Starting afresh

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When last I wrote, it seemed that I had practically given up on discerning my vocation. And in truth, these last two months have not been the best spiritually speaking. Scared and ashamed, I practically gave up praying altogether; I did not go to mass; I did not seek the sacrament of reconciliation. And why this abrupt rupture with the Lord, when it is exactly in such times of need that we should cling most to Him? Because I felt ashamed of not following His call, because I let fear command my actions. I did not (and perhaps still don't entirely) feel worthy of Him or His mercy.

And so I returned to the United States, and even began entertaining ideas of getting a job, settling down, and - who knows - perhaps be content with just being a deacon somewhere down the path. Here I was again, trying to control my own life, map everything out. It was as if I had learnt nothing during my discernment period - that one's life is in God's hands, not ours. I may have turned a blind eye to the Lord's calling, yet He did not do so to me. During this last month I have felt an interior motion, as St. Ignatius would put it, a very soft, gentle nudge to return to my old praying habits. It is very hard to describe in words exactly what it is; suffice it to say that it almost seems to say "Return to prayer; remember the joy and release that was part of always calling on the Lord."

During this last month I have also answered job applications. Even here the Spirit has been making itself known. For the more job ads I answered, the more came into my head "This is not for me. Why do I want a job? I don't want a career, to make money to buy a house, to buy material possessions. Isn't all I've ever been searching for in the Lord?"

The fire has been rekindled. I start my discernment afresh. This time I will try to take it more seriously than I previously had. My only regret is that my vocational director is not here: I had come to trust him and appreciate his insights. At this moment I'm not so sure as I once was about being called to a community based on Ignatian spirituality; as I begin to pray again, slowly other things start to emerge from the deep. And here, dear brothers and sisters, is where I ask for your help. You see, in Portugal I had only one vocational director. He is a diocesan priest and he introduced me to the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Sadly, I left just at the time when he said that should I understand that they were not to where God is calling me, that he would introduce me to other religious, with different spiritualities. To make a long story short though, I would like to know: do you have only one vocational director, or have you visited various communities and have one from each community? Answering this would greatly help me to start off again.

My prayers are with you all.

Pax Christi,
Mark of the Vineyard

3 comments:

maryanthony33 Monday, October 13, 2008 at 3:35:00 PM PDT  

I have several people I talk to about my vocation to religious life. One is a good friend of mine. Another is my parish priest. However, in regards to your actual question, I have one vocation director at an order I am very interested in. I have also contacted other communities I am interested in finding out more about so that I might have a vocation or spiritual director for each community. As I discern more and more, hopefully I will be able to narrow it done to two or so communities so I can focus more on each's way of life. I think I would suggest trying to remain in touch with someone from each of the communities you're interested in, because although you don't necessarily need a vocation director from each, it's good to really get to know people from different communities. I hope this has been of some help. Let me know how it goes for you. You'll be in my prayers, please keep me in yours as well. God Bless.

Anonymous,  Monday, October 13, 2008 at 6:04:00 PM PDT  

Mark,


Thank you so much for sharing your story.

It was your post which really struck a chord with me--and its the reason I'm writing this now.

For many years, I too had felt a calling to serve our Lord. From an early age (I'm 23 years old now) I felt called to have a closer relationship with God.

After many years of ignoring my religious vocation I finally opened myself up to the possibility of entering the priesthood.

I attened vocational meetings, went on vocation retreats, and even served as a lay missioner for some time. Of course I prayed throughout this time fervently for His continued guidance. And it was through His grace that a religious community here in the US gave me the go-ahead to enter their order.

Through fear of the unknown, coupled with some personal reservations, I rejected the offer. I felt as if I had rejected Him. I stopped attending mass, I did not pray much and worst of all, I contemplated leaving His Church.

In the midst of my doubt, the Lord would give me signs of His love for me. Our Lord never abandons us, especially in the Dark Night of our soul.

As long as I remembered that my life was in His hands and that if I trusted in His will, I knew that I would have the clarity and peace of mind I longed for.

And so slowly, I began to pray again and settled my mind. I focused on His Divine Mercy. I began to take Scripture seriously and studied theology voraciously. But most importantly I secured Jesus in my heart.

Today I continue to serve Christ within the Church and happily so.

It was refreshing to know that I am not the only one who has gone through these vocational ups-and-downs.

I wish you the best in your future discernment and ask that our Lord impart infinite blessings upon you.

In Jesus and Mary,

Eric in the Vineyard

Anonymous,  Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 5:58:00 AM PDT  

All the spiritual writers I have read say, pray and earnestly ask God to help you find one spiritual director (not necessarily vocational director of a community). one that God Himself has already chosen for you and who will know your soul. you can read more about spiritual direction in Fr. Dubay's book on spiritual direction, as well as in books by Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange (e.g. 3 Ages of the Spiritual Life, The Priesthood, etc). These are very clear and should be helpful.

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