Do not think the title of this post is an advertisement for cannibalism. It is all very figurative. I do not mean that I taste good in the physical consumption of my body.
But I am willing to give you a taste of my soul, if you'll have it.
So, I have been chipping away at my application with the Handmaids (that's another blog article still waiting to happen), but I am getting there! One of the requirements of said application is an autobiography, of six to eight pages in length. I finally finished mine! (By finished, I mean, wrote the draft…I'm letting some friends read it for feedback.)
Anyway, I wanted to give you, my dear blog readers, a snippet, really the first few lines, of my autobiography. Who knows? Perhaps it will be the last bit of nonfiction I write about myself…barring the prayer journal, if the convent gives me that sort of thing. Hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into my soul. Keep praying for me. :)
Image found on Pinterest. Original source unknown.
Excerpt from "Consecrated One: The Narrative of a Discerning Soul
I believe I have very little to tell you. Even if the story of my life up until the present moment should be recorded for you, including all my memories, all my deepest feelings, all my dreams, and all my future hopes, it would still be so incomplete. Not just because I am only twenty-three and therefore have still so much of my life to look forward to; no, it is also, I think, a feeling that St. John articulates so well, that “all the books in the world could not hold the life of the Lord” and what He did while on Earth. I do not pretend to have as world-changing a life story as that of Our Lord, but I do think it possible that in the unique personhood that makes each human being different from another—in every thought left undisclosed, every fading memory, every fleeting desire, every future possibility left hanging in the balance of the Road Not Taken—this unique personhood surely is enough to fill the world’s books. And why shouldn’t it? If we contain in these short-lived bodies nothing less than immortal souls, then of course that which makes us unique, that which comes forth from our souls, would have enough worth and dignity and wonder and complexity to rival the contents of the world’s largest library. Such is the weight of our souls.
I suppose I have just revealed to you one part of me. I tend to be a bit long-winded, especially about poetic things, or philosophical things, or religious things. And no matter how many words I spend explaining my reasons for the incomplete knowledge of me that any biography can give, I do realize that the Lord knows every part and all of me, and that is a strange sort of comfort.
It is tough for me to be patient. In general, and even with myself. The sample of my life that relates to this topic (recently) is my fear. Or insecurity. Whatever you want to call it.
I will just call this particular moment an "episode of irrational emotion." Yes, I am in control of my emotions. Yes, in my head, I can argue rationally about anything I may be feeling. Did it make me feel better at the time? No.
I knew I had no reason to feel lonely. I had no reason to spend nearly the whole day on my own. I could've called a friend. Or my mom. Taken the initiative to spend some time with another human being.
Instead I got lonely, and I let myself wallow in that feeling, which then turned into frustration, because somehow loneliness in me often turns "righteous", though not rightful. It gets all huffy, and tries to make its argument by saying, "Look! For all the so-called friends you have, not one of them is calling you! No one is looking for the chance to hang out with you. Doesn't that mean something? Are you expected to always be the one to work for that friendship?" Loneliness (mentally personified) then goes on to relate all the things I have done to make myself worthy of a friend, all the little things I have put into a particular relationship—any relationship—to show I am a "good" friend. A person worth having around.
So, I shed a few tears that day. Still alone. And I told myself (rationally) that it was ridiculous to get so worked up about such little things. That I had God, and could never truly be alone. That I was so much less "alone" than millions of people in the world. That I would feel better the next day. That I shouldn't be so hard on myself, and I should be patient with my fears. That it's ok to have insecurities once we acknowledge them in ourselves. Because then I can bring it back to the Lord. It is not my own little dark corner, unrevealed to the Light and hidden even from my own eyes.
I have to continue being patient with myself. Particularly with my weaknesses. Maybe they're faults. Fault/weakness—it all means imperfect anyway. And the root of this particular episode is not, I think, a fear of loneliness, but actually a deeper belief in my own control of my world. That fear of loneliness was only a symptom of my belief that I can actually do things to be something. That I take action, "take steps", toward being a better friend.
Yes, of course, this is exactly what virtue is. Actions that turn into habits that make us better people. But underneath all that is this current of truth. I am not the maker of my life. I have the free will to choose, to decide which way to go. But my being something, my existence, even my being someone can never be defined by what I do. It can never be controlled in that way. Why? Because I exist in the thought of Another. I cease to exist if He ceases to think of me. I am someone because a Being outside of my control loved me into that someone. And I could no more remove my own "someone-ness" than I could turn into a bird.
The Lord's got to take the reins. It's clear to me that I need to lose a bit more control.
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
"Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit." –Pope Francis
I am just a little bit reminded of the song in the movie Enchanted
, "How does she know that you love her? How do you show her you love her?"
But the real question I am asking myself is, "How do I know that I'm called to religious life?"
In my previous post, I mentioned the VISION vocation network. They also had a link on their website
for a vocations guide. In this insightful guide is an article about "The 5 Signs that You Might Have a Religious Vocation."
I'm the type of blogger/person to approach everything I read with a grain of salt. Or perhaps more than one grain. I have discovered that this is a symptom of my jaded cynicism, which is a character trait I do not want to cultivate, but, well, it does help me to stay real. And be less gullible, or less easily swayed by the first thing I enjoy reading. So even though I am sharing these "5 Signs" with you, please go read the original article and form your own opinions based on this and other sources of information available to you about The Call. And please, follow Pope Francis' message as quoted at the top of this article.
Ok, so five signs. The article makes them a bit poetic. They are as follows:
1. A peace like no other
2. Your deepest desire
3. With God all things are possible (i.e. the possibility of religious life is open to you)
4. Others can see it
5. Joy: the irrefutable sign
Praise God He has already given me these "signs" in the few short weeks I have been 'betrothed' to Him! I do not pretend that my life changed drastically when I received the call and said, "Yes!", even though my perspective on life changed. I still struggle to spend enough time in prayer. I still get caught up in little details that may end up being meaningless. I still go to work every day and come home feeling as if my accomplishments are negligent. But we press on, because He is faithful.
1. I actually experienced more peace than joy when Christ proposed to me. There was a stillness in me, a calm certainty once I said Fiat
, that this was indeed what God wanted me to do. This was what all my life before had led me to. Then came joyful awe that He could love me that much, could love me so particularly as to desire me to become His bride.
2. In that same hour, that "fulness of time" one might say of my own history, I saw clearly my desires. I saw how much I longed to be set apart from the world, set apart to belong entirely to Him, spend my days in prayer, in greater knowledge of Him, and in serving in just exactly the way He wants. I even saw how my capacity for such a life was cultivated in my own education and spiritual upbringing.
3. God is
making it possible in my life. I have just a few school loans to pay off, I have a job I will be willing to relinquish in even just a year from now, I have no long-term commitments keeping me tied to the world, and I have a heart that belongs entirely to Him. I am furthermore blessed to have very supportive family and friends to bless this season of my discernment and encourage my vocation.
4. I just experienced this last weekend: I was talking to a childhood friend of mine, sharing my little testimony about how the Lord "popped the question" as it were, and she told me that she wasn't really surprised to hear me share it. That she had mentally been adding me to a list of women she knew who were sisters or nuns for a while now. It was not a certain thing to her, but she already thought of me as someone she could see joining a convent. It was a beautiful testimony, and a gift to my discerning heart. I was touched to hear it.
5. Ah, yes. This is something I generally have an abundance of. Several people have commented about my joy, about my zeal for life. How many chances I have had lately to experience joy. Every time I tell someone or talk about it with someone I already have told, I feel like my insides are glowing. Not lovey-dovey, stomach-feels-all-twisty kind of romanticism but something brighter, bubblier, and, if possible, steadier, more resilient. Granted, everyone I have told has reacted positively, if not outright ecstatically. (I told a group of college woman I was a mentor to and they freaked out just as if I were getting engaged to Prince Charming…which in a way, I am!) And somehow I just trust that the Lord will keep the flame of my joy constant even when I tell someone who reacts in a negative or critical way.
I feel, perhaps, a bit like Lucy in I Love Lucy when Ricky marches into the room and says, "Lucy, you've got some esplainin to do," in his adorable 50's Hollywood accent. Yes, there are times for poetic allegory, and there are times for straight talk. This is a straight talk entry.
Most women with vocations stories of any kind (whether for marriage or for religious life) have a sort of polarized interpretation of their story otherwise known as "What Led Me To Answer This Particular Call". Many times over I have heard both the, "I imagined what it would be like to be a sister even when I was a very little girl" or "I was NEVER EVER going to be a sister, I was convincing myself and everyone it was not for me, I was in a steady, beautiful relationship with a guy, etc."
It is not the same for marriage, not quite. But I guess that is partly because it is the "natural" vocation, the one our very existence, our very bodies, call us to. Still, I have heard the stories of "I TOTALLY didn't like him/her at first" or "We NEVER got along" or even "I NEVER thought God would send me my spouse". More resounding is the effort to make very clear that while in the vocation of one's choice, one has been obviously NOT called to the other. "I went on a vocations retreat and was DEFINITELY not at peace" "I just felt SO UNCOMFORTABLE when I was around sisters" etc.
I should make a disclaimer. We humans all tend to overgeneralize, and as women, we often over exaggerate. In storytelling, it is very easy. And as much as I have heard such phrases from women, I have often found that at some point, in nearly every vocation story, they all mellow out. They discover the beauty of their own vocation. They discover the beauty of the vocation they are not called to as well. It is only in acknowledging the goodness and beauty of every call that we can understand fully what sacrifice and gift are in the call we receive.
So. My vocation story. Rather mellow all through.
I was a cradle Catholic, a girl born, baptized, and raised Catholic. My parents did everything right by me, went to Mass on Sundays, attended CCD classes, even put me in Catholic school for a while. But things changed for our whole family when they decided to homeschool us kids.
I will not attempt to beat out of your heads whatever misconceptions or stereotypes are conjured up by that last revelation of my story. I will only allow myself this defense: that my homeschool education was the best I received, and while it lasted I learned more of my Faith and loved my Faith more, than I could suppose any other method of education to have given me with the same effects. And furthermore, every dear reader should make a little more open space in his or her mind for this very small fact: no two homeschooled families are alike. There, defense is done.
So, off I totted to college, age 18, ready to graduate in three years with a degree in English. And I did it as I planned. I dated a boy my first year, but discovered the long-distance relationship was not for us. That was the only time I think I really contemplated being married…or at least the only time I took the idea of me getting married very seriously. Girls at age eighteen who are in love are very serious about getting married. Nevertheless, I have been single ever since, but it is only the last three years that I have been "intentionally" single, that I have been deepening my relationship with the Lord more purposefully while I am not dating. And it is really only the last 11 months that I have been so intentional about my singleness, my discernment, that I would not even say "yes" to a man if he had asked me on a date. My mother will not like to read that last sentence.
I'm sorry this is very long. This must be my concluding paragraph. I must make myself be brief. I procured a spiritual director in January of this year. It has been going swell ever since, and I have been looking at my future as if I might be religious sister. It is the first time in my life that I ever contemplated the idea so seriously. Oh, I smiled like everyone did when watching Anne of Green Gables as a girl, watching her swoon over being a Bride of Christ when she had a sleepover with Diana. But I just never really thought one way or another about it. Until now. Until this year. And just a fortnight ago, when I went on my first Come and See retreat, when I went to a convent, and I saw how much I loved their life and their joy and I heard the voice of the Lord in the silence of the Blessed Sacrament say to my heart, "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come."
I get to do this once. This moment happens once. It isn't even "upon a time". It is once. In all eternity. Once in the eternal moment of my union with God. Once in the infinity of choices. The choice to love, the choice to be with Him. Or the choice to walk away.
So I begin. To everything there is a beginning.
This is a start. For clarity's sake, it is the start of my journey as the betrothed of the Lord. He has just asked me to be His, to be His bride. To give all of me, all of my love, to Him alone. And I said yes. And I walked down from the mountain.
Devoted is the story of the Pearl and the Violet. He is the Pearl. The only thing worth having. The priceless treasure that rests deep underneath the waves of this world crashing into the walls of my soul. He is the softest gem, a quiet light. He is tenderness itself.
And His presence is one of sorrow mingled with perfection. For He dug His way under my skin, buried Himself into the heart of me, finding the seams of my soul, so hardened on the outside by the waves. And He tugged, and transformed the insides of me. And it hurt Him and it hurt me. "Those ways in which the soul is unlike God, it is also unlike itself." But it was a good sort of hurt, and when I searched my heart again, I found the exquisite delight of His Pearl. A gift that rests there and will never be pried out by greedy hands. A perfect globe as small as the tip of an infant's finger. Yet still perfect, still able to move this heart beyond its own doubts and hesitations.
And I am the Violet. The one who perseveres. The loyal heart. The one content to be humble, to be a small flower in all the garden of the world. Still lifting my face to the Sun, still in desperate need of His light and glory to feed me. But unable to lift my golden-streaked petal-face to any of the roses or the sunflowers or the irises or the daffodils or the lilies…only to gaze at the Sun in ever-deepening awe and adoration and sweet delight. Small and dark, but streaked with the color of the sun…a reminder of my true nature, a reminder of the glory of what I will be. Crowned with Sun-light.