Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Sense of Being

I have known many people who have sought, lost, or confirmed their religious vocation. I have seen two very fine men, better men than I, go on to the priesthood.

I've also seen men and women that genuinely seemed to have a vocation either not pursue it or be ultimately discouraged from pursuing.

And I've also seen those who probably should not pursue religious life do everything in their damnedest to make sure they get to live their fantasy and find their reprieve. In all cases, these are all people of my generation.

Somewhere in southern New England there is a man who was drawn to rather unstable religious communities largely due to the internal war he was waging with his orientation. He eventually became involved with such a toxic community that he was, whether justly or not, tainted with their reputation in his local diocese. His hopes were so focused on being a priest he joined the Old Catholic Church to receive ordination.

There is a woman elsewhere who has bounced from Dominicans, to Cistercians, and now to the Benedictines. Her story has actually been featured in some PR material, leaving out the tangled web and serious problems with stability. She was prone to an almost fanatic mysticism that often suspended logic and reason in favor of the pseudo mysticism that flowered in wake of Vatican II, most especially during John Paul II's papacy.

There is a man recently ordained to the priesthood for a major New England dioceses. The first time we met, it was during a marriage preparation retreat. I bumped into him a few weeks later - he had flowers for his bride-to-be. I last saw him at a local monastery shop. When I approached him, he said we must have met during a priesthood discernment weekend. He vehemently denied having been engaged to be married until my wife came up and recognized him too. Whatever happened, he wears the scars and tenaciously clings to his new identity as a priest.

We all have our stories. We have all been shaped by things we largely have no control over. I have known two very good men who truly had a vocation and pursued it. Many more, however, have been caught in mire. Some watched their vocations fade away. Some clung to vocations they may not have had for reasons only they know.

Is this the failure of processes designed to assist with discernment? Is this declining state of religious order? Or is the desperation to find some sense of being at all cost? Only God really knows.

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