NFP Week 2016/NAS – Wedding Fun

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It’s two-for-one day here at the old blog! Linking up with Morgan and the rest with another July post. The theme is “wedding fun,” and what better kind of opportunity to also touch upon NFP Awareness Week! I mean, the USCCB’s graphic features a couple in their wedding clothes!

Sooo…weddings are fun. I love being brought back to the joy of Day 1 of PJ’s and my marriage, especially given that one of the most exuberant dance songs (Walk the Moon’s “[Shut Up] and Dance with Me) I danced to plays every day on the radio. And yeah. Ahem, other wedding fun [usually] happens, which everyone appropriately avoids talking about or alluding to, except for maybe some relatives of a certain age or nosy disposition who ask about when the grandkids are coming or helpfully do the math when you have a special announcement before the professional photos are even ready or show their disappointment if there’s not. But, as hilariously (and okay, slightly inappropriately) depicted on Jane the Virgin (about 3:20 in, after a very lovely and respectful portrayal of the celebration of the sacrament of Catholic marriage), it seems like maybe a given.

I’ll let you in on a married lady secret. For some newlyweds, when they hear this question, they could be thinking some different answers (which most would never dream of telling you): “Not tonight! [because I know my cycle, and yeah, it’d be a miracle]” or “Not tonight! [and our serious/just/grave reasons are none of your beeswax]” or “Maybe! [because we’re taking the que sera, sera approach]” or “Hopefully! [because I know my cycle and tonight is the night!”]. They do this because they’re already starting their marriage with Natural Family Planning (or not–see the que sera, sera couples).

Prior to marrying PJ, I’d blogged about NFP before (see the categories), but from the perspective of a single or in-a-relationship or engaged-and-learning woman. As a woman practicing it, with a whole other person, my understanding and perspective has naturally been transformed. There’s “knowing” what you’re getting into, and then there’s knowing. Once you add another person’s heart, mind, attitudes, and behaviors into the mix, NFP is like advancing not just to another level, but advanced kingdom.

Heading into our wedding, PJ and I had to make decisions together, decisions I’d encourage any engaged or seriously dating couples to consider. And if you’re like me and have an NFP knowledge base or opinions, understand that you may have to shift or compromise (on what you discern) or (hopefully not!) open your eyes to a challenge to resolve before saying “I do.”

  • What are our NFP IQs? Having worked for a Catholic publisher and being an avid reader of Catholic lady bloggers and family life forums–I knew a lot. So when appropriate, PJ and shared what we knew (and I didn’t scare him off with TMI or “Look, enough people say this can be really hard. You ready for that?”!)
  • What method will we use? There are many! Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I had a pretty clear idea what I wanted to do, and having worked with the coordinator of my archdiocese on an app, really wanted to travel back to learn a sympto-hormonal method. I explained why, giving a brief overview of the other methods, and PJ was on board! What’s important is that if you don’t have a specific method for specific reasons like I did, that you and your guy both explore enough about the options. If you severely disagree, I would recommend finding someone through the Family Life Office for a couple (or the couple at your pre-Cana experience) to talk to–or even a priest to talk in general about how to manage the conflict. Just be aware that sometimes the diocese only offers one form, and in my estimation of the writing, many are fans of theirs and cannot objectively speak to others. And as the graphic above says “open the heart of your marriage”…to possibly changing–maybe not now or in a set time frame, but as circumstance allows. You do not need to have a forever plan.
  • When are we going to start? And to what end? I wish I knew how to underline in WordPress. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE NFP IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO. Sometimes some Catholics give other faithful a bad rap for extolling the virtues of NFP too much, as if it was mandatory, or worse, sinful because just/serious/grave  only means “there’s a war on” or “here’s the signed statement from the woman’s uber-Catholic doctor saying she could die.” So you two may decide on wedding fun without consulting a chart. But I do recommend learning a method, as a tool in your back pocket, for when you may discern you need to use it. One of the glorified benefits of NFP is communication. And this applies to engagement. You’ll have to talk about if you need  to start from Day 1, if you don’t care, as well as have to talk about whether wedding night fun should not happen (hey, it’s not a guarantee, and a perfectly valid and survivable choice!).  Another benefit is NFP can not just help you delay pregnancy, but achieve it! So if you both talk and agree you want to start your family as soon as possible, it might just take the guesswork or an agonizing monthly wait-and-see out of it. PJ and I talked about all these things, and more, and acted on the information accordingly. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

To conclude, I want to say that today is the feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. What must their wedding have been like? Scripture doesn’t tell us much about this couple; Tradition, a little. Like any bride and groom, I imagine they may have been full of hope and expectations and dreams–but could they have conceived of the notion that together they would conceive our Blessed Mother, a sinless child, and be doting grandparents to the savior of the world, Jesus? On that day, NFP was not a “thing” for them, but we can surmise that love, mercy, life, and a marriage of open hearts was. May they pray for us.

If you want the chance to win a ClearBlue fertility monitor, which is used in the sympto-hormonal forms of NFP, head on over to Simcha Fisher’s blog.

 

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NAS: Dating Fasts

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Most of us have heard about them, but have you ever done a dating fast? If so, what was your experience? If you haven’t, would you consider doing one? Why or why not? Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Throughout my single years, I’ve definitely had dating pauses. Some were just dry spells: no one interested me on CatholicMatch (if I was subscribing at that time), or the new people I met through young adult groups weren’t anyone God was leading me toward discerning a first date, let alone marriage with. But I do recall taking a deliberate break from dating. I suppose you could call it a fast. Unlike Lenten fasts, which so many seem to me are more about giving food or drink the power to be a torture device (I would only want what I was abstaining from more), this fast was not about giving up something good or neutral to be a sacrifice for God, but to cleanse myself of any disordered attachments, and to get some kind of clarity on what I was doing and why.

I recall the early days very vividly. I had just broken up with a guy about two months too late. After attending a Theology on Tap event (by myself) for the first time without the intention of “meeting” someone, but to learn and maybe have a pint of something tasty, a guy I’d made polite small talk with for a few minutes at my table followed me out to the bus stop outside the restaurant and asked me out. Flummoxed, I said I was going home to Florida for a bit (true), and he persisted to say “after?”, and it only took a few seconds to say no. I knew instinctively I should not go meet this guy for coffee. My bewilderment at this guy, an unspoken “what are you doing?”, was actually more a question for myself. “What are you doing?”

The past year had been fairly active for me–dating-wise. Only a couple stood out, but most ended within 5 dates. With the latest guy, I had thought more time (especially since we didn’t see each other every week), would help me feel more, but I realized after hurting him (by breaking up with him when he didn’t expect it) that we were not spending time together right, and none of the previous attempts at a relationship were spent “right”—and the only way to avoid getting myself hurt or hurting someone else was to first learn what would be “getting it right.”

For nearly two years, I didn’t date–mostly by choice. I spent the time learning about my faith, trying to develop non-romantic friendships, and be a part of a community. I learned a heck of a lot more about the beauty of chastity, the purpose of dating, what I wanted out of a relationship (not just a boyfriend–but a potential husband), and what I wanted the guy to want (not just a girlfriend–but a potential wife). It was an incredible feeling to go home after a young adult adoration night and tell my roomies about the joyous moment of growth: I had stood in a circle of people (including single guys) and did not use one iota of that time to fret over how I was coming across (dateable?), figure out how I could get them interested, or inwardly moaning that they seemed to be paying more attention to my bubbly friends than shy me. It was just a conversation, no more. I had lost the attachment. And for the most part, I was healed. My fast only lasted as long as it did because I was waiting to be sure that the reason I wanted to date again was “right”, and what’s more, finally knew what “right” should look like. My first relationship after the fast didn’t work out, but the whole process helped me be more judicious in who I did date and handle the relationship.

A dating fast–if done intentionally and for the right reasons–can be very healthy. It helps you discern not only your own motivations and desires and call, but also God’s will for you. Of course, like any fast, you can do it poorly (“I gave up men, but it’s a special occasion and I don’t want to be dateless, soooo…” or worse something like “I can’t believe I gave up dating. It’s awful. I hate it. I am miserable. I can’t wait until I can date again” every.day.). If you think something’s off about your dating life, consider doing a fast. It doesn’t have to be as long as mine–in fact, I’d argue that unlike Lenten fasts or diets, you shouldn’t start with a specific time frame, but see where the Lord leads you in this practice. If you need a guidepost for a minimum, use Jesus’s. At least 40 days in this “desert.” Or Mary’s–a 54-day novena. Or a summer or a year. Whatever is the time you discern God asks you to take.

As we all know, giving something up  may strengthen our detachment, help us be healthier, but doesn’t always lead to 100% perfect follow-through after. In other words, if starting a dating fast, don’t go into it with the assumption that the husband you’re still praying for will be there at the end, or feel that you’ve failed because you made mistakes you thought you wouldn’t repeat. And if you’re worried that maybe a dating fast at your age doesn’t seem sensible (believe me, nothing like being in your late 20s and just wanting to be married like yesterday, darnit), take whatever solace you can from knowing you’re doing something healthy and positive for you, the hope that maybe it can help clarify and purify the dating process, and the eventual joy from discovering what life gives you when you’re not busy with dude drama, but busy with your life: new hobbies, new friends, new spirit.

NAS: Loneliness

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We all have times when we feel alone. What are ways that you combat loneliness? Pray? Join a group? How can we encourage each other to stay positive? Thanks to Laura P! Please link up at Morgan’s, and say hi to Jen!
Confession: I could have used insights from this topic a few weeks ago. One day, when I didn’t have work, I had a sad. I do not for one second regret moving closer to Mr. Sweet, and he has been incredible, but such a life change (moving out of state) comes with its challenges. I was leaving behind what few friends I had still living in the Boston, leaving a great job with great people, and leaving a great writing community. Naively, I thought it would be easy: start working for a cool non-profit, join the writing group that meets in the town library, and find a group to make new friends. Well, the job fizzled into desperate part-time work at a bookstore; the town writing group in all likelihood disbanded, as no one has gotten back to me; and there is no easy way to make good connections. Once the heady days of early wedding planning, then the Christmas shopping rush with tons of hours all died down, I found myself in January with large chunks of time to myself, finally able to feel the loss of community.
It sounds weird, that I an engaged woman with a roommate and co-workers (not to mention a loving triune God and the saints) could feel alone. But there I was that Wednesday afternoon, trying not to cry on my way to the grocery store–the big excursion for that day. I think the truth is that anyone, no matter their state or living situation, can feel alone. Our problem is not so much that we are alone literally or figuratively (say, when a loved one neglects us emotionally), but that we have temporarily lost the capacity to understand that we are not.
What helped me that Wednesday night (besides cuddling with Mr. Sweet, some entertaining tv, and comfort food) was the good night’s sleep and morning clarity after. Writing this out helps. I am not alone. I have the triune God, Mary, and the saints. I have my parents, my siblings, and my friends. I have Mr. Sweet. Okay, so sometimes I have the demons whispering that I shouldn’t bother them at work or that they won’t understand or be much help. But those are lies.
The suggestions Laura P. put in her description are key. My goal is to be strong enough to get to a church for some adoration and prayer. To join a group. To ask if the lovely young mom/wife of fiance’s fellow Knight of Columbus wants a coffee and chat. To get that fellow writer at the store’s email address so she and I can start our own writing group. I can also continue to get back to my writing.
Hopefully we can come to accept the awesome truth that God made us for communion. Ergo, He would never let us be alone. God grant us the blessing to always be able to know this at heart.

NAS: Qualities in our Husbands

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What are the qualities and characteristics that you are looking for in your future husband? We have talked about what we don’t want, but it’s good to have an idea of those things that are important to us. Discerning religious life? This applies to communities, as well! Linking up with all the ladies at Jen’s. And visit Morgan, too!

How fitting that this topic appears on my future husband’s birthday! Happy birthday, Sweetie! I love you! Thank you for being all these things!

Patient.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I can be a little hyper and anxious sometimes. And we all know what kids can be like. Someone who knows how to calmly wait is worth is weight in gold.

Enthusiastic.                                                                                                                                                                                                           God wants us to experience joy and happiness. He gives us passions to pursue. Our lives our meant to be lived. I looked (and found!) a man who will bring that zest to our marriage and see our marriage as part of the excitement.

Thankful.                                                                                                                                                       When thinking about the type of guy I wanted to marry, I didn’t really think about a man who shows gratitude. Now that I’ve found my man, I realize how important it is that he is grateful for the blessings in his life–and what’s more, he shows it to, bringing it to our daily prayer. Sometimes I can be a bit cynical and negative, so it’s very good to find someone who balances that with appreciation and positivity.

Exemplary.                                                                                                                                                                                                                No one is perfect. But everyone has the capacity to set a good example. A quality I wanted in my future husband is that he models good qualities, someone who will show our children what it is to be a good man, good husband, good father, good Christian.

Respectful.                                                                                                                                                                                                               I’m sure you’ve all heard the adage to watch how your date treats his mother and sisters. That evaluation helps you discover how much he respects other people. When Mr. Sweet and I came together, I was so please to see not only how much he values his family and friends, but also how much he respects the faith and its teachings.

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Just.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Since we are all called treat each other in a Christ-like manner, it is fitting to seek a husband who exhibits Christ’s virtues. One of His greatest was his practice of justice. The head of a family should be in agreement with what is right and morally good, reasonable, and proper. Not only that, he treats people in that way. It’s more than simply be “fair,” but giving a person his or her due–even if that means consequences for his or her own good. 

Open.                                                                                                                                                             Not to knock the “strong and silent” type, but men who are open about their thoughts and feelings, their spirituality, their hopes and fears, are men I was seeking. This is not to say Mr. Sweet can be read by just anybody like a public library book, but he is open about those things with me. Is it bragging to say we are great communicators? When thinking about marriage, the rest of your life, you should look for a man who’s willing to share all of it. (Plus this attribute has an additional meaning of open to children, open to new things, open to changes if it makes sense for us and our future.)

Silly.                                                                                                                                                                       This characteristic goes with enthusiastic. In his zeal for life and finding the best in everything, he’s able to rejoice in the light-hearted. He cracks jokes, finds new ways to make me laugh, and makes time to find pleasure in this world, rather than treating our world or life as all serious, all the time. Finding a guy who knows when some silliness is called for will be a boon when you have kids.

Earnest.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A great husband is sincere and with conviction. He knows when sobriety, not playfulness is called for. A lifetime together will bring its challenges externally and possibly internally. I am glad to be yoked to someone whose steadfast, serious contemplation of difficulties will steer us through them.

Prayerful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   My faith is incredibly important to me. My future husband will be a man who leans on the Lord, trusts in the Lord, speaks to the Lord. Marriage is the vocation that leads us to Heaven. Prayer is our guidepost.

Handsome.                                                                                                                                                                                                    J/K…sorta. 😛 I have no qualms in saying I believe women should find their husbands attractive and desirable. I don’t mean that we should only use popular convention or superficial standards to evaluate potential suitors. I mean we should learn what is truly beautiful about a person and gain the sight to see beyond features and into the soul. And my guy is haaaaaandsome!

My man has many more qualities than this list, of course! My prayer for all you readers is that your men continue to shine for you, you find a man whose attributes light your way, and wherever God calls you to be, you are loved and led to Him.

7QTF: Summertime Happiness

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Linking up with Jennifer and the rest at Conversion Diary!

Last year Lana del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness” exploded on the radio. Sadness? in Summer?!?!? People looooove summer–especially here in New England. I’m the weirdo for loving winter and its snow and its bundling up. In the song, the sadness is about losing her fling (I’m guessing). But I get how sometimes people can be sad in the summer–too hot, it’s ending, or something else in their lives means it drags and everything annoys you. Like the sun is just too darn bright and cheery for too long of the day for too many days in a row (can’t we get some cool rain to sip tea and read a book by?), the bugs at the umpteen outdoor events are biting, and it just drags.

But this summer has been different for me. In the words of Pharrell: “Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break/I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space/
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way/Because I’m happy.”

Why?

[1]

I went to the ToB Congress, which inspired me to draft a couple different manuscripts–one of which is on its way to my editor. And “met” the popes.

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[2]

I went to NYC and saw a dear friend, met her new husband, and got inspired to write a 9/11 reflection that I am now shopping around to jumpstart my freelance career. Oh, and “met” Saint John Paul II.

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[3]

I got a much-needed break on my family’s cruise. Mr. Sweet got to come, too!

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[4]

I moved to a beautiful part of New England.

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[5]

I started working for a great organization that’s going to help the people in Haiti.

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[6]

I’ve gotten interviews to possibly work part-time and earn some extra money [update 9 am: at least one at a bookstore!], because

[7]

I’m engaged!!!! That’s right! Mr. Sweet proposed and I said “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” 😀  It was on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, which is just so special, because our first date was on the Feast of Mary, Untier of Knots, and the first “I love you” came on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was personal, intimate, special, and meaningful. There was no photographer waiting in the wings of some pretty public space; no flash mob; no Youtube video evidence; just me and my groom in the home we will share together after a 2015 wedding.

(for my fiance’s privacy, no headshots)

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I promise not to get too bridal focused on this blog! I want to remain committed to posting about women’s spirituality and issues. Yes, weddings and the sacrament of matrimony fall under that umbrella, so there might be a couple. So if you want a girly wedding fix, visit Stephanie at Captive the Heart.

NAS: Dating and Social Media

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Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Our lives tend to revolve around social media and knowing what’s happening in everyone’s lives. How has this affected your life? In your experience, has social media made dating easier? Harder? (Ex: not judging something you see about the guy you’re dating on Twitter/FB)

Fun, probably helpful hypothesis to start us off:

A greater percentage of the guys in the dating pool for young, single Catholic and Christian women have minimal, if any, social media presence/activity than the percentage of young, dateable men at large do. And this will make dating and living out an intentional relationship easier. In the admittedly small sample size of my dating past, I have mainly encountered:

–         “I don’t have Facebook (or Instagram or Twitter or whatever).”

–         “I hardly use FB, Twitter, Instagram or whatever.”

–         “Whether we are FB friends or not is a good indicator of where you stand.”

First, let me unpack that last statement. It is only from hindsight that I can tell you that if a guy you are dating (but not “official”) is on Facebook and does not request you or does not provide a climate in which you feel it okay to request him, then he is very likely not that serious about you. I was with a guy for three months who was on it, used it occasionally, but he never requested me, and I stupidly thought “Oh, we’re above that. We don’t need it.” Actually, it turns out, I did need it. A “need” not because I wanted to show everyone on my feed that I was finally in a relationship, but a need because if you are in relationship with someone, serious about discerning with them, and proud to be with them and unashamed about what they might see on your profile, then a declaration (after friendship) of “in a relationship” is a strong signal of one’s intentions and commitment to the other. In Ex’s breakup speech to me, he even cited that the fact we were not even friends should have been a sign all was not that great between us.

When guys hardly use social media, ignorance really is bliss. You have no idea if Mr. Last Saturday’s and Next Sunday’s Date is out, possibly with someone else. You won’t feel uncomfortable if your boyfriend says something really stupid or hotheaded that you’ll then have to explain to your family and friends. The guy who hardly uses social media typically likes to live life and be present. He also has strength and perspective so as to be above minute social drama. In not caring about trivial things, his heart can care about the more important things—hopefully you! (Note: if his lack of activity worries you, don’t consent to such fears. Simply talk to him and pray for trust.)

And the guy who never uses social media…well, while you don’t get the modern age’s version of love letters with a special Tweet or Vine from afar (if long distance), you do get a guy who might have a lot going on (hobbies and solid friendships are good and healthy). Or you might have a guy who sends actual, honest to goodness love letters, makes quality phone calls, and maybe even Skype chats. I’d only be wary if he isn’t online because has no connections outside of you (because social media can be a good way to keep in touch with others); tries to control your (appropriate) online behavior because he isn’t on it to monitor it; or doesn’t want to be held accountable because he knows he’d only use it for ill.

In other respects, dating in our online world can be hard, especially when you are privy to the profiles and presence of guy friends and “friends” (like, the regular Joe you talk to at Bible study or some such). You’re not dating him, but you might want to. You did go on dates, and while you can see you make better friends than discerning marriage partners, it still stings. This happened to me a few years ago. I was trying to get over a guy, saw on FB he was “out, out, out” and I wondered aloud “with who, who, who,” and then saw that same night a post on the wall of some new girl in our Bible Study about how she’d met someone, and I jumped to the conclusion the guy was out with her because previously he’d given her a ride to and discussed mutual love of a certain holiday and certain theme park. My progress in transitioning from date to authentic friend was set back because it was all TMI.

The moral of that story is not how it ended—he entered religious discernment for a while, left after temporary vows and gets married next month! (with God’s grace we are friends, but in a different way). And the woman met someone a couple years ago, got married, and is expecting a daughter in time for their first anniversary! No, the moral is that if I don’t practice emotional chastity and restraint with social media consumption, I can fall into negative thought patterns that seek to destroy, not build up, the relationships God wants me to have.

Now what about the guys who do post often? Well, I know a couple, and they fall into one of three categories: “here’s something funny, something religious, or something funny and religious;” “see how much I love my girlfriend;” and very rarely in my Catholic community, “I’m saying something stupid, hotheaded, or scandalous.” It’s very simple: don’t date the last guys and don’t look at their stuff. As cute or funny as they may be, if you don’t like how they are online now, it will only be a source of tension in a relationship with them. For the other types of posters, use this topic as a springboard for communication. Marriage, I hear, is essentially constant communication about everything. So get some practice now: how much usage is okay, what is okay to post, can I get veto power over certain posts, are either of us hiding things, are either of us sharing to much, are any of our actions making the other uncomfortable?

Social media doesn’t have to make dating harder. In fact, it can make it easier—there have been marriages made between forum posters, blog commenters, and I think even Instagram. But emotional chastity and emotional virtue (check out Sarah Swafford!) are the key to keeping social media and a dating life in check.

NAS: If I Discerned the Religious Life…

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Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Let’s all take a step back and pretend that God IS in fact calling us to the religious life.  While most of us feel called to marriage, it is important to see the beauty in all vocations! If/when you were discerning religious life, which communities interest(ed) you? What do you see as the positives of that vocation?

 

 

“Britt?
(Knocking: Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Come on let’s go and pray.
I never hear you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away—
We used to be best buddies
And now we’re not
I wish you would tell me why!—
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
It doesn’t have to be a religious sister.

 

Go away, Holy Spirit.
Okay, bye…
(Knocking)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Or consecrate yourself to give your all
I think a vocation is overdue
I’ve started talking to
the saints about their call—
(Hang in there, Joan!)
It gets a little lonely
All these empty rooms
Just watching the hours tick by-
(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)
(Knocking)
Britt?
Please, I know you’re in there,
Jesus is asking where you’ve been
I say “have courage”, and I know you’re trying to
I’m right out here for you, just let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?
Do you wanna be a religious sister?”
– Lyrics adapted from Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”

My discernment of the religious life lasted about as long as this song on two separate occasions, and was just about as casual. Once, in prayer, after meeting with the Daughters of St. Paul at an exhibit and failed interview to work for them, and then a couple years later when mentioning the momentary ping of “Hmm, should I do this?” to my temporary spiritual director. He rather quickly sussed out “No, not a true calling.” I think that’s because he could tell, what I now definitely can tell, my attraction was to the work they did, not to be consecrated to Christ as a mystical spouse who happens to do a particular work.

If I were not with Mr. Sweet and were not so convicted of marriage as my likely vocation, I would hope that what would be attractive about consecrated life is that very giving up of one’s “life” (career and possibly closeness with family and friendships if seriously cloistered) to be in active relationship with Jesus. And then the way in which I serve Him, my husband, would be secondary: contemplative prayer in a cloistered community, public apostolate in an open community, or a kind of hybrid (I think those exist—out in the world sometimes, but also with limits on relationships outside the community and focused on prayer/interior work).

There’s also another way to be a religious, but not professed to a community: to be a consecrated virgin. Much rarer a calling, consecrated virgins, to my understanding, profess vows to their bishop, have Jesus in Exposition in their homes, but have “normal” jobs in addition to service to their community. Kathy Reda in Boston, is a nurse.

Over the years and with some pondering, practical interactions with one community (a public apostolate) in particular, I believe I’d actually be more attracted to consecrated virginity than the other forms. While there are many beautiful aspects to living in a community, living as a hermit, being out in the world, or being in prayer but always exclusively devoted to God and His Church, there are also some aspects about each of those ways of life that for particular people, including myself, that partaking in them is not actually their path to holiness.

And that is what is positive in any vocation: God calls you to the path of holiness and expression of His love in the world that is right for you. God knows how you love Him and what would help or hinder your growth in that love. I believe that if you love Him enough but find some aspect of the call challenging or scary, if it’s truly where He wants you to be, He will give you the grace to know you can do it anyway. And what’s more, you will be confident that you’ve received this grace or not.

What is beautiful about the professed or consecrated life is that you are in a spousal relationship with the Trinity. to those who find it hard to understand, life as s sister or otherwise consecrated might seem rather one-sided—the woman is giving her all and not receiving anything in return, when in marriage, both spouses are giving and receiving love. But actually, I’ve heard that the brides of Christ do receive that self-donative love from God—they are brimming full of it. How gorgeous a sight—an imaging of God’s love from someone who received it directly.

The site Vocation Network has a really helpful series of articles—even quizzes on if you can hack the celibate life and what spirituality you are to narrow down a community. There are a great number of different communities to explore and research. God’s knocking. What do you say?