Saturday, October 29, 2011

Called to be saints

I spend a lot of time listening.

There is a sadness and a restlessness in the human heart - and in a society that is so very advanced and in so many ways, still the sadness is there, the alienation is there. We see the restlessness everywhere. People running away from each other, breaking relationships, hurting each other, and ultimately, running away from themselves.

It's everywhere.

And God sees it. He waits to redeem each human running, hurting, sorrowing heart. He calls people to help him. He calls women to mother his people.

We are each of use called to be saints. That's the simple truth. Only saints have the power to love people into happiness, into joy, into peace. Because saints touch God and touch people.

As women, we are called to be mothers. If wed, to be mothers of concrete physical children. If virgin, to be mothers of concrete spiritual children. He calls us to hold the world in our hearts. Those he calls to be religious are not exempt from motherhood - it just moves in a distinct sphere. We mother by loving the children God has given us, those sad, sorrowful, restless, broken people he leads into our lives.

What do we do all day?

We mother.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming...

We are drawing to the end of our Fall events at the House of Formation. Some of them have been more popular than others, so we're looking to see what we should continue for the Spring and Summer and what can fall away. Since you who look at this blog are interested in things religious life-like, we would very much appreciate your input. Please fill out the survey below to assist us with planning.

Thank you very much!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pray...

That was a long period of breathing.

But if you've done the work, the writing, the talking, the discerning, the looking for information, the pondering, then you've done your piece. It is up to the Lord.

He said to ask. Better, he promised to answer. He meant it. He means it.

He gives each of us a unique vocation. Some he calls to marriage. Some he calls to religious life. Some he calls to be a leaven in the world, serving him in the unique situations of career and friendships.

If we ask, and if we listen, he will tell us where he calls.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breathe

You know, God loves you. And scary as this all is, it's a good idea to take a minute to stop and pray and breathe. Take some time off of life-commitment-search. Read a good book. Pray a bit. Ask him about his interests for your life. Listen. Spend time with friends.

Take a bit off.

Why?

Because it is so easy to get so wound up and so stressed. And there is no reason to be afraid or stressed or worried. God has a plan. You're seeking his plan. And that is enough. He will let you know your place, his call, the saint he is calling you to be.

Just breathe.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing for information

Asking questions does not mean a lifelong commitment. Go ahead. Write for information. Fill out the little cards. Send the e-mail. Send lots of e-mails.

It can be overwhelming. There is so much out there. Hone your description of "my perfect community" as you learn more about the way religious life is lived.

Then find the communities that fit your description.

Now what?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Keep it simple

It does not have to be dramatic.

It is usually as simple as "coming home." Feelings like "I liked it there" or "I felt at home" can be really strong indicators.

I once went to visit a Dominican community. They were great. I liked their lifestyle, their habit, their chapel. It was wonderful. And I left knowing in my gut that I was not called there. As much as I liked it, I knew that it was not my home. I've heard the same from other women in their search.

Don't be afraid of that. If you visit a community and it just does not settle, that does not mean you are not called - just that you are not called there.

But how to figure out even where to look.

Go to your room and pray and think and then get out some paper. And a writing utensil. (This exercise may take some time, so don't worry if you find that it needs to be continued.)

Write down what you feel drawn to in religious life. What is important to you in your call as you understand it. If you are still really vague, that's okay. But start "creating" your ideal religious community. A priest once told me that he did this during his discernment process and ended up recreating the Jesuits. So he became a Jesuit.

If you don't know, surf. Look at websites, ask yourself what draws you about the different orders. You're not looking for one yet, you're looking for things that seem to be part of God's call for you.

What repels you? Even more importantly, why don't you like it?

Take your time. This can go on for a bit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talking about it

It's hard nowadays. Maybe it always was. But it seems that bringing up the possibility of becoming a Sister is met with so much disbelief and opposition ("Are you CRAZY?!?) that it is terrifying to think about talking about it. And of course, if you say something to a priest or a Sister, it makes it so real - like you have already decided to take the step - that that is even more frightening. When girls and women talk to me about it, it is almost like they are confessing to a crime. "I think I might have a vocation." It's on the level of terminal disease.

It does not have to be that way. And for those who are thinking about it as a possibility - and that is where it always starts - find someone to talk to. Preferably someone who knows what she (or he) is talking about. Many priests do not have a great deal of experience with religious life. They may know one or two communities, but most have not had extensive experience. If they are lucky, the have resources to which they can refer women.

Good options are vocation directors of communities. Of course, they tend to have a lot of experience with their own spiritual family, and limited knowledge of others, but there is a good deal of networking going on out there. Often too, the diocese will have someone on staff who has access to information about religious life.

There is the Internet. I thought that was a great resource, but as I meet with girls and women I find that the amount of information is overwhelming. There's too much to digest. "I think I might be called - how do I figure out which one of the three thousand congregations listed is 'for me?'"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Am I called to be a religious?

Unfortunately, God gave us freedom. Even more unfortunately, he respects it. So he always leaves us loop holes. We always have to make a choice.

People say they like that. But when it comes to the big decisions in their lives - much of the time, they'd really rather someone just told them what to do and let them do it. At least, that's been my experience.

We are gifted with free will.

So the call to religious life is almost never given in a vision or a locution or God coming down, hitting us on the head and saying "Hey you - yes, you - this is what you're supposed to do if you want to do my will for your life." No, it is much more subtle.

There is the negative discernment - am I capable of living the life? After answering yes, that doesn't mean that you should - or have to. No, just that the first hurdle is past.

There is the draw. It's gentle. It's internal. It's quiet. Do I like to pray? Do I like "God stuff?" Does the idea of religious life fascinate me? Not that I would admit it. (Okay, so yeah, I like the Sound of Music.) Am I drawn to it? (Again, I'd die before admitting to it.) Do I think that habit is cool?

It's all so small. And it's only an indication. But the call comes in such small and ordinary ways...

Monday, October 10, 2011

What do you ask of me?

The second point is suitability.

We all have dreams, ideals, flights of fancy. Young people, especially, want to fly. And that is a very good thing - we'd never have saints if people never aspired beyond mediocrity.

When it comes to the call of God, we have to be a bit practical. God does not call a fish to be a bird. If a certain life is impossible for me, I am not called to live it. Period.

That is an amazingly freeing thought. If I can't do it, he does not expect me to.

Now, that does not mean that he won't ask demanding, difficult, top-of the bar.  Not in the least. But it does mean that if I have something in me or in my life that makes a certain form of life impossible for me, then I should not even give it a second thought.

So what are the pre-requisites for religious life? Good physical, mental and moral health. Appropriate maturity. Those are the basics. If I do not have good physical health, a demanding physical regimen is not going to work (and religious life requires it). If I have serious mental health concerns, the challenge of silence, the work of prayer and the stresses of common life are going to be beyond me. If my moral life has been a shambles and I am just stepping on to the path of virtue, the demands of "the way of perfection" will be more that I am up for.

Does that mean I am not called to be a saint? In no way. It may very well mean, however, that this particular path is not God's call for me.

But, what if I am strong, healthy and a moral athlete (if only in the minor leagues)? Well, then, you might just want to consider...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Points to Ponder

How does one discover the call?

I get that question a lot. In many and varied ways. There are as many ways to find a vocation as there are people to find them. It makes sense, God created each of us unique and has a particular call for every life.

The first and most important thing is prayer. Talk to the Lord. Ask him what he wants. It can be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I always like that - you are talking to him face to face and he can't get away. But walking...or in your room...or at any quiet time. I had one girl tell me she prays in the shower - it's the only time she can get away from her myriad siblings.

Whenever. Wherever. We know, by faith, that he is always present. It takes us making the decision to be present to him. He did say - no, he promised - "Ask and you shall receive." He is not going to back out on it.