Friday, December 14, 2007

Retreat and Return

This past weekend I attended a lovely retreat for discerning women. I say "lovely" but that doesn't necessarily mean peaceful... in fact, a number of things came up that left me confused. But confusion can be good. As my spiritual director says, confusion can lead to progress.

Two parts of that confusion had to do with religious life: the issues of obedience and living in community. When I began looking at religious orders, community living was one of the characteristics that attracted me. I don't want to join a religious order only to go on living alone in an apartment. I crave community living, although I also love living alone. What came out of the retreat was one of the sister's concern that I am too idealistic about community living.

I was actually pretty shocked by this, and also confused. I live alone, and have for several years, but I don't think I am quite that idealistic. Definitely a little, but that is in part because I have not lived with others recently, and I desire community life for its positive aspects, like shared meals, prayers, and accountability. (I say accountability because I am much more likely to wash my dishes in a timely fashion if I know others will be using the kitchen!) I want those things, and I fully expect that they come at the price of some conflict--dealing with different personalities and personal needs, asserting my need for personal space, and resolving disagreements in a healthy way (among other things, I am sure). I know those things are not easy. I also know that I will not fully understand the depth of their difficulty until I experience them in community living. I am an academic, and I love to answer questions and doubts through reading, but this is one area where reading cannot help much.

Another thing I have been thinking about is obedience in discernment. I don't really understand obedience as doing everything someone else tells me to do, but rather more like working together with someone who recognizes my gifts and helps me to achieve more than I can imagine on my own. I have decided that I want to seek admission to the rscj, but I know that this decision is not the end of the story. The society has to discern with me that this is a good idea.... to me, that is obedience. Handing over that decision so that someone else might work with it and I might continue with the process. Discernment works both ways--on behalf of myself and the part of the order about my fit as well. To work in this way involves a different mentality, a counter-cultural outlook. When someone is trying to advance in a career, they seek to become more successful, they promote themselves. This mutual discernment is distinctly different from self-promotion.

I guess I recognize that my life is not in my hands. (Not that it ever has been, but now I am acknowledging it wholeheartedly.) I have placed that decision in the hands of Jesus and of the society, and now we can all discern together. And while I am somewhat confused about some things, I am at peace with relinquishing control.


Adam the Catholic said...

I don't know how much help it will be but also being in my late 20's. I started decerning the permanet deaconate. For me it's the worrie of time. Time for my vocation to my wife, my son (hopefully that will be kid's soon)And then to my minestry. Then theres the worrie of the "what if's" for ex. money. Will what I make be enough 15 years from now.
I've been focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Reading the scriptures in Luke where she accepts Gods plan for her life, over her's. While praying the rosery I've been wondering what her dreems were before Gaberal came by for a visit.

Sophie's Daughter said...

Dear Adam,

Thanks for your comments. I'm lucky in that I don't have to worry about a family or money... since I don't have children or a spouse, that's just not an issue. I would guess that if you become a deacon, that would only be a part time job--at least, the permanent deacons I know have other full- or part-time positions that pay the bills.

That worry is probably why the Church accepts deacons so slowly--so many requirements about how long you have to be married before you can be ordained, and then years of preparation. Your first responsibility should be to your family, and your ministry will always have to take second place.

Blessings and prayers to you as you continue to discern.


Adam the Catholic said...

For me I just want to serve God in any way he asks of me. It's just trying to figure out what the Lord is asking.
God Bless