I have been struck, recently and most powerfully, by how much my vocation is also a marital vocation. In a very real, albeit spiritual sense, I take Christ's family as my own Mother, my own Father, even my own foster father. St. Joseph, protector of virgins, pray for us!
On Sunday, the last sunday of Advent, I began to weep after receiving my Lord in the Eucharist. I cannot tell why, for it is a stirring of my heart without words, but I believe it stems from a sense of overwhelming loved-ness. I feel so loved in that moment. And on Sunday the choir sang the above song, Of the Father's Love Begotten, during the Communion reflection, so that only inspired a deeper love for my Lord as my Father. This version of the song
gives you a clearer understanding of the song's lyrics.
Then I had my first less-than-positive-and-nowhere-near-delighted reaction to my announcement to join the convent. An old friend of my grandmother's (product of the early post-Vatican II generation) warned me that her sister "tried that out" but was asked to leave because she was questioning a lot of rules, there are a lot of rules, and she was causing division in the community, etc. I just smiled and let it pass. But before I left the event, my dad, who had heard the conversation, took me aside and told me (with a choked up, earnest tone) that he did not like her warning, that he did not agree with her saying a consecrated person just has to "follow a lot of rules", and that he is delighted with my decision, and he couldn't be happier for me. I just received it with a smile and a "thank you", but as I was driving from the occasion, I was crying for the second time that day, just from gratitude for my Heavenly Father, who has given me His Son and my own vocation as a virgin bride, but Who has also blessed me with such a loving and wonderful earthly father. I know my father will be sacrificing much in "giving me" to the convent—little things like the daddy-daughter dance, the walk down the aisle, the father's toast; and big things like grandchildren—but he has supported and rejoiced in my vocation and for that I am ever grateful. Even my prayer meditation this morning included this (paraphrased) word from my Father: "Every father delights in receiving that simple tenderness which his little girl gives him."
I also rejoice at receiving Christ's mother as my "mother-in-law" but really, as a deeper union of mother and daughter than I have received from her before. My parish just put in a life-size statue of Mary in which she is depicted as very pregnant with Our Lord, her hand protectively resting on her belly, her other hand extended to receive all her other children. And I love that statue, first because it is the only time I have seen such a pregnant statue of our Virgin Mother, but also because it is such an incredible witness of Mary's role not as queen, not as virgin, but as mother
. She is protective, she is responsive, she is tender, and real to her children. She is preeminently present
in her children's lives, if they seek her out.
And as much as my mother has supported me—even joking about having Jesus as a son-in-law or throwing an engagement party for me—I receive so much intimacy and tenderness in my discernment from our Blessed Mother. She is a mother pondering the depths of my heart alongside me, showing me the path to live spiritual motherhood as well as joyful virginity.
And in his silence, in his immediate action
for what the Lord asks of him, St. Joseph is my model of the contemplative-active lifestyle I seek.
Thus is my vocation a family affair. I am bound up in all the glory and virtue of my Holy Family, and ever grateful for the imitations of this Family I see in my own parents.
Every day lived for God is a rare adventure. –Mother Mary Francis, PCC
Mother's quote above is from a passage in her book, A Right to Be Merry, in which she explains what the Poor Clares do throughout their day. But it spoke into my heart, too, because any life in the Christian faith could be called "a rare adventure". All it takes is a soul living wholly for the Lord.
This is, to me, a great consolation, a great gift, as I wait. I am waiting upon the Lord, I am waiting to receive the next "call" to a particular charism. And yet, my love does not wait. My joy is overflowing and I will not pent it up for days ahead. I must live it and share it now. In the present moment. I am nowhere near "the final countdown". And so I must learn patience. The grand adventure of patience in this season. It is a rare adventure to be experiencing this "engagement" joy, to experience it during Advent, to see the coming Christmas through eyes that recognize it may be the last time I share it with my family as "a single woman". And I must live that adventure fully, drink deeply from the gift of life God gives me today.
What part of this rare adventure are you living? What do you receive from the Lord that causes you joy, or hope, or the quietness of gratitude in this present moment?
And just because I love typography, I'm giving you another picture with the quote from my post title. :)
When He rocks the boat, He doesn't let it sink. He doesn't even want it to capsize. The waves (of His mercy) are only meant to shake me out of complacency, and sometimes even out of despair. No wonder the Hebrews author described hope as an anchor of the soul (6:19).
So it was with me, when Christ knocked loudly enough on the door of my heart that I could no longer ignore Him. Then He mounted the cross, received the price of my sins, and asked me to fill the place in His heart that only I could and become His bride. It was way better than if He had just got down on one knee to honor my feminine heart. Still, it was rocking my boat. It didn't change much of what I do in my daily routine (except perhaps, renewing my desire for Him. As if my soul didn't already long for Him, now I feel as if I really am panting with the Psalmist. Oh, Lord, sooth my impatient heart!).
But the boat was rocked and my soul has changed in some profound way. I know it. It is like a binding covenant. He has set Himself as a seal upon my heart. And all my questions about purpose, all my self-dubbed "fruitless" work in the secular world, all my frustration with worrying whether my life really could be spent meaningfully—in an hour all was quelled by His Voice, by His Call. And hope rose anew in my heart.
So since He makes all things new, He is making my sight new. My "soulsight" as it were. I have entered into this Advent with some new joy. I have always loved Advent, I have always loved hopeful expectation. I have always loved the first snowfall and the return to Christ and the childhood of Christ unfolding in the readings. Mary features so prominently in the Liturgy this season. But this year seems different from so many other Advents. Maybe every year is different. Maybe I just forget as the seasons change. But somehow there is a new weight to it, a new quieter joy, as I wait not just for my Savior and my God and my Brother and my Shepherd (Psalm 23 was part of the Liturgy this week), no, this year I wait for the coming of my Beloved, my Betrothed. It is an incredible profound perspective shift.
I am looking now at my story, at my life, at my spiritual landscape, with eyes that see the possibility of new beginnings, of simple and humble style, of vast freedom. I will be celebrating the Christmas season very differently next year. I will be saying farewell to many people in my life. I will be purging out so many possessions in my life. And for everything I will leave behind I will gain the exquisite beauty of the Lord's own heart to call mine. I will gain a greater union with my God than I have ever known. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
And so I wait with even more joyful anticipation than usual this Advent. I wait with even greater longings. I wait with the hopeful gaze of a child who know how deeply she is loved by her Father. I wait with the expectation that the best gift I will receive at Christmas is my Lord Himself. He has always been a gift to me, but this year, it's a new gift. And it's priceless. And it's worth waiting for.
"...hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil." –Heb. 6:18b-19