This past week was Vocations Awareness Week. I hope you enjoyed hearing the stories of a few of the men who have answered the call to the religious life.
In a few of Jacob's posts, from the For the Love of the Church series, he touches on an often misunderstood aspect of vocation discernment - that feeling attracted to a vocation does not necessarily mean it is your vocation. Nor does choosing one vocation mean that you are not attracted to another or would have not have been fabulous in it.
While Jacob will soon become a priest after having been very attached and attracted to the idea of being a husband and physical father, I followed the opposite route. I was very attracted to the idea of religious life and living in community, but am called to be a wife and mother.
As a teen, I went on vocations retreats, come and see events, and stayed in contact with an order of sisters with a motherhouse nearby. I stayed with them a few summers, and I absolutely loved living in convent.
The life of a sister was very appealing to me: the predictability, the shared commitment to making life in community work with women from very different backgrounds, learning to say the Divine Office and chant, and the dedicated times to work, study, prayer, and play. The instant closeness to the other girls in discernment and the support of the older sisters was very comforting.
But it wasn't for me.
I think I knew it for a long time before I accepted it's truth - I was not called to the religious life.
I loved the religious life.
I would have been happy as a religious.
I still see the religious life as very beautiful and needed in this world, but it was not the way I was supposed to serve my purpose in this life.
The realization came during adoration. A fitting time. Adoration is when we are simply to sit and be with the physical presence of Jesus. It's harder than it sounds. You can read more about that experience here, but from that moment on I had to accept what God was telling me and it was not to become a sister.
Essentially, Jesus broke up with me. Gently, but yeah that happened.
I was ready to jump into this vocation and embrace the whole shebang, and Jesus had to say, "Thanks but no thanks. Your job lies elsewhere."
I knew it was true. I knew he was right. But I wasn't happy about any of it.
Ya know, like a normal break up.
Except in this break up your ex is literally perfect and you kind of have to continue to have a relationship with him for the rest of your life. It's tricky like that.
There is a real grieving process to go through after letting go of a hope, a dream, or a relationship. The discernment process, just like a relationship, is never just you two in isolation - it is full of advisors, supporters, detractors, and friends you made along the way. Coming to a decision in discernment means your relationship with those people, and with the object of your discernment, will never be the same.
Our true vocations may not be the ones we would have first picked out for ourselves, and might even be the opposite of our natural inclinations. In my current season of life, I am on my own to create any structure I want to have, to motivate myself to find purpose without the guidance of a community charism, and I have to do it with, what feels like constant, discernment. I feel like my current vocation is the harder option for me, and because of that is probably the better "halo-polishing" option too.
The men I know who are or will be priests, they would have been great husbands and fathers. I have no doubt about it. But it is because they would make great fathers, they will be just that much better at becoming Fathers. I hope that my experience seeking a religious vocation has helped me be a better wife and mother too.
Here's My Sunday Best!
Here's My Sunday Best!
Veil: Veils By Lily