NAS: I Want a Vacation from Vocation Talk

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Careers as a Vocation?
A. How do we know what God’s call is for us if we are focused on our careers? B. Is it appropriate to focus on that career and then get married/enter religious life later? C. Or maybe the call/vocation IS the career and you could be single?

Oh, here we go again. Another vocation post. 🙂

You can also check out Jen and Morgan and the other ladies for very different approaches to this topic!

A. Prayer. And possibly doing your actual work, especially if your career is somehow connected to God (like mine).

B. Sometimes. Just ask someone who wanted to enter a religious community but was told she had too much personal debt. True story. StorIES. Plural.

C. FALSE QUESTION. THEY ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

Dearest Girlfriends,

Let’s have a heart-to-heart. The above questions, honestly, honey, I find them silly. Now, I know I don’t have a theology degree or official credentials, but I do have some life experiences and an amazing person who’s sort of my unofficial spiritual director (she has the degrees).  And she said something that affirms the ideas behind the snarkier draft of this post (which you will never see! thank goodness). But as Auntie Seraphic has counseled me, as one of her many readers, to be more joyful, I am going to write to this topic much more gently than I had intended. Here is what my editor of life said:

“Vocation is not about what we do, but who we are.”

Who are we? Children of a God who loves us; he gave us the world; and one day he hopes we come back home to him. That’s just one way to phrase the universal call to holiness. Or our “primary vocation.”

What we do on Earth certainly can either lead us to him or away. Sometimes our paths to him are custom-mapped and come with particular graces of sacraments or professed vows: the call to consecrated religious life in particular order/seminary or a call to marriage to a specific person. And yes, what we do for our careers—including mothering or wifing in the home—can certainly help us know God, love him, serve him, and one day be in Heaven with him.

But somewhere along the way we got the idea that discerning our vocation is a top-priority mental and spiritual exercise, and what particular “job” we do as people is how we are to define our lives. And you know what? I get it. I, a Type-A person, haaate uncertainty more than anyone we know. But you know,

“Faith requires uncertainty.”

Think about it: if we discovered the answer to the mystery of God in choices that might not happen until ten years down the road or why we were given a desire but it was left unfulfilled, why would we need faith? We’d be certain about our futures. If we are uncertain about them, but still living and loving and trusting in God—then we’re having faith.

I am starting to believe more and more that God is most happy that we are doing things for His sake, regardless of what they are (job, marriage, sisterhood, etc.). It is us making ourselves unhappy because we think there has to be one right answer or that the grass will be greener in the other vocational yard. But…

“Our very existence is God’s call for us.”

So to ask how we can “hear” God’s call for us while we’re focused on an earthly job at an office, site, or even the home becomes rather silly. Sometimes God communicates big ideas to us in language we readily understand. Sometimes, he’s just communicating: ‘keep doing what you’re doing at that there school/hospital/publishing house.’ If we feel like we’re not hearing him, the issue then isn’t that he’s not speaking our language—no, he always does—it’s that we’ve put proverbial cotton in our ears.

And of course it can be appropriate to focus on a career and enter into a secondary vocation (for that is what marriage and consecrated religious life technically are, subject to our primary vocation). No one should be making broad proclamations or decrees in that regard, because each person’s living out a sacrament or vows is going to be unique to him or her.

Finally, God’s will for you is to be you, his child, in the here and now, knowing him, serving him, loving him, working toward being reunited with him. You could be single and working. Or single and sitting on your mom’s couch watching HGTV. The latter isn’t the best way to live out God’s will, but hey, the economy is awful. God understands. Or, you could be married and have a job. Married without a job and no children. Married with a job and 17 children. Married with no job and children. Taking care of elderly parents solo before entering a religious community. Working a job-job and being a consecrated virgin.

Now, I know (and am guilty of it too), that we can angst a lot about having a desire for one particular call to something to do, but girl, it’s just not happening. Yes, it is true that we or other people can make choices that mean we may not get married or have children or get to enter the religious community. But you know what? That’s not a “missed vocation.”  Because why?

God’s will is never thwarted.

Think about it. If we presume humans have the power to alter God’s will for us and his movement in our lives, then we don’t have a very powerful God, do we? Faith, not angst, will help us eventually understand maybe just a fragment of the mystery of God’s beautiful design for our lives.

For now, let us pray for the grace to bear the sacrifices required of our vocation, whatever that may be, and ask for a cheerful heart and soul that rejoices as much as God does, simply because we are his.

Sincerely,

Britt

7QTF: Quotes to Think About God’s Will and/or Plan

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Head over to Jen‘s to read the rest!

Earlier this week, the NAS topic of “Despair” prompted some interesting reflection on God’s will and God’s plan. You see, I’ve never been one of those women to say “It’s in God’s plan for me to be married,” or “I guess it wasn’t in God’s plan for me to be a mother” if I’m barren at 45, having made choices that got me there.It sorta makes me feel like this guy:

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I mean, if everything is biologically okay…I could very easily just go down to the bars during every cycle’s Phase 2 until I get pregnant and become a mother. Because to hear the phrase “God’s plan,” I get the image of God at conception with a checklist, ordaining what will happen “College – Y; Married – Hmm, fill in ‘left at the altar’; Motherhood – N.” I call this Theory 1.

The image I prefer is, because God sits outside of time, at the moment of conception looking at my life and saying “Oh! So she followed my promptings and went to that college, but ignored her guardian angel’s whispers and went ahead and put down a deposit for the wedding to that shmuck, and now she’s not a mother.” This is Theory 2.

I am a big fan of Theory 2, but as I do not have a theology degree, I had to find out if “God’s plan” was in the Catholic canon. So I asked someone. The simple answer: it’s a mystery! The slightly less simple: it might be a dialogue between what God calls us to do and what He permits us to do. It’s still a bit discomfiting, so my Editor shared with me some quotes (and I’ve added some of my own) to help me think about it. The essence of her message is that it boils down to faith. That even if you stay home every night washing your hair, you have to have faith that if God calls you to marriage, he will make the opportunity so.

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“We are created by God, for God, to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and one day be in union with Him.” – Essence of the Catechism

This is God’s plan for every person, and what I believe should be the primary focus.

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 “I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.” – Bl. John Henry Newman

Oh, so we may not know our individual mission in this life, even!

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“It’s not the penance we choose, it’s the penance we live.” – Editor

God will give us desires for good and holy things, but just because they’re there doesn’t mean we’ll get them. Perhaps unknowingly going through life expecting to be a mother and not ending up one is that penance.

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“Do you want the consolations of God or the God of Consolations?” – St. Francis de Sales

Oooh. That’s at least three Holy Hours right there. I can’t have both? [Hint: it’s the latter, which is harder to truly desire.]

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“Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves..” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

So we have to allow ourselves to totally sublimate ourselves to God, and when we do, we will embrace what we’re asked to do—or not do.

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“It’s like a GPS! [B.L. – like a God Planning System?] You might make a wrong turn, but it re-maps you. And! It doesn’t yell at you. You have to trust that it will get to where you should be [with God in Heaven].” – Editor

This is more like it! Allows for free will, but still keeps the idea that God had a best route in mind—even if it was the one that won’t avoid tolls.

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“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

Maybe if we wake up at 45, childless, we will not be sad, because we have faith that we were led to the right life for us.

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NAS: The Depth of My Despair

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Welcome back to the Not Alone Series! Check out Morgan and Jen for more perspectives from fellow single ladies!

This week, we’re getting real by sharing the Drama of Our Discernment (TM Auntie Seraphic). When I first considered this question, I felt real pleased with myself, for I don’t feel like I’ve truly despaired being single. Frustrated—yes. Upset—of course. Snarkily misanthropic—a lot! But never actually lost all hope and confidence that I would end up married. To me, marriage is something that two people enter into freely—if I want to be married, I can be. I just need to put myself out there, live a good Catholic life, and someone eventually will want to make me his wife.

What gives me hope is seeing marriage to a man as a choice, built upon a series of smaller choices throughout my life. I know there are advice-givers in our community who believe in the “missed marriage vocation” concept—that through the world’s brokenness women whom God called to be married are not. But as I wrote about my personal belief that debunks the “soulmate” theory [Part 1, Part 2], there is no one person we are “supposed to” end up with, but don’t because of free will choices made by him or hiring managers. So I actually do feel confident that if I keep meeting people (I personally know success stories from Catholic dating sites, Catholic Young Adult groups, and even Match.com) and keep being the wonderful woman God calls me to be, I will be married. Plus, I pray. That whole mindset gives me hope.

BUT.

I do despair. The issue that freaks me out the most—to the point where I really have to consciously control myself so I don’t blow up at friends or potential dates—is never becoming a mom. Motherhood is the vocation I despair never having. Marrying late is one thing—I know a handful of women who have and they are very happy—but only one managed to birth children. I fear that if I marry late, my mom won’t be around (or around, but not aware) by the time I might become a mom. (She was on the scary side of 35 when she had me and my twin brother). I fear that with all the crazy restrictions, waiting periods, and challenges of adoption, that my husband I will never become parents. I fear that I will have problems or miscarry. The fears are so deep, that I get anxious, and when I get anxious, I tend to do drastic things and want to inappropriately speed up the process or mentally give up entirely. Both of those feelings fluctuate from day to day.

What light is there in the darkness for me? I try to remind myself that motherhood can be spiritual, and I should dote on the children presently in my life; that the Church allows for single adults to adopt; that probably thousands of men are turning 21 every day (he has to be able to buy me a drink when we’re out! :P)…But really, the best bet is prayer. God will relieve our burdens. We have to make sure we ask Him. And thank Him, no matter what. Plus, as the OrthoGals wittily demonstrate,  we’re not alone.  Railing against the delay of our vocation is as useless as railing against the plane that is quite rightly delayed. All we can do is sit back and let the ones in charge take control, and take comfort that we are safe and will get where we are going.

 

Soulmates: Part 2

Yesterday (link) I wrote about the three main problems I have with the “soul mate theory” and peppered vague references to today’s post, which tries to illuminate how Catholic teaching has helped me form the idea that romantic soul mates don’t exist. (Sorry. But it will be okay, I promise!)

The Beauty of Free Will 

Another one of those mysteries I think a lot of us will be excited to understand in Heaven is the gift of free will. If God is the Author of our lives and is outside of time, then how does it work if we have free will to ignore Him? Well…I think it is that He knows when we will ignore Him, when we will listen to Him, and the results of those choices. And this is just pure speculation: maybe if He sees us doing one thing at age 22, He’ll send the Holy Spirit when we need Him at age 37…only we won’t perceive it as such.

There’s also the issue of other people’s free will. What if you meet Antiochus on CatholicMatch, and he gives good email, seems like he’d be a “soul mate,” but he is far from you, and you can’t afford long distance and can’t mentally handle a never-meet-till-engaged type of relationship—and the hiring manager at a firm in your town uses her free will to reject his job application and you never meet? It is horrible to think about “right now, someone could be married to your husband” (When Harry Met Sally…it turned out to be true. :P). But that’s only if soul mates exist.

No, we were given the gift (love that it is that word) of free will to either cooperate with God’s grace or not, and God will cooperate with us however we choose to act. So if I freely choose to enter into marriage with Innocent and ask for God’s grace, He’ll give it to me. Simeon could use his free will to ditch me at the altar, and God will help heal my wounds. If we ever applied the “soul mate” test to those relationships, we’d be ignoring our free will.

The Beauty of Marriage

When we think of “soul mates” (particularly Catholics), we think of the men who are supposed to be our husbands and we will be married to them. Catholic Church teaching on marriage actually lends itself more to an image of man and woman coming together for God, not man and woman coming together because of God. This idea can be extrapolated in the way the Church thinks about marriage, and even in the wedding.

According to the “How to Have a Catholic Wedding Mass/Rite” things I read for work, there are some elements that really illustrate how marriage to a person is for God, and that making this sacrament doesn’t mean you are soul mates (I acknowledge you might feel like you become soul mates after the sacrament), or that if the groom is your “true” soul mate, this marriage will be happy and last until death.

  • Tiny, but important detail: For the entrance, the actual proscription is for the bride and groom to process down the aisle together. The escorting of the bride by the father is permissible (as is, of course another male family member or both the parents*, etc. And grooms can get a special walk, too). This idea symbolizes that the man and woman are entering the marriage together, freely.
  • The bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament! Think of that! It’s the only one! It reinforces the teaching that a man and woman give the gift of self to one another freely and consent to the sacrament. They are quite literally making the marriage. In a sense, because we are body+soul, when a marriage is consummated, the two do become one, but the souls are not inextricably linked by supernatural forces before.
  • Also, referenced yesterday (link), one of the ideas behind marriage is that, as a vocation, it is a way in which to enter union with God, get to Heaven, what have you. Your choice of husband can help or hinder your own progress or your husband’s progress on the way to God if you let it; but ultimately, you are responsible for the care and keeping of your own soul and together, the raising of little souls.  The sense I get from the concept of “soul mate” would mean that I ethereally “belonged” to someone, and if I decided on my own that a man was a “soul mate” and he was wrong for me in a marriage, I am not free.

The Beauty of Existence

In the opening pages of most Catholic catechisms, we are taught that we are “created by God, for God, to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.” Our bodies and souls were always designed to end up in union with Him. Our husbands may be the “vehicle” through which we finally encounter Him, but this other human being is not who we were created for, and union with lowercase-h him, is not our ultimate calling.  Each one of us is called to relationship and authentic Love, and it is ours for the taking. God is our actual soul mate.

Right now, I feel content sitting with the notion that my “one-and-only,” “one true love,” “soul mate” is not out there, does not exist. That attitude might belie a lack of hope in the future, but rather it is more comforting (to me, anyway) to know that with the help of God’s grace, I can find someone, anyone, who might make a good marriage with me, and not have to ever wonder if a good man measures up to the yardstick of “soul mate.” In a way, it is freeing to not have to worry if Cyril is my “soul mate” and potentially not marry him because I do not feel he is; or if I do, never worry that I will never meet him or that he will never grow up and get a job that can support a wife and children. And if I’m 43 and still single, it will just be another birthday to chat with God about why I’m at where I’m at right now. Is it me? Is it You? Is it Methodius, who is ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit to just propose already?

Whatever it is, I know that I am loved and have the opportunity to love my soul mate back, because He will always be right there with me.

*I could get all “feminist” on this issue, which is why I love the Church’s way and the meaning behind it, all the much more.

Soulmates: Part 1

The good news: We all have one.

The great news: It’s God.

The bad news: That’s it.

As a single woman, the notion of a “soul mate” does come up every now and then. I may have wondered to myself if I had one, who he is, where he lived, and how we would find each other. Like my romantic life is a game of “Clue” and I will either be validated or surprised by whether I’ve figured out it’s Athanasius* in the city of Chicago, whom I met because I caught his debonair hat off a gust of wind.

But as I thought about it more (part of my discernment-link), my rational brain came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in romantic soul mates, primarily because there is no official Church teaching, philosophy, encyclical, or what have you, written by people infinitely smarter than I that makes a solid case for one human being (who’s been called to marriage, natch) destined to be made for another human being. I also believe that there are some distinct problems with the defense of the concept and some validation in my point of view from the beauty of real teachings from the Church, official and everything.  See tomorrow’s post for that. Yes, I’m making you wait! But we’re Catholic; we’re used to it. 😉

Special note: I don’t mean for this post to judge or belittle the many lovely people married to wonderful-sounding spouses who earnestly believe in the concept of soul mates and point to their relationships as evidence. Perhaps in time it will be like those who proffer evidence of a miracle and some Church tribunal does proclaim romantic relationships as “soul-mated.” But until then, I’d like to enter the conversation as a single person.

The Problem of Privilege

I find that many supporters of the concept are already married, and this is a problem, because really, they’re coming from a place of privilege. Privilege meaning that they have had certain formative experiences that naturally (not negatively) limit the ability to understand or speak to the experiences of another group.

And married privilege is just that. Of course, you believe your spouse is your soul mate and couldn’t imagine being married to anyone else. He’s your husband! You chose each other (come back tomorrow) and know each other so intimately now, that of course you can’t imagine being married to Barabbas, who had a nasty addiction, or Mordecai, who was nice, but boring, or even Ephrem from Marketing, whom you loved, but he got transferred, and the long distance killed an otherwise loving relationship.

As a single person (especially a young one, new to Catholic thought), it can be dangerous to be told there is just one person for you.

  • A friend of mine believed this and agonized, “What if I never meet him?!?!” Well…that’s..silly..if God knows you have a husband (see below), you will meet him and decide to marry him. Oh, she meant soul mate. Then you will use God’s grace to make your marriage with another man as holy as possible. God isn’t arranging things so that our true happiness is solely dependent on only one person. It’s dependent solely on Him.
  • It also clouds discernment (link). “Lady Blogger Awesome says I have a soul mate arranged for me. But I have this job offer in this other city. Does it mean I take it and he’s there? What if I leave and it turns out he was here? How do I know I’ll find him again? And what if we’re old? Like forty!” For the sake of Nervous Nellies, let’s please can the talk that free will choices mean we’re not going to attain true happiness. We will, no matter what—with God.

These two issues illustrate that “soul mates” imply that your greatest happiness is found in one person, and if you end up with another person, you’ll have less happiness, so hold out for your soul mate, and you’ll know when you know.**

I do think though that there are ways in which people cooperate with God’s grace that helped them end up with a man of their dreams. Hang on till tomorrow, okay?

The Problem of Star Trek God

Probably one of the hardest mysteries to contemplate is that God is outside of human perceptions of space and time. That He is simultaneously present in the woman who’s just received Eucharist in India, in the company of the praying children in a school in 1962, and with His Son, dying on the cross. Because we know the basic fact of “God is outside of space and time,” people sometimes use this to make certain conclusions. One of which is that “because God is outside of space and time, the Author of your life, knows how you will use your free will [hang on], He knows whom you will end up with, post ipso facto ergo propter hoc, you have a soul mate.” Um. No.

Here’s why: While God is outside of space and time, can see everything, know our decisions (tomorrow!), this does not mean He has ordained that person to be yours in a romantic context, or that your souls will unite perfectly and you will have a perfect marriage, or that there was a soul mate, you didn’t pick him, and there was someone better for you and you’ll find out who when you get to Heaven.

What I believe is that because God sits outside of space and time, it simply means he sees all our decisions, how we cooperated with His grace (or not), and our earthly lives were being shaped by us and Him for that moment when we are called to Him and we our either welcomed into His company with the saints, are told we cannot see Him just yet and are told to wait in the vestibule (Purgatory), or we choose to reject his company forever and permanently. In the end, perhaps God knew I ended up with Malachi from CatholicMatch, who was only okay, but saw that Joachim in Miami was a good and holy man and may have made me happier, given me more children. Yet, at the “End” of the literal Day, I do not believe it matters whether my soul “mated”*** with Mal’s soul over Jo’s. What matters is that I and my own soul said “yes” to union with God.

Which leads me to:

The Problem of Yenta God

The very notion of a soul mate precludes the possibility that someone else could make you just as happy or happy in different ways. Or that one person will lead you to Heaven and anyone else will take over your entire decision-making skills and you will be led astray. Or that there is just one person whom you are called to lead to Heaven (marriage: visit tomorrow!) and if you don’t get together, he’ll end up in the darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. My goodness, the pressure!

But very often we don’t think of these issues when we think “soul mate.” We think about how companionable the person is, how his good qualities make him a good husband, and because by the time we end up married to him, we can’t imagine anyone else making us feel (this word very deliberately chosen) this good about ourselves and relationships with God. And it seems like to us that we were destined to be together, MFEO, and God wanted us with this one man.

Well, He does and He doesn’t. God wants us to be happy; He wants us to make choices that draw us closer to Him; He wants us to be in communion with other persons. But I don’t think God necessarily appoints Charbel to be matched with Hildegard. He may lead one to the other through promptings of the Holy Spirit and guardian angels, but he doesn’t have a web site of profiles that he divinely pairs together. There are two issues with thinking God arranges a soul “mating” between two individuals:

a.: It conflicts with the gift of free will (tomorrow, I love ya)

2. The very idea smacks of predestination, and we are not Calvinists. We’re Catholic.

A dangerous line of thinking here is that if you believe God has destined you for one particular man, say, Clement, and because you’re supposed to meet, fall in love, and have babies, God will make it so, and you have to do nothing. Unless Clement turns out to be the Fed Ex guy you see every day all along (and also just so happens to share your views on faithful married life) or that Ephrem from Marketing (and unlike in the 1st problem, you’d “know” to move with him) who is the only man you see because you live at your job, it is quite easy to remain single. Why can’t your future spouse be Boniface on the bus, whom you’re too shy to talk to? And oh, dear, what do you do if your “soul mate” uses his free will and does something that necessitates you end the civil part of the marriage and remain single the rest of your days? Does that mean you never had a soul mate?

Conclusion:

It’s like the old joke priests love to throw into the homily at least once a year: A flood is coming. A man prays to God to save him. A warning goes out that the waters are rising, to get to the shelter. The man stays. The waters rise, and someone in a canoe passes by to bring the man to safety. The man stays. The waters rise, and a helicopter hovers over to pluck the man from the roof. The man stays. And dies. When he gets to Heaven, he asks God, “Lord, why didn’t you save me?” And God replies “What do you mean? I sent you a warning, a canoe, and a helicopter!”

Dear hearts, God wants us to be with Him in Heaven, and that may mean we get there through marriages. He will send us only good things—and He will send many, especially if we miss Him the first time around! It’s just up to us to practice the art of discernment (link) and really listen to understand what He knows we have ahead of us.

*I think it’s fun to use random Catholic saints/historical people as my example characters. Any similarity to persons living or with God unintended and not deliberate, either.

**Please stop telling single people this statement. Instead, describe the feelings, the result of prayer, the comparison and contrast between this girlfriend and your ex.

***Whatever that means! There’s no single, solitary definition. Yet another Problem.

Discernment

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Click me for Jen and the other ladies!

Discernment is a tricky thing. Often we think of it as deciding which big step to take—usually regarding our state if life. “Am I called to marriage?’ “Am I called to the religious life? What kind?” “Am I called to the single life? Is that even really a vocation?”

I’ve never felt like I’ve seriously, actively “discerned” anything. I lived a typical young Catholic’s life life with Church on Saturday vigil and high school theology teachers all along the Catholic spectrum. But I was never taught how to “discern” or to listen. I prayed. I thought about what I needed to do that day and what I wanted to do later in life and who I am now and who do I want to become as a person.  In some ways, that is what I think discernment is.

My book editor, who is also kind of like a life editor,  has a question that I think supports that belief:

What am I called to do right now?

It is her belief*, and now mine, that discernment of one’s vocation is really about the call in the here and now, rather than focusing on big-picture questions (like should we adopt, do I marry this guy, do I enter this order or that one). And to me, that is discernment, really. Getting up in the morning and saying “Okay, what do I need to do today at my job?” and “How will I act?”

I think by practicing these small acts of discernment, we grow in our ability to truly pray and think about our vocations. As a bonus, we also extricate ourselves from the fraught worry of “not having a vocation” because we don’t know or can’t tell if God is calling us to be in Sphere 1: Religious Life or Sphere 2:  Marriage. And what are we supposed to do if we’re in that squiggly-lined Sphere 3: Singleness** that keeps trying to join the other two on the atom that is capital-v Vocation or is like a bowl that pours its singleton contents into one of the other spheres for good. What Sphere 3 actually is and does depends on who’s driving and who you’re listening to. (Hint: it’s not God. I don’t think.)

Our primary vocation is to end up in union with God in Heaven.*** Our secondary vocation is optional. We get a secondary vocation if we actually enter into it. We’re not required to have all three (Tertiary is something like our jobs, hobbies, etc.)

But, as I am ever the planner, I can’t just go through life not making decisions that will effect some kind of outcome. So I wonder—should I tour convents? Should I sign up for Catholic Match the umpteenth time? How do I discern this?!? Luckily, I had another question to help me, this time from a religious sister.

Where do You live for me?

At a sister’s profession of vows Mass, her spiritual director from college, a priest, said during his homily was that this was the question Sister Beata asked herself during her discernment. I loved thinking about my own discernment in this way. It really forced me to think about where I found God in my life—where He lived. Where could I find Him best? Where do I see Him alive most?

Pondering these questions helped me come to the thought that He lives for me in the witness of gift of self, most often in marriage. I have been blessed with the opportunity to see religious community life firsthand, to know about the forms it takes in other orders, and of course, to see Catholic marriages lived out. I also read A LOT about Theology of the Body, marriage, and communion of persons for work. Unlike working at a candy shop, in which one tires of the product and can’t stand it, continually indulging in the Catholic teaching on these concepts has only made me more aware of how this way of life is where I see God alive most and how I can help witness to Him to others—much more so than if  were to enter into the religious life.

But how else can you know? Once, when I conferred with my editor on what to tell young children what they can do during adoration, she suggested this:

Ask Jesus to speak to them in ways that they can understand.

Throughout my twenties (post-college especially), I started noticing more and more how I was feeling attuned to God communicating to me some answers—or at least a cheat sheet—to my big questions through the ways I best expressed myself: reading, writing, listening to music, and imagining. When certain notions flitted across my brain, I discovered that some had more staying power and more peace than others. One idea that consistently stuck with me was that I’d like to be a wife and mother. I’ve heard that God doesn’t put a desire on your heart that you don’t really want. The one thing to be careful of in discernment is to be sure that what you’re receiving is from God, and not your own ego. How do you tell? Your wants are things that will lead you closer to God.

*She is a former DRE with an MA in Ministry; mom to 8, eldest of which is only 2 years younger than I.

**Obligatory footnote: Plenty of people have plenty to say about the single life being a capital “V” vocation on the level of marriage. I have opinions, but do not feel jumping into the fray actually aids others’ discernment.

***Just wait until you see my post on Soulmates.