Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 6: How did you know marriage was your vocation?

Charity

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Friday, October 10th, 2008 . . . I am thinking . . . about how it would be to be married and have kids . . .

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote this down on a sheet of daybook prompts. I was twelve. I can assure you that my hopes to be married had begun long before that day, though.

Growing up, I was absolutely, always, undoubtedly the girl of typical feminine fiber who adored romance and wanted marriage and babies, amen, from the time I was old enough to think about it with relative seriousness (and old enough to have desperate crushes, too, but that’s a story coming up in a moment . . . blush).

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Lena (who has a beautiful story of her ongoing vocational journey, by the way) was the one who continuously thought about being a nun. She pen-pal-ed with a nun (God rest her soul!). When we were children, she would garb herself in bedsheets and would have loved to live outside in a hut, Rose-of-Lima style.

This line of thinking never appealed to me. Marriage and babies, please.

From ages 11-14, roughly speaking, I had a few successive crushes on several altar boys/parishioners at our then-current parish. Some of them lasted for a good year or two (or three). One crush in particular was tall, dark, and handsome, approximately four years older than me, and totally fatal to my glasses-wearing self. It was the real deal. Although, more or less, I genuinely was striving to grow in faith and love of God . . . shallowly speaking, he was the reason I went to Mass.

Maybe he would look at me this time . . . Lena nicknamed him Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was because he was tall.

One winter Sunday, while all the parish kids were streaming outside after finishing PSR classes, my dad (with whom I was standing) and his dad were casually chewing the fat about where our respective families got Christmas trees. Before I knew it, he walked up and listened quietly on the conversation, offering the name of the place when his dad couldn’t remember. I nearly died with ecstasy. It was the closest thing to a conversation I ever had with him.

‘Twas not meant to be, of course (thank Heavens . . . no one remotely compares to The Dash!!!) but during that time, all I did was daydream about Mrs.-hood. And attempt to be productive with my life by writing stories, in which, of course, heroes and heroines fell in love.

Around the time I was fifteen or so, I sobered a little and realized I needed to stop frittering away my time (and heartstrings) on crushes and instead be at peace with where I was in life. I still wanted to be married more than anything, but I was striving to be reasonable. After all, I was fifteen, and by that time it had clicked that indulging in imaginative crushes were at least remote occasions of sin at that point in my young teenaged life, so for prudence’s sake, I should cease and desist.

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Me at 18! Yikes, flashback!!!

We moved homes, changed parishes, proceeded on with life. I finished high school at 17 and prayed a novena to St. Anne that she would help me find my future husband. Because, after all, I was done with school for the foreseeable future and about to turn the legal marrying age. There were a few decent fellows (one was noticeably devout and my age) at our current parish, plus the possibility that some handsome stranger would walk in for Mass one day. It was perfect timing.

I entered my first courtship (although it was missing some key factors of courtship I now know to be essential; it wasn’t our fault, we just didn’t know!) when I was 18; it was long-distance with a good young man, but ended when I was 20. Just like any relationship, it is heartbreaking to have something like that end after the investment of time and heart with another person. I made a lot of mistakes. Looking back, I see with undeniable clarity how very, very much I had to learn–God knew this!

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Me at 19

During that time, I totally consecrated to Our Lady. Immediately afterwards, I went through a period of regrouping, journaling, prayer–all the things that are perhaps natural to do in that situation. It felt like everything I thought I knew was turned upside down–in the sense that you come home after a long journey, and are tired and stunned to silence and just need to think.

This was when I went through what I consider intentional vocational discernment.

Up until then, I’d known what I wanted. But I hadn’t been silent. I hadn’t unclenched my fists. I’d been consumed with the desire to be married and to be a mother. I’d been inwardly terrified that maybe God would be calling me to the religious life instead.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote in an article that was published at OnePeterFive:

When I was a teenager, and when it came to considering the state of life to which God was calling me, I had strong, gripping hopes and dreams for what I wanted to do – but an even stronger, more gripping fear of letting my soul be silent. A fear of simply listening.

In my own imperfect way, I loved God and the Catholic Faith and was trying to grow in holiness…but I was, nevertheless, terrified of letting my soul be still, to the point where I could let go of my desires and wait to hear Our Lord’s voice telling me His designs for me. That might have required me giving up everything I wanted (that is, marriage and motherhood in the home). And that felt physically impossible for me at the time.

If I ever sensed a type of spiritual silence descending on me (whether it was in Adoration, at Mass, or in bed), I would panic and chase it away. I was so immersed in this fear of God’s will that, now, I can only imagine how worn and unhappy I must have been, without even realizing it.

I desire you to be a consecrated virgin. I ask you to be a nun for My sake. Fantasies of hearing those phrases ring out clearly in my soul were paralyzing. If I felt “a silence” coming, I would immediately begin convincing myself – “I’ve always wanted to be a good wife and mother. That means God gave me the desire from the beginning – that means it’s my vocation.” Essentially, I had my spiritual hands clapped over my spiritual ears.

That description is unfortunately very accurate. I was afraid. Terrified that I wasn’t meant to be married.

Being introduced to the Latin Mass, particularly Low Mass where silence reigns for much of the time, brought me into a “courtship” with silence and with liturgical awe of God. It was something of a gradual process, but my fears eventually died down and I began trying, on a regular basis, to make acts of perfect surrender to God’s Will. I can’t recall if I’d ever previously done something like that in the context of my vocation. Time and time again, I renewed my efforts to, in prayer, completely let go of what I wanted my vocation to be, and to tell Our Lord that all I wanted was what He wanted.

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Me at 20

I still had the same desires to be married, although they were calmer and softer (for lack of better words). I still noticed and thought about some great Catholic guys I knew. But I also took time, for example, to go out and thoughtfully look at the website for the Nuns at Ephesus and read about their spirituality. It was beautiful and entirely different from anything I’d considered before. I didn’t feel an urging to explore beyond that, but I made these kinds of deliberate acts to combat my old terrors of Anything Other than Marriage. In my mind, I termed this period of a few months as “living in the quiet.”

Now granted, I didn’t go and visit any communities; not because I felt repulsed by the idea, but because opportunities didn’t really open up, nor did I feel a strong stirring to go. I spoke to a priest about my journey over the past few months, including my desires for marriage, and he encouraged me to bring all my desires to God and prayer, to trust Him like a Father, and to be at peace. During this time, I was praying to St. Raphael for my future husband, but I also wondered if I should stifle any desire for marriage altogether so as to truly give God my interior silence as part of my discernment.

This brought me back around to another novena to St. Anne . . . already, it was summer again. I wrote a post here called The Rose (Or, Desires and Analogies), which was a pivotal “diary entry” in which I tried to express myself and my calmer, still existing desires for marriage, as well as my desire to give God my total “vocational openness”; and immediately after that, I also wrote about my novena to St. Anne and what happened on the last day:

At the end of my novena, I’d been given the gift of clarity to see that I should be giving my Lord what I have–and not emptiness. I saw that giving Him my desire for Marriage as an actual gift was not closing myself to His will; but rather, it meant trusting Him all the more with my life, my future, my salvation.

The relief and joy was palpable; it was a moment of true grace. I feel I can now embrace whatever God’s will is for my life, and also yet embrace my hope for the Sacrament of Marriage wholeheartedly, and to pray for my future husband, as I believe now there is one. There is no longer a contradiction between my two desires.

It was at this point that I was able to indeed embrace the hope of marriage as my vocation, having finally gone through the silence and surrender. My love and perception of marriage as a vocation was purified and distilled in a way it had never been before. Although my courtship with The Dash has matured me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, that time of “living in the quiet” and coming to these realizations through God’s grace was a time of unique and intense maturation that will always stand out to me.

And it was during these formational weeks that I first met The Dash and began spending time with him (and began gently, happily falling in love with him). The timing was something only Our Lord can achieve!

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And so, now I’m here.

The Dash and I have been blessed in our courtship for over a year, and Our Lord has used this wonderful man in so many ways to enrich, improve, and support the woman I’m still becoming. He truly is my best friend and I’m immeasurably blessed by his heart and his virtues every day ❤

18-21 were chiaroscuro years; up and down, adventurous, intensely formative. To be 22 and to have been blessed with the graces necessary to make that surrender and then be showered with gifts beyond my imagination . . . it’s a sweet and precious place to be!

However, the surrender doesn’t stop. I’ve learned that, just because I made acts of surrender way back when, I’m not exonerated from the need to do so now, in countless situations. Just because I’m peacefully assured that I am being called to marriage doesn’t mean I’m still not asked for daily vocational surrender. Surrender in the little things; surrender of my selfishness. Sometimes that is far harder to do than just surrender my ideas about my vocation!

One of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary (Our Lord is the one speaking) sits on top of my desk, and has done for years:

Entrust yourself completely to My will, saying, “Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me.”

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A recent haircut . . . it doesn’t happen often, so a picture was in order 😉

I pray that I will be able to surrender to the Will of God more perfectly with each day that passes, especially now as I wait to enter the vocation of marriage. Again, it is a sweet place to be.

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