A Catholic Girl Trying To Find Her Way.
That is how I describe myself and my blog. I haven’t posted much recently for the simple reason that I’ve lost my way. I have come to terms with not being called to religious life and found an incomparable joy in the life that I am called to. I have lost my way in the sense that I have lost the practice of my faith. I believe, but I struggle to make it real in my life. I am reminded often of that quote from St. Augustine “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” This is part of my struggle – I’ll work on my faith, but not yet. I can make every excuse in the book, but it comes down to I don’t want to. I realise how awful that is. I feel guilty, but not guilty enough to change. I’m missing whatever it was that used to drive my faith but I don’t know what that is anymore.
May the Lord have mercy on my soul. I am in need but in no way deserving.
When I stopped discerning religious life, I said I didn’t believe I was called to religious life. That was a lie. I realise in hindsight that I felt such pain and difficulty because I was trying to convince myself of something I didn’t truly believe. This is not a “I’m discerning religious life again” post, because I’m not. When I stopped discerning religious life, I lost a connection to God and to my faith and I can’t find it again.
I remember a time when I could be transfixed in Adoration and adore Him for hours, when my greatest and most ardent desire was for His will, when felt His presence in my life. I don’t feel any of that anymore. I don’t feel a call to anything, or even that He is present. Nothing has changed in what I believe and know to be true, but I want that devotion back, that deep presence of God in my life.
I need Him.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
I remember reading this little book on the vocation to religious life that was in the guest room at St. Cecilia’s. Many parts of the book were excellent, others I found I disagreed with. I shan’t name the book, since I don’t want to scandalise anyone. One of the sections of the book asked why some are called to religious life and others are not. The book basically said that those who are called to religious life are preferred by God (I cannot recall the exact wording, nor do I own the book). At the time I passed such a statement off as ridiculous. However, once I accepted that the religious life was not my vocation that statement was part of my grief. The feeling of being rejected by God, of having lost His favour is something I have struggled with.
I have for a long time though constantly in terms of lack: lack of a religious vocation. A few days ago, I started thinking about the realities of a vocation to marriage and I felt an undeniable joy. I found a joy greater than anything I felt when discerning religious life. It’s knowing that I am doing what God wills me to do and that I am serving Him. I will always have a desire for the religious life I think, but that is something I must sacrifice to do the will of God. My desire for the religious life is a good thing, but I am more than willing to sacrifice it for the greater good – the will of God. I have finally recaptured my joy, and I can see that His will is more glorious than I ever imagined.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name. Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup brims over. Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life. I make my home in the house of the Lord for all time to come. [Psalm 23]
I’ve written 200 posts on this blog, in just over 2 years. The journey I’ve undertaken, and am still undertaking, has been remarkable.
I am not a patient person. When something takes hold in my heart I want to act now, it consumes me. That is what religious life was to me. It took hold in my heart, it consumed me, and I acted very much now. I’ve posted already about the immediacy of it and I wonder if my feelings of doubt that I’ve experienced in both feeling called to religious life and called to marriage are a part of my tendency to rush. I am feeling very much at the moment that I was right in thinking that not right now is the way to approach these things for the moment.
It seems very trivial, and I am not daring to think that everything will be wonderful now, but since my moment of grace I have found myself able to pray for the first time in along time. I am not yet at where I used to be, where prayer was natural and comfortable and I could pray without words. My prayers are recitations and for so long I would say the words and feel empty still but now they have some meaning back, there is connection there. I am not foolish enough to believe that God listens to them, but I have hope.
I felt I was called to religious life. I was discerning with a wonderful community that I loved and that were happy for me to apply. Yet I had this little voice in my head that went “What if you’re wrong? What if you’re called to marriage?” and I was so scared that it might be right and I prayed so hard for it to not be right.
I feel I am called to marriage. I have a wonderful relationship with a man I love with all my heart, who wants to marry me. Yet I have that same little voice in my head saying “What if you’re wrong? What if you’re called to religious life?” and I’m so scared that it might be right and I pray so hard for it to not be right.
Are these feelings a temptation? Is one of them right? Which one?
I don’t know how to tell.
Recently I have felt very much like St. Augustine’s famous prayer: “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” I’ll do your will Lord, but not yet. I’ll stop this sinful habit, but not yet. The conflict between temptation and conscience is especially hard when one is experiencing darkness. But it’s when you are in your darkest times that the grace of God really amazes you. I haven’t felt His presence or His grace in a while. This weekend I had this moment of grace and while I’m not all the way there in repairing my closeness with God I now know that I can do it and that He is still with me. God is indeed good!
Something I have been struggling with is how to find intimacy with the Lord again. My closest intimacy with the Lord came from my discernment of religious life, I understood my relationship with Christ very much as being His bride. So for me, I now have to see my relationship with Christ in a different way, and learn to understand it in a different way. I haven’t seen before how and I still can’t quite see it.
But I have hope.
When I was discerning religious life the call I felt was an immediate call. It was very much a right now. I visited a community two or three months after beginning to seriously discern and went to St. Cecilia’s two weeks after that. My live-in was six months after that, and that was the first opportunity I had for a visit that long since I was at university. When I ‘officially’ announced I was no longer discerning religious life, I was already in a relationship.
I have realised that I am no longer in a position to be urgent in the short-term. I have financial responsibilities I must attend to, amongst other things. I couldn’t enter a convent anytime soon anymore than I could get married anytime soon. But my mind is still in that place of immediacy, of wanting everything to be right now. I think that is a significant part of the distress I have felt recently – I have wanted things to be more immediate than is possible.
I have been so rushed, so hurried that I think I need to take space from any kind of vocational discernment and think about now for a while rather than focus on the future. I need to find myself again in my spiritual life without discernment.
Today, I saw about Mother Mistress’ Silver Jubilee a few months ago, and it stabbed at my heart again. I should have been there. I saw the photos, I saw Mother Mistress and my dear friends in the novitiate and I saw the abbey and the choir and it pained me. I torture myself by looking for news from them, I know that. I have no right, no reason to feel this pain and this longing. I am mourning the loss of something that I never had to start with!
I do believe that [marriage] is probably your path. Oh, how those words stung me! I am happy, but I am not at peace. I know, I know that the door to religious life is shut behind me. I took my foot out of the door when I was given those well-meaning and true but still stinging words. Now, I’m like a toddler throwing a tantrum because they want to get into the one place they’re not allowed. Not only that, but they also don’t want to leave the room they’ve been let into. No wonder God doesn’t listen to me anymore, doesn’t speak to me anymore. No wonder He didn’t want me.
I long for that peace, that total trust in God that I’ve lost. I can feel a stirring within myself, a desire to return to that. I can only describe this as a kind of progress. For a long time I have felt a great affinity with that famous prayer of St. Augustine, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet, only all aspects of faith. I’m not angry, although I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been. I’m just hurt and betrayed and I want to turn to God for comfort but I’ve lost my trust in Him. How can I trust in His will again when it has lead me to so much pain? How can I trust that I even know what His will is? How do I know that I was even doing His will?
Lord, have mercy.