In a kind of tale of two paths “Dying and Rising: Discernment and the Pascal Mystery” S. Janet Gildea shares the intersecting lives of Casey and Annie.
Listening to Annie and Casey as they prepared talks for a young adult retreat, we all agreed that the process of discovering that elusive thing we refer to as “God’s will for my life” can bring opportunities to live the mystery of death and resurrection. As they reflected upon their deepening relationship with Jesus, both young women included their experiences of discernment. In each case, the journey included hills and valleys, dyings and risings.
Casey had gone off to college with a sense that “maybe God is calling me to be a nun.” While not exactly excited about that prospect, she kept an open heart and tried her best to live her Catholic faith in an atmosphere that was not exactly supportive. She dated and had the normal college life, finding it sometimes a challenge to defend her values and choices. In prayer on more than one occasion she felt clearly that religious life was in her future, but always with an overtone of resignation. It seemed the most difficult choice for her, but in her heart Casey was willing to proceed, even though it felt like dying to something essential. She chose a year of volunteer service after college, sure that somehow God would direct her to the right religious congregation during that time.
Annie also did a year of volunteer service after graduating from college. Returning from that experience she started graduate school and for two years immersed herself in preparation for a career in nutrition and dietetics. She had always assumed that after college she would find a partner, marry and start a family. But somehow that dream didn’t fit anymore. She missed the community life, shared commitment to service and the spiritual foundation of the volunteer program. She went along, developing her own career plans, but feeling uncomfortable with the trajectory of her life.
Fast forward two years. Casey and Nathan were married last April. They met early in her year of volunteer service and began a serious relationship that neither had anticipated. “Why did God let me think I was called to be a nun if my true vocation was to the married life?” Casey wondered in her retreat talk. She answered her question this way: Just the fact that I was open to religious life allowed me to witness to my faith with my friends in college. It also brought me to volunteer service which is where I discovered my true calling. What felt like dying led to an experience of resurrection as she found the path of her heart’s desire.
A college friend of Annie’s, with whom she shared the experience of a challenging transition to life after volunteer service, finally asked her directly, “Have you ever considered a vocation to religious life?” In Annie’s words, “It hit me like a ton of bricks.” Taking the possibility to prayer, the sense of loss and letting go of the post-volunteer experience yielded to feelings of renewed purpose and joyful hope. It was a definite “maybe” that spoke of resurrection. Now Annie is midway through her first step of initial formation as an Affiliate of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.
In this month that marks the end of the Easter season and the beginning of Ordinary Time, watch for the signs of dying and rising to new life in your own discernment journey. God loves to surprise us by bringing order to chaos and sprouts of possibility from the compost heaps of our lives!
Read the other articles in the June edition of E-Voc June 2014_evoc from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the call to come forth and re-create imaginatively.