Sunday, July 29, 2012
I have been very private about my vocational discernment the last several years. Even my closest friends do not know the inner dialogue of my heart. Only my Lord knows the give and take when it comes to this. So believe me when this post is "kinda a big deal..."
Before I was Catholic, I thought vocation meant finding a career. However, within the Church, vocation has an entirely different meaning. When you are Catholic, discerning your vocation means you are considering God's will and intent for your life. There are definite choices:
*Religious Life (Men's or Women's religious communities - sisters, brothers, nuns, monks...)
I remember the first time someone asked me the "vocation" question. It was in 1998, not long after I went to my first Mass (see my conversion story tab). I was at my boyfriend's mom's after funeral gathering at the family house (his mom died of cancer about 6 weeks after we started dating). There was a priest in the basement. I had never really spoken or interacted with a priest before. He asked me my name and then immediately asked me, "Hey! Have you ever thought about becoming a nun?" That moment was awkward, at best. It was more shocking, to be honest. In all my life, no one had ever just so bluntly asked me such a question. My answer? "I'm not Catholic." His response? "Well, have you thought about becoming Catholic?" My answer? A shy smile and nervous laughter. I would later learn that not only was this priest a close family friend of my boyfriend's family, but also the St. Louis Archdiocese Director of Vocations. So, his questions made more sense in context, but that conversation stuck with me. I mean, I *did* become Catholic two years after that conversation. Was the other part to come true as well?
I never really questioned my vocation until my engagement was broken. But then again, when I became Catholic, I was with my boyfriend of two years. In the midst of heartache and pain, I wondered the big question of "why." I would go back and forth for years, questioning where I belonged, and often longing to hide myself in the concealment of a religious cloister so I would no longer have to worry about someone breaking my fragile heart. I would pray for God to give me the discipline necessary for such a life, but nothing really changed. I also knew I was looking at a religious vocation as a way to run away from my hurt - not really the best idea. Ever.
I tried for years to live in my own cloister, in a way. My bestie commented that I would keep myself busy with extra duties so I didn't have "time" to date or find a husband. This is very true. I would make excuses why I wasn't compatible with certain men. I wasn't feeling a spark with anyone, and so I continued to question my vocation.
In the past two years, I gave up on the possibility of a religious vocation. I figured it would have happened by now if it was going to happen. Of course, I thought the same thing about married life. I'm currently 33 for goodness sake. This was not my plan. So, I started to consider the possibility that I would be one of those women who would be single for the rest of their life. But surely this was not God's plan for me, I would pray! The thought of singlehood for the rest of my life brings sadness to my heart. And, I remembered a moment that I had shut out of my mind years ago...
Years ago, when I was still with my boyfriend mentioned above, I babysat for a good friend, Kathie, several times a week. Most of the babysitting time was when her daughter was 4-8 months old. Madeline was one of the sweetest, cutest babies I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. I remember babysitting her one day, and I was laying on the couch and she was crawling on top of me. She rested on my chest and fell asleep on me. This angel, sleeping on my heart, brought me to tears. In that moment, I knew I was meant to be a mother, a wife, a minister of the family. Thinking about it now I still get choked up.
But I shut that image out. The thought that it might not happen for me clawed at my heart.
But, a few months ago when I remembered that image while I was talking with a friend, I began to hope again. I began to trust again. And, I became more aware of every opportunity God placed in front of me.
I am hopeful again that my person will find me, or has already found/met me. I honestly don't know at this moment in time. What I do know is that I pray for my future spouse every single day. I have for years. I must admit that whoever that lucky future spouse is, he has years of prayer backing him up in our future endeavors. I must trust in that! It may not be easy, but it will be full of prayer, thanksgiving, and hope.