Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Because of the poorness of this drawing, I will explain what I have depicted here. This is me, and my book of human knowledge, completely confident and completely determined to get where I want to go. To my left is my long-suffering guardian angel begging me to slow down and have faith in God. This picture revolves around patience and my lack thereof.
Patience... well, this is not one of my voluntary virtues. If I had my way, patience would only apply to how I deal with someone else... not to how I lead my own life. You may or may not have noticed that my story is one of significant impatience. Because of this, there is no better way for me to touch this subject than to speak from experience. I give you full permission to laugh...
I'm going to take you back to when I first decided to become a nun... between eight and ten years old. In my story books, saints entered monasteries and became heroes. It looked to me like the perfect life, and you get human respect in the end to boot! Here it was, the highest ambition, and it was open to me. It didn't take long for me to decide that I would enter a cloister.
At this young age I was not severely beset with impatience, however, something happened years later, when I was becoming impatient, that showed me how much patience I would have to have. I was old enough to write letters and start planning how I was going to get into the best monastery I could find. I wrote monasteries from France to Washington in the hope that I could enter some illustrious community, or at least find the perfect community. All seemed to be going as planned, and I was going about my career in a very adult way. However, my foolish confidence soon took a hit when a nun from a Carmelite community in WA wrote me this letter:
We will pray for your vocation, but it is important to understand that a vocation is a call from God which is received in the silence of the soul. It is not necessarily the fruit of a childhood dream, nor is it the item that you ‘buy’ after shopping around and looking into ‘all’ the different possibilities. It is, therefore, God’s choice for the soul and she must remain docile beneath His guiding light. May He lead you to port!
*ahem* well... here was the first big blow to my vocation. When I first read this, years ago, I could have cried from the hurt it caused me. All my motives and efforts in respect to following my vocation became as nothing. This, and a few other occurrences that I will not mention here, caused me to realize that I had no reason to suspect that God owed me a religious vocation just because I wanted one! So... what should I do now? I started from the ground up.
Well, I'm certainly not one to sit around. I resolved to do it right. I tried, for the time being, to be satisfied with my life and to proceed patiently with my discernment. That lasted a short time.
In spite of this new found conversion, I still desired the convent with all my heart and did not forbid myself to consider it possible to obtain. During my period of patience I made a lot of discoveries and grew rapidly in my spiritual life, as if my heart had suddenly been opened to God's Word. But I simply had to pursue my vocation if I was to remain sane. I began to realize that I might have to go to college and wait a long time before entering the convent. Even more disturbing, I realized that I may have to wait to find out if I really did have a vocation to the religious life.
Like usual, I immediately accepted the situation and began trying to reform it to where I would like it to be. I "opened my heart" to other vocations, began looking into college, concentrated very hard on my studies, and took on an attitude of "I want it, but if He doesn't want me to have it, I don't want it." My determination at this point to move forward in my efforts lasted my entire tenth grade year. It was also during this time that I started to console myself by seeking understanding of the "current vocation" which we all live at each moment of every day. But I wasn't going to stop there...
In January 2009 I made several resolutions: 1. go to college/work faster in school, 2. get my driver's license, and 3. get a job. By February I was enrolling in a community college, had my driver's permit, and had two jobs. If I had to go to college before entering the convent, I was going to get started! If I had to get a taste of the world before entering a religious community, I was going to work and drive like any other "adult". I signed up for scholarship programs, started looking into universities, made plans for completing high school, and thought seriously about how I would go about following other vocations if God desired it.
It should not be surprising that by June last year I was losing some of my stamina. I began to realize that absolutely nothing could satisfy me like the convent... that I wanted it with my whole heart... and that I didn't deserve it. Patience? Wait? Go to college? These thoughts were torture to me. During this time I had grown so much, and came to the realization of the magnitude of the gift of a vocation. I was overcome with a longing for the religious life that was seemingly the consummation of all my efforts and hopes and disappointments. Thankfully, God is merciful.
While my friends supported me in my constant longing, God finally relieved some of my fears. While attending a Dominican retreat He told me that I would get what my heart desires, a religious vocation. This brought me such joy and peace! I no longer needed to consider the vocation of marriage or trying to make my way through life without being intimately near Him. In my joy I bought a little ring to wear... in truth it would probably be called a chastity ring, but to me it was a reminder of His promise.
Although this brought me some peace, it did not relieve my yearning to enter the cloister. So many years could possibly pass before I found it! With a heavy heart I continued to "discern" and learn. By this time I was beginning to realize how much I had grown through all the waiting... and how much joy I had brought Him through my perseverance and my "patience." But, I waited for my visit to Bethlehem Monastery (first week of January this year) with some sense of expectation. My reasons for looking forward to this particular visit are a bit ironic. I figured that once I visited I could "check the Poor Clares off my list" and move another step closer to my vocation.
I will not go into details about this visit now. I came home with the surprising, but firm conviction that God is calling me to Bethlehem Monastery. I suddenly said "this is it, this is it" and was filled with the greatest peace and utter happiness! In fact, for a week after I returned from the monastery I could not even speak without my heart overflowing from gratitude. Which explains my profuse writing and great love as I share the messages of my discernment. Telling Mother Abbess of my new found certainty brought with it my most recent disappointment "Mother Vicaress and I were thinking that you need to be just a little older..."
Surprisingly, although I could have cried when she said those words, I realized that I was not impatient. My longing for the religious life and espousal to Christ has not ceased or lessened... if anything it has grown... but I'm ready to wait and prepare because I have finally learned that God teaches me through this patience, and that it is a great way of showing Him my love and fidelity. Jesus spent forty-days in the desert preparing for His work... and it even brings me joy to follow suit. Patience is essentially faith in God... that even if it takes time, He is guiding us to what is best for ourselves and to the work we are to do for Him.
I will, no doubt, write about patience again another time for the more direct benefit of my readers... but I wrote this account because I think that sometimes seeing how another has learned something often helps one to learn it himself.