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I am going through a confusing time right now.

I am ashamed to admit it: I am afraid of making sacrifices. Lately when I have been thinking (not praying) about my vocation, I find myself thinking "which way of life will allow me to not sacrifice so much and still be a Christian." Not in those words exactly, but that is where my thinking, taken to its logical conclusion, leads. The way I actually say it in my head makes it sound less ridiculous. But it is no less ridiculous. I do not feel attracted to the sacrifices of married life at all. I am attracted to the sacrifices of religious life ... but I still would rather not make them.

I have been looking into different more middle of the road communities. They have all been beautiful so far. I have felt very relaxed and not at all nervous in these communities. On the other hand, I have also experienced this definite feeling of: "So, this is it?" I found myself ... disappointed. Disappointed that there was not more silence, more observance, more decorum.

These communities have everything I said I was looking for in religious life. And yet there was that sense of "lack."
So do I not know what I want? Is what I think I "want" just symptomatic of an incorrect attitude towards sacrifice?
Or is God calling me to the religious life I CAN live as opposed to the one I am attracted to?
On the other hand ...
when thinking about living your life in a certain community, shouldn't your heart flutter a little? Even just a little?

Sigh. I am confused.

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[quote name='Sister Marie' timestamp='1284226365' post='2171891'] Now, however, I wish I had silence because it would be easier than some conversations that happen in community. We are human and so

[quote name='MithLuin' timestamp='1284332351' post='2172396'] My sister went through a long period of discernment (sometimes on again, off again) that meant she visited various communities that...did

I am going through a confusing time right now. I am ashamed to admit it: I am afraid of making sacrifices. Lately when I have been thinking (not praying) about my vocation, I find myself thinking "

In The Arms of The Lord

It's so nice that you posted about this; I was just talking today to another on here about the sacrifice of religious life, and just a couple of days ago I had talked to a priest about this. I am also discerning, and may be entering a cloistered community next spring.

Very early in my discernment, while researching and contacting communities, my look at the religious life was very romantic and I don't think I had any thought about the sacrifice. I am a recent convert of just about two years ago, and at the start of my discernment I was also just learning about my faith and growing in my relationship with Our Lord. I had not known really about true love. The sacrifice and the radical self-giving I did not understand at this time. The more I came to know the love of Jesus; the more I came to know about the sacrifice of self; what love truly is.

I understand what you are saying about the sacrifice and the nerves, as I find that I have a lot of anxiety at times about making this sacrifice. This has caused for me many doubts about having the grace for religious life but through this the desire is so strong. I found also that being open about this to Reverend Mother and Father, I see where the source of this anxiety comes from; making this surrender.

I see the more the heart is touched with this divine love, the more it desires to give to the One who gives this love. Feelings are changing all the time, and sometimes they can be very overwhelming. I read also about your "so this is it" and it seems that beyond your feelings there is a longing in your heart to give more. I find that though this anxiety can be quite heavy, there is this longing so deep within that desires this sacrifice so strongly, to give all to the One my heart loves. Is this perhaps something you have experienced? Perhaps also to contemplate Our Lord in the garden; to imagine all that He was feeling, but that strong love for us all and the perfect desire to accomplish His Father's will was so much. Certainly we should not act on feelings, but to make an act of the will with love and constant trust in Jesus.

I am praying for you! Please do the same for me.

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I understand the question of sacrifice as well ...

I guess I would look at the communities that you have been discerning with with one question in mind. Will any of the communities lead to my sanctification?

If the answer is no -- then maybe they're not the ones for you.

Mind you -- I'm not saying "find the most sacrificial, austere, poor, who fasts 5 times a week etc etc etc" community either. There's a balance for ourselves. And -- what would sanctify one person will not necessarily sanctify another. You may very well find that one of those "middle of the road" communities does have the right combinations of factors in them to sanctify you. And *maybe* that's really what you may be shying away from. I dunno -- it was just a thought.

Praying for you while you continue discernment, and I ask for your prayers likewise,

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[quote name='Lilllabettt' timestamp='1283970594' post='2170105']
I am going through a confusing time right now.

[snip]

I have been looking into different more middle of the road communities. They have all been beautiful so far. I have felt very relaxed and not at all nervous in these communities. On the other hand, I have also experienced this definite feeling of: "So, this is it?" I found myself ... disappointed. Disappointed that there was not more silence, more observance, more decorum.

These communities have everything I said I was looking for in religious life. And yet there was that sense of "lack."
So do I not know what I want? Is what I think I "want" just symptomatic of an incorrect attitude towards sacrifice?
Or is God calling me to the religious life I CAN live as opposed to the one I am attracted to?
On the other hand ...
when thinking about living your life in a certain community, shouldn't your heart flutter a little? Even just a little?

Sigh. I am confused.
[/quote]

That feeling of "So, this is it?" is something I've felt in my discernment as well... and as silly as it might sound, I was even disappointed in myself for feeling disappointed. [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/brickwall.gif[/img] However, I think for me, I just needed to dig a little deeper. I found a community that I absolutely adored, definitely one I would call "hardcore", especially in regards to the penitential life. Yet, as much as I so loved them and felt a deep peace about their semi-contemplative life... there still wasn't something quite right for my vocation in regards to that specific spirituality. However, when I found my future-community there was that sense of peace, but at the same time, (as much as I [i]hate [/i]to admit it) I worried that I was missing out on something. That I was "settling for less". (Don't hate me, ds... :tomato: :sweat: ) [size="1"]That one day, I'd miss out on having the stigmata... :smile3: Aaahaahha... sorry, just kidding. [/size]

I too thought, "[i]So.. this is... It?" [/i] Along with, "[i]So... I won't be wearing a wool habit, doing without heat in the winter or air in the summer? So... I won't be having the Traditional Latin Mass or the 1962 LOTH? So.... I won't be living this extreme life dedicated to embracing Lady Poverty is such a radical way'? So... I won't be living my life like those crazy-holy Saints we read about in the Lives of the Saints, sleeping on wood plank "mattresses", fasting at least three days a way, getting up in the middle of the night to chant the Hours, etc?[/i]" And when I thought about these things, I really felt rather stupid and ashamed for thinking in that way. I felt like I just gave "The Hand" to God or something... as though what He [b]was [/b]asking of me just wasn't "good enough". (I am NOT saying this is what you're doing, Lilllabett -- just what I know [b]I[/b] did. :paperbag: I know I can be a snob at times, especially in regards to liturgical matters. Sometimes I need God to do this to me: [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/hardhead.gif[/img] That tactic seems to work well with me. Hehe.) When I spoke about this to my spiritual director, he said it sounded like something he calls, "Competitive Orthodoxy" -- kind of like the mindset of Catholics that completely reject Vatican II, if that makes sense.

Yet, in prayer, Thom's famous words kept coming back to me, "[i]Grace builds upon [b]nature[/b][/i]." (Like an oncoming train that phrase was. <_< Haha!) The more I learned about the Dominicans, especially "my" Dominicans, the more at ease I became... the more I could see [i]how [/i]and [i]why [/i]God was calling me there specifically. Things began to fall in place quite naturally. I could see that [i]this [/i]community would lead to my sanctification and not the self-destruction of my very nature. I would have the freedom to become more myself, to grow within my nature, and to be aided by grace so that one day (God willing) I'll become a saint.

And well, to say the least, now my heart's a flutterin'! [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/nun1.gif[/img] (As is my stomach... :hehe2: )
























[size="2"]So... could I interest you in checking out some lovely Dominicans... :rules: <-- just pretend it's the old :deal: emoticon. :whistle:[/size]

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[quote name='Lilllabettt' timestamp='1283970594' post='2170105']
I am going through a confusing time right now.

I am ashamed to admit it: I am afraid of making sacrifices. Lately when I have been thinking (not praying) about my vocation, I find myself thinking "which way of life will allow me to not sacrifice so much and still be a Christian." Not in those words exactly, but that is where my thinking, taken to its logical conclusion, leads. The way I actually say it in my head makes it sound less ridiculous. But it is no less ridiculous. I do not feel attracted to the sacrifices of married life at all. I am attracted to the sacrifices of religious life ... but I still would rather not make them.

[/quote]


What kinds of sacrifices do you mean?

I have come to find doing things for others, especially loved one, to be joyful, when done as an expression of love, with a smile. I know some years ago, it felt against my nature to do a lot of things at home and at convents. I was having more problems with pride, selfishness and laziness. (Though I have some health issues, too, so I'm not sure how much was from that, too.) But really, coming to learn about God's deep love for me, and learning to really, really love others and God, I understand sacrifice as acts of love. They have meaning. They express my love. Not to say it's not sometimes difficult to put myself aside and do for God and others. That's difficult for our fallen, human state. But with time, prayer, love, growth and maturity, it gets better.

I don't know where you are currently at with all of this?

Edited by JoyfulLife
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Wow - oh wow - oh wow. I was just browsing through the newest posts and came across this one. I had no intention of replying to any of them until I had read all of the other threads, but this one just grabbed me because it is SO what I have been going through for the past three months. I didn't even want to write about it on my blog because it seems so shallow and I thought I had gone past it, but no, it is still there.

I love the term 'competitive orthodoxy' too although I might never have thought of it like that. First, the fear and anxiety about sacrifice, yes, of course, that is common I am sure. On the other hand, there is also the desire (if one is going to sacrifice at all) to make it the biggest and best and most traditional sacrifice possible. And as for the stigmata and other graces, well, don't be embarrassed, because which one of us (unless we are one of the truly humble ones, and I am not) doesn't fantasize about being so holy and so loved by God, that He graces us with something, anything, that shows the world just how special we are? Well, maybe I am the only one who feels this here, but I don't think so. Even St Ignatius wondered if he could be more holy than St Dominic or St Francis! And I don't think it was pride that made him feel this way.... if one is going to do something, then it only seems right to do it to the best of our ability, and perhaps most of us are insecure enough to wonder if we are doing this, hence the desire for a little sign from God. Of course, I could be wrong and it could all be spiritual pride, but even if that is the case, we are human after all, and God will just have to help us tear that weed out.

Like LC, I adored my last community and thought it was perfect. It was so trad that we kissed the floor and did all the old penances etc. I thought I would never leave there, but God had other plans and I had to leave. It broke my heart but I kept telling myself that God does everything for the love of my soul. The community I am discerning with now is so different, and at first I was appalled that God would send me there (did He even know what He was doing?).

The formator (Novice Mistress) and I had some major disagreements (I know, isn't that terrible of me?) because she said I was too rigid and conservative in my attitudes, and I worried that she and the community were too liberal for me. I think I actually felt smugly superior to them without realizing it. I slowly came to see the great depth of love in the community, and the very fact that the formator would even put up with my stubborn and opinionated attitude attests to the charity and patience she has. I also realized that the community is trying to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, and that if they had not been the way they were, then they (like all other Australian Carmels and most US ones) would not even have considered my vocation at my age! When I first contacted them, they said I was too old, but asked me to keep writing to them. Over time, as they came to know me and as they let the spirit guide them, they ALL changed their minds and voted unanimously to let me try. I wanted them to come in a package of my own mental designing, but they were working on the interior, not the wrapping.

It took the full three months of the visit for me to even begin to understand that God was working on me in ways that I couldn't see, teaching me humility and charity by using my own spiritual snobbiness against me. There is a great little fairy tale called King Thrushbeard that I have often thought represented my journey to Jesus, and obviously it isn't over yet. In the story, the haughty Princess scorns every royal suitor for her hand and the last one so much that her father forces her to marry a beggar instead, just to humble her. She goes through all kinds of really humiliating experiences as the beggar's wife until the end, when the beggar reveals himself to be the very King she had scorned so badly as a suitor. I have been through so many truly humiliating experiences in the past three and a half years of discernment, and yet I can see it is just God's way of bringing me closer to Him.

So, yes, I identify with the fear and anxiety, and with the feelings of 'So, this is it?' The greatest sacrifice of all may be in not getting everything we want in the way we want it. After all, in the Dark Night of the Senses, the passive purgation is when God purifies us of everything that we want exteriorly. Self-will doesn't die easily.

Thank you for starting such a neat thread, Lillabett, and everyone else for being so honest.

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I just wanted to thank all of you for your posts in this thread. They have been very helpful for me to read. :) This is also something that I've wondered about - feeling like I'm cheating somehow by discerning with a middle of the road community instead of a more stringent one. Everything just feels so easy compared to my past experiences with Regnum Christi. I think in the long run it seems easier to me probably because it comes more naturally, which would make sense as a better path to sanctification. Of course I still have to constantly remind myself to just take a deep breath, calm down, and take each day as it comes, trusting that God will manifest His will to me in His own way and His own time. :)

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When I was discerning, I honestly had fears that I was choosing an active community for the wrong reasons. It seemed to me, sometimes, that I was taking the "easy way out" and I wondered if I wasn't truly called to be cloistered and be more sacrificial. However, the more I thought about it, and the more I prayed about it, the more I understood that whatever God was calling me to would be the best for me. Obviously, I am not entering religious life, and there are times where I wonder if I gave up too quickly, even now. But I truly feel that entering religious life would not be good for me because of my illnesses and God has confirmed that through communities telling me that they are sorry, but they cannot allow someone with my illness. I recently read Canon Law that states that one who is entering religious life must be "physically and psychologically healthy." The religious communities are not rejecting me. They are being obedient to Holy Mother Church, and I have great respect for them. It cannot be easy for any of them to turn someone away who genuinely appreciates that life but has a canonical impediment.

The way I see it, if something gives you peace among the fears, it's God calling out to you, proclaiming His will to you. If you feel that you have a vocation to religious life and not married life and you feel that peace, then it's probably meant to be. It would be worth it to try it in my humble opinion. I'm sure you know, since you are intelligent, that God would never call you to something that was meant to trouble you. My former spiritual director told me that when you find the deep peace in your heart, you must follow that peace without realizing the cost.

So to make a long story short:

Go for it, girl! And have faith that God will see you through to the end! :)

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Appearances can be deceiving--don't doubt for a minute that many "middle of the road" religious live very sacrificial lives. They may have fewer formal strictures, but really living the vows faithfully is an unseen and often unheralded sacrifice for most of them. Reflect on just how deeply these religious women fulfill Christ's law of love when it comes to living out the charism of their communities. The challenge of these things go unrecognized by most of us.

As outsiders looking in, we rely (maybe too much) on those externals that signal a "sacrificial life" without digging deeper to see where true sacrifice originates--in the readiness to be available to serve, to give unselfishly when needed and with joy (which in itself is far deeper than the flutters). To be sure, you need some level of general enthusiasm going in, but the charism of the community needs to capture your heart for the long run.

By the way, I think you're on to something when you ask if God is calling you to the religious life you CAN live. He will give you plenty of opportunity to sacrifice for Him. Trust me. God bless, and be at peace.

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Thank you all for your replies.

When I say sacrifice, I don't mean specifically "traditional" sacrifices ... like sleeping on a board, or fasting or any of that ..
I mean basically ... I realize I am not expressing myself very well. This is something I wrote awhile back, which describes how I feel:


[quote][size="1"]What I dread is Never. I wish life were an Everlasting Orange, and I could squeeze every last drop of eternal juiciness from it. I want to see every country, eat every kind of food, read every book, hear every kind of music, see every movie, meet every kind of person. I would like to be a virgin martyr and a mother of 12.

The problem is, of course, that time grows short. The night is far spent. Last Sunday the homily was about death and how people never consider it. They seem to think they will live forever. But I am not one those people. I can't remember when it was exactly, when I knew with utter literalness that life was limited, that I would die, that all worlds must end. But whenever it happened, it made everything suddenly urgent. And it introduced the horror of "Never."

Infinity holds infinite possibilities. But our time is finite.

Here comes the thing I've been pondering:

Every vocation deals with "nevers." That's a part of the human heart longing to bind itself. But consecrated life is the vocation full of "never." Right, I say to myself. How easy. Just choose the path with fewer Nevers.

But ...

Is it wise for someone who always has the transience of the world stuck in her mind to enmesh herself more fully in it?

Isn't it true that my thirst to do and experience everything will never be quenched, no matter how long I live, or how "free" I am ... and I would be better satisfied by renouncing it all, instead of grasping at straws, wet noodles, and imitation coagulated milk?

I've read the advice that vocation discernment is aided a great deal by imagining oneself on ones deathbed. On that day, what would you regret not doing? But if I do not learn renouncement, then it is certain I will be full of regret, no matter what I've done in life.
[/size][/quote]

So there it is.


Like was mentioned about sanctification before. I don't mean to suggest at all that the different Sisters I've visited do not lead very sacrificial lives. Its not that at all; they most certainly do. But I felt that it would be harder for me to grow in holiness there. More of a challenge. But it would be easier, in that there would be fewer "Nevers." Maybe I could make up for that -- I don't know how to describe it -- "lack" or "empty" or what -- with personal devotion. And then I could still be a holy Sister but have fewer Nevers. But is that the right thing to be looking for? Is all this just a passing crisis? Ohhhhhh I'm not making any sense!

Edited by Lilllabettt
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You may want to look into the Sisters of St. John, or the Religious Sisters of Mercy. I don't know much about the former, except one our sisters often makes her private retreats with them. As for the latter... it goes without saying. I lived with them for a couple of months while studying, and every last one of them was on fire with the love of God. I felt like I had rediscovered religious life. It was definitely a shot in the arm of my prayer life. And... because of the graces, I found I actually [i]wanted[/i] to make sacrifices. :angel:

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[quote name='Lilllabettt' timestamp='1283996297' post='2170529']
Thank you all for your replies.

When I say sacrifice, I don't mean specifically "traditional" sacrifices ... like sleeping on a board, or fasting or any of that ..
I mean basically ... I realize I am not expressing myself very well. This is something I wrote awhile back, which describes how I feel:




So there it is.


Like was mentioned about sanctification before. I don't mean to suggest at all that the different Sisters I've visited do not lead very sacrificial lives. Its not that at all; they most certainly do. But I felt that it would be harder for me to grow in holiness there. More of a challenge. But it would be easier, in that there would be fewer "Nevers." Maybe I could make up for that -- I don't know how to describe it -- "lack" or "empty" or what -- with personal devotion. And then I could still be a holy Sister but have fewer Nevers. But is that the right thing to be looking for? Is all this just a passing crisis? Ohhhhhh I'm not making any sense!
[/quote]


Why do you do this to me? I was going to go out and take my computer to get repaired, but I read your post and had to respond again! :blink:

You make perfect sense, and it is perfectly natural to feel the way you do. I, too, would love to do everything and see everything and taste everything, and I have managed to accomplish quite a lot of things in my 58 years. Did you say you are meeting with a spiritual director? This stuff is important and should be discussed with someone who can help guide you. Having such strong feelings about things could be interpreted in different ways. St Ignatius says to follow our affinities, but there is also the school of thought that 'it isn't about feelings' - which I presume to mean, just emotions.

I can't do this justice now because I really do have to go out, but you are not alone in this. Prayers for you, dear one. :nunpray:

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To echo [b]stlmom[/b], real sacrifice does not consist of kissing the floor. It consists of humble obedience. So, when you are told to eat strawberries while everyone else is fasting, and you feel a fool for sitting there chowing down...you do it anyway. When you think your talents are best suited for one thing, but you are asked to do something else...you do the job you are given. Or if you really wanted to be sent to the mission country, but they kept you home, you do your best job at home. Surrender does not often manifest in the hardships we choose for ourselves as poignantly as it does in the hardships we do [i]not[/i] choose.

I don't mean to downplay the sacrifices of religious life. Obviously, those sacrifices can be very real, too. In Japan, the Poor Clares had to make a decision of whether or not they would follow the original rule about a woman not being permitted to go home to bury her parents. In Japanese culture, this is an important filial duty, and many of the families of the sisters are not even Christian. So...no one understands why they would 'refuse' to honor their parents at this time.

They voted to follow the rule, as written.

So when a sister in that community loses a parent, she cannot go home. She is burdened not only with the loss of a loved one, but also likely the extreme disapproval of her other relatives. And yet...they accept this as part of their rule of life.

So, yes, joining a more strict community will likely involve hardships that a more middle-of-the-road community wouldn't dream of asking of its members. That's reality. But...the goal of religious life (in any community) is complete surrender of the will to God, so....if that is going to happen, the 'details' won't really matter as much.

I know there's a difference between willingness to suffer and actual suffering. It's one thing to claim not to mind sleeping on the floor; another thing to actually do it. The goal is to be serene and uncomplaining no matter where one is asked to sleep. And, yes, if that's the floor - to be as cheerful as if it were a feather bed. It's easier to be cheerful and uncomplaining if one actually [i]does[/i] sleep on the floor from time to time and get used to that.


I cannot say how to achieve holiness. I don't know which communities are 'best' at churning out saints. I think that the goal would be to continue taking this to God in prayer. Let him know what it is that you are afraid of..... It's okay to be romantic, but the image of true love is the crucifix, and every follower of Jesus must pick up a cross and follow him - no exceptions. No matter which vocation you choose to follow, you'll be carrying a cross to your own Calvary. I know, I know...we [i]can[/i] choose to live an easier life. Certainly. It will be empty, though, and Jesus will seem far away. I don't think you'll be happy out in the cold ;).

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Even the most adventurous and complete lives will be full of "nevers". It is the human condition, that our reach should exceed our grasp. That "yes" to one thing could require "no" to another. To want all of the possibilities of life--it signals how much you do love life, Lilllabettt, and that is a GOOD thing. But none of us will ever get to do all that we hope to do. It is a waste of time and brain cells to regret that when you are still trying to figure out what to do with the God-given gift of your life.

Not only religious or aspiring religious recognize the transcience of our existence, but also those of us who chose to enmesh ourselves in family, neighbor, job, community, politics, the temporal world. The thought of our transcience can ground us, keep us humble and balanced in the face of our limitations, or more darkly, can keep us from enjoying and appreciating what has been given to us here and now, to contemplate, enjoy and cherish. It has helped me much to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for what opportunities have come my way, rather than dwell on the nevers.

(edited for spelling errors)

Edited by stlmom
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[quote name='stlmom' timestamp='1284000977' post='2170640']
[b]It has helped me much to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for what opportunities have come my way, rather than dwell on the nevers[/b].

[/quote]


Yes. This is what I need. Thank you for this reminder.

A psychologist friend of mine told me that it is actually impossible for the human mind to "hold" fear and gratitude at the same time.

Gratitude is the cure for everything.

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