My ‘blog conscience’ has been on me to post more; she knows who she is. There have been two major decisions I have been wrestling with for quite some time of late. The first is in relation to taking life vows in our community (SSF) and the second in relation to exploration of a vocation to the priesthood. Part of my recent trip to England and Assisi was in part a time to get away from everything here to be able to ask those kinds of questions in a new ‘space’ as well as to remind me of part of the journey that led to these questions being asked. Did I come up with any answers people seem to be asking me; what heavenly insights resulted from my trip. I’m not sure I can fully articulate what these insights are; except for being a little too simplistic and say in the end you have to follow Nike and just do it. Well this was certainly the advice of one person who I spoke with on my trip.
I was also reminded of a short anecdote told to me a friend when I was pondering over joining religious life in the first place. He told me the story of a person waiting to be saved from a flood by God; a row boat, speed boat, and helicopter later and the person was dead. In heaven the annoyed person asks why God did not save him. God says well I sent you a row boat, speed boat, and a helicopter what else did you want. In other words Andrew was telling me that we can spend so much time sitting around waiting for God’s telegram and not enough time reading the ones God has already sent. While in Assisi I went to the church looked after there by one of our brothers, Tom. During the service while reflecting on the Gospel a man recalled this story, I had to have a quiet laugh to myself.
I have often said it before, I don’t necessarily want to be brother or a priest, but I think it is what I am called to be. I look around at my friends who are in loving committed relationships, who have children, or who have others aspects of their lives that appeal to me. I think we are all called to a certain way of life, or better yet – vocation; whether this is married life, single life, professional life or whatever, there is something that is important for us to do.
The idea of being in a committed relationship is very romantic. Whilst it appeals to me, and at the late hours of the night I sometimes long for one I know that this will never be a reality. The feelings pass and I move on and in reality these thoughts only occupy a small amount of my thoughts and feelings. The idea of having a child too is also a romantic one. The thought of being a parent of a child, watching that child grow and develop and mature and take on their own life is appealing too. Watching my friends with their son, or hearing of the birth of my great nephew, or seeing students in their final year of school and talking with them about their plans for after school all stir a part of me that wonders what it would be like to parent a child. Though these feelings too pass and also in reality do not occupy my mind at length and I move on.
I hear of the struggles of my friends and family who do have these things. Particularly those who find trying to juggle relationships, families, jobs, study etc with their spiritual life. Then, if it were a revelation I don’t know, I realised I have a gift to offer them. As a brother I have the opportunity to spend perhaps more time reflecting on our journey with God. I have the opportunity to have more time to pray, to think about some of those spiritual struggles we all have, and I have the time to share the ‘juggle’ with others who do not have that luxury. Non attachment to relationships and possessions which are supposedly the hallmarks of religious life mean that I can be there for those whose lives are given over to other callings of family, professions etc.
As a priest I would be able to offer another set of gifts be way of sacramental ministry. It is clear I’m not called to a committed relationship or the life of a parent but I would be able to bring the gift of baptism, eucharist, reconciliation, marriage as well as the ministry of the word to those whose lives are called to an equally gifted vocation of single and committed relationships and professions.
As I said, this is very hard to articulate. I think what I am trying to say is that I can share the spiritual journey with others when that journey becomes too overwhelmed by relatiopnships and professions. I can share the ‘spiritual parenting’ of young people who find it hard to share that journey with their parents. Perhaps what I can offer is to ’hold’ people through the pot holes of spiritual life – not because I have got that sorted myself (let me be the first to say I am far from it) but because it is the gift that God calls me to. Through the Grace of God my gift to others could be to just be, to lighten their load sometimes so that they can do what God calls them to do.
I’m not suggesting the answers to my questions have been answered but I at least feel as though I now have a direction to look for the answers in.