If people only have two or three kids and don't take them to mass except for Christmas and Easter, are we surprised that there is a lack of vocations? I know that there are "good" families out there. I'm just saying that there aren't enough.

Yet.

Habemus Papam said...

As part of a woman's religious discernment group, I know a problem within the group is that women/girls seeking out vocations don't want to leave the area they are from. They want to serve a community they grew up in, one they are familiar with. In addition, I know these girls want more, they are looking for orders where the nuns are habited and more conservative (which we greatly lack in the area where I am from). Which goes full circle back to the Colleen's book, the youth want more than what they are receiving. I life up a prayer for vocations....

Rob said...

-women/girls seeking out vocations don't want to leave the area they are from.-

They should start their own order. I know that sounds glib, but this is how orders come about. People see a need, or a vacuum of authenticity, and they start an order.

It takes time and paperwork and prayer to get recognized, but the rewards...

Adoro te Devote said...

"...a problem within the group is that women/girls seeking out vocations don't want to leave the area they are from."

We have the opposite problem; the vast majority of the communities in our area are New Age. We HAVE to get out of here and my parish actually has had a great many women move on to religious orders...outside of our community.

If an area is blessed with faithful religious communities, it's wonderful that they don't want to have to leave them; I think that's a sign of a vibrant area and the very reason for more communities in more locations!

We do have some good ones, though; Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters in Jesus the Lord - this is a very new Missionary order in the spirituality of Augustine (very appealing to me, actually), and then a couple states over, we have my other favorite, Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I got to meet Mother Assumpta last summer and she is just wonderful!

* sigh *

Adoro te Devote said...

I totally forgot an important comment;

When I began discerning, my first "call" came from my first real time spent in Adoration. It completely freaked me out and I ran away. And then for months, randomly people would come up to me and say, "Do you think you might have a Vocation?"

It was those people who kept me going and considering and seeking...we all have to remember to invite others to consider a Vocation to religious life or priesthood, whatever is appropriate to their state in life.

OK, I'll stop there.

So, when's the next post, Father?

:-)

I LOVE Vocation stories!

Anonymous said...

My call also came from adoration...

I can definitely relate to Habemus (maybe we know each other???)... in my area I am also part of a group of young women discerning religious life, and we are looking for the same thing - habits, a relatively conservative order, a local community, something we are willing to give our entire lives for...

... but starting an order is a daunting task. Especially if you're only 20, still in College, and well aware of how little you know...


God will provide the way... and as I see it, I'm very excited for the abundance of vocations and the openness of so many young women (and men!)

... It's nice to find a community of people, where you're all striving for the same virtuous life...

Fr. V said...

Anon. - Just out of curiosity (you don;t have to answer) do the initials L.F. mean anything to you?