Seeds of my vocation ... a 9/11 Reflection

In many ways, the seeds of my vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace were planted ten years ago on September 11, 2001.  I've written before about how I became a peace activist on that day.  Over the past few weeks, however, as I've been simultaneously preparing to profess my perpetual vows on November 11th and reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 for a project in my ministry, I've realized that it's more than that.  Really, the entire scope and direction of my life changed that day.

Let's backtrack a bit.  In 2001, I was a 29 year old recently returned Catholic who had started getting fairly involved at my parish after ten years of actively trying to not be Catholic. On the job front, my bureaucratic job was starting to turn into the career I thought I wanted and yet, there was something missing.  I had great a great group of friends, but while most of them were finding spouses or buying houses or having children or some combination thereof, that didn't necessarily seem to be the path I was destined for.  Life was good, but I couldn't help feel like it could or should be something more and different.  I just had no idea what that might be.

Enter that fateful morning and the days and weeks that followed.  We all know how crazy the world was in those days.  We all share that common experience, and yet it seems to have touched each of us in unique ways.  In my case, my heart was broken open.  From those first moments I found myself simultaneously filled with compassion and worried about the future death and destruction that would (and did) extend to other parts of the world as a result.  I could see the writing on the wall that would become the wars on terror, yet as an American I felt powerless to stop it.  I experienced the brokenness of our global relationships and desired to bring peace to our troubled world.  Somehow.

So, I did the only thing I could do.  I sought out communities of support and peace and dedicated much of my energy and all of my free time to the cause of peacebuilding.  I did not yet know about Margaret Anna Cusack or the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.  I didn't realize that religious life was a viable option for young women anymore.  I had no interest really in such a radical shift in my life.  All I knew was that deep down, in my heart of hearts, my desire was to work for peace.

That desire only grew the next year when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Journeying with her through her suffering while simultaneously witnessing the suffering in our global community growing exponentially, my heart was broken open even more and the desire deepened until it became the only thing that made sense.  My experience of God shifted.  My relationship with God matured. My priorities in life became much more concrete and few in number.  In short, the entire scope and direction of my life changed.  And yet, I still didn't quite know what that meant.

Until that day when I decided to look into the crazy idea that maybe I should become a Catholic Sister.  Until the day when I discovered an entire community motivated by and dedicated to the deep desire to bring peace to family life, in church, and in society.  Here was my heart's desire, living in a community founded many years ago--no wonder I felt at home.  No wonder I am at home.

These past few weeks I've found myself wondering ... what if?  I do not tend to believe that things happen for a reason ... that's not really part of my theology.  I don't think that God causes x suffering so that y will happen.  And yet, I do deeply believe that every moment can be an opportunity for grace, a moment for God's love to break through into our world, which is really what happened that day when my prickly heart was broken open and filled with a love and desire for peace.

And so I pray.  For peace in our troubled world.  For peace in our hearts.  For peace in our universe.  I pray also in deep gratitude to my gracious God for the blessings of my own life and for the amazing gift of the discovery of my vocation in life.


Rose Ragai said...

Amen. Thanks for your sharing Sister.. I just came back from my Vocation Retreat today. Made decision but still need to do deep discernment. God bless you and your community. Let there be peace in this world.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Wonderful Rose. Blessings on your discernment.