A dear friend of mine is currently discerning religious life. The very fact that she has been spending a good deal of time with the Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles has made me reflect back on my own season of vocation discernment over 10 years ago. It was this very same community that I was to join as a candidate until my lupus diagnosis closed the door in March 2003.
I had given up a long-term relationship to follow the call of Jesus I heard so clearly the year before. I was ready to sacrifice the treasured time I spent with my family and friends. I wouldn’t be able to come and go as freely as I pleased. And my love for eating out? Now that had to go, too. Examining all the attachments I had and asking God for the will to let them go was an incredibly painful cleansing process, but looking back, it was something I had to do in order to prepare me for the ultimate Plan that He had in store for me.
Interestingly enough, the Lord was also asking me to release my desire to be a Carmelite Sister. The one pursuit I had that required me to let go of all else, I needed to surrender into His hands as well.
Because instead of becoming a bride of Christ, I would marry the man who would love me as Jesus loves His Church.
Instead of waking up at 5am for Morning Prayer and meditation, I would rise at 3am for early morning feedings and diaper changes.
Instead of wearing the brown Carmelite habit as an outward sign of my commitment to Jesus, I would tote my four little children around everywhere I went speaking volumes to the world of openness to life and trust in God’s providence.
Instead of gathering in community with my fellow Carmelite Sisters, I would find fellowship with other women working to build the kingdom of God as homeschooling moms and Creighton Model Practitioners.
Instead of living a vow of chastity through celibacy, I would develop a ministry dedicated to promoting chastity in the single life, courtship, and married life.
Instead of retreating into meditative prayer, I would find His presence in the hustle and bustle of everyday life…and then go on to blog about it.
Instead of basking in the glorious sounds of harmonious melodies resounding from the choir loft, I would drive through freeway traffic with an SUV full of kids crying at all kinds of pitches…each taking turns to fill the silent pauses…with one child bearing the cross of a fever, quietly praying that the ride home would just go faster so they all can get some relief (which happened today, by the way…ironically on our way back from the Sacred Heart Retreat House).
THIS IS WHY.
In the summer of 2003, I didn’t understand. Mother Angelica held my hand, looked me in the eyes, and told me to pray. I said to another Poor Clare nun at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery that all I knew was that I wanted to teach. I didn’t know if God was calling me to be a sister anymore, but I couldn’t see how it was going to happen if I was sick. I knelt in the chapel at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Plock, begging Jesus to help me believe that there was a purpose for my life. “Iesu, Ufam Tobie” (Jesus, I trust in You) became my mantra for the rest of that pilgrimage to Poland.
Now…I get it.
My heart will always be Carmelite. I will spend the rest of my days seeking Him in the desert, but my contemplation will be on the lives of our Lord and our Blessed Mother as they are revealed to me here – exactly where I am planted. This little flower will give God the glory that is due to Him alone for the amazing blessings He has worked so perfectly in my life.
And I glance behind me, not with sadness, but with a smile…because He has been good to me. So very good…