Finding our joy ... living through rough patches

Tonight I was honored to be a guest, with about 100 other Sisters from a number of religious communities, at the annual Sisters' Appreciation Dinner hosted by the local Chapter of the Serra Club.  Last summer I shared my vocation story at Viva!, a retreat for young women in the Archdiocese discerning a call to be a Sister.  This wonderful retreat was subsidized by the Serra club.  Thanks to the subsidy and the support of the women's religious communities, the cost to attend is only $10.  For any readers who may be interested, the next Viva! retreat is June 30-July1.

Back to tonight, however, it was great to see some of my favorite women gathered in one place.  It was also nice to meet some of the folks who give their time and resources to help promote religious vocations, both to the priesthood and to religious life, here in the Archdiocese of Seattle.  In fact, visiting their website just now I learned that the Seattle Serra club was the first one founded in 1935!

We all of course have a calling in life.  The Church teaches that there are vocations to marriage, the single life, and religious life.  But I also know people who are quite obviously called to be teachers.  Or parents.  Or elected officials. Or artists.  Or some mixture of a variety of things. It's always incredible when you've known someone for a while, and one day everything "clicks" and they find their calling.  Who they are called to be.  What gives them joy, energy, and purpose.

I clearly remember that day for me.  I'd been dancing around the whole Sister thing for months.  I was still working at the City, moving my way up a bureaucratic ladder that, while I was good at it, did not give me joy, energy, or purpose.  Meanwhile, I'd been getting more and more involved in peace and justice issues through the church, and I'd started to think that maybe God was calling me to religious life.  But that just seemed crazy.  Me, a Sister?

Then one day, I was in the women's restroom in City Hall, when it hit me ... the joy.  I remember looking in the mirror, washing my hands, filled with joy at the wondrous possibility that I could become a Sister.  I could use my gifts to serve God and help transform the world.  I was literally bursting with joy and wanted to tell the whole world.  Instead, I was a good bureaucrat and went back to my desk to what seemed even more like drudgery in comparison to the joyous possibilities that lay ahead for me to explore. But I never forgot that moment.

Over the next few months thought, I did explore the crazy possibility with renewed hope.  At every step, this calling has seemed to make more sense as I've become more and more me.  Yes, there have been rough patches.  Religious formation is not for the faint of heart, for one thing.  Then there are the ongoing challenges with human institutions of various shapes and sizes.  Just because you've found your calling or discovered your vocation doesn't mean that it's all roses and moonbeams from there on out.  Even roses have thorns after all.  And anything involving other human beings (including yourself) is bound to be messy from time to time.

Sometimes, when I'm in a particular thorny patch of life, I think back to the promise, wonder, and even insanity of that moment in the City Hall restroom. I also think of all the people who have affirmed me on my journey as well as those who have challenged me on the way.  Maybe this is why I'm so grateful to know that there are people like the Serra Club out there working to support women and men exploring the particular calling that is the religious vocation.

I'm also aware of all those who make up the Church, as in the body of Christ, not the institution per se.  No matter what our calling, we all play a vital role in living out the Gospel as best we can.  Sometimes, it can be discouraging when our role is not respected, appreciated, or understood.  I find it helpful to remember that we stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, generations and generations of folks who have tried in their own way to love God and serve God's people.  It may not always be easy and each of us needs to follow our hearts and act with integrity.  But we are not in this alone.  Perhaps that's why the idea of the communion of saints is so important to me spiritually.

So tonight, I pray for all the people who make up our Church.  That filled with the immense love of the God who created us, drawn by the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus who became one of us, and open to the ever-present guiding of the Spirit we may grow together in love and act in justice and great love for the world, especially those that are living in poverty or oppressed in any way.  In joy, through the rough patches, together.  Amen. So be it.  Peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You never know how you touch someone...been following your Blog for quite sometime. You have helped me get through some of those rough patches with your sharing of your journey. God Bless you.