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Dymphna

What if it's not possible to live a vocation?

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Anastasia
8 hours ago, Dymphna said:

And I'm wondering if "active communities", eg. apostolic women, what I consider my vocation, exist at all in the orthodox church?

The formalistic answer is “no” but the real situation is quite different. But first I probably should say a little about the “grades” of monastics otherwise can be some confusion.

In the Roman Catholic Church “a sister” is a monastic of an apostolic order and “a nun” is a cloistered monastic, contemplative, as far as I know. In the Eastern Orthodox Church “Sister” is a first grade or stage of becoming a nun. Later she becomes “Mother” and then, much later (or often never) she is to become “schema-nun” i.e. hermit-like very strict contemplative who already acquired a very significant wisdom. So, in a sense, there is an “evolution” to more and more contemplation. I have never thought about that until you asked!

A typical idea of monastic life is a life within the walls of a monastery, contemplation/prayer and work to support the monastery. It is also a place where lay people can come and get some spiritual advice. But there is much variety within this frame. Some monasteries run orphanages. Some male monasteries run “rehabilitation centres” for ex-criminals who come out and have nowhere else to go. “Run the centres” makes a very formal impression but often monks simply accept those men to live with them, teach them how to pray, eat and work with them etc. (some later leave, some stay in the monastery for ever). Some female monasteries have publishing offices, some teach at Sunday schools etc. Some nuns, for example whose profession is psychology regularly hold seminars, give lectures etc. Yet nothing is institutionalized. A nun who gives lectures is the same in essence as one who lives in a countryside monastery and does menial work or another one, who lives next to the parish church and does some work there. Those variations are understood as “a nun does what is needed right now, out of obedience and according to her talents”.

So, the answer would be that some of our nuns do the work which, in the Roman Catholic Church, is called apostolic but no one bothers to institutionalize it because the primary thing is simply being a monastic. And when a person decides to enter a monastery, she is thinking of it as it was in the time of the Church Fathers, “leaving the world”. Having this purpose of a monastic life unobscured no matter what is a strength, I think.

Yet, that situation also has disadvantages. For example, there is no guarantee that natural talents of a person would be used; a musician can be sent to take care of cows and her talent ignored entirely.

Usually, when a person wishes to be a nun or a monk, they try to find a monastery with a good reputation, solid, with an abbot or an abbess well-known for their faith and attitude.

I am not sure if I managed to convey that “organic” attitude which so often annoys Roman Catholics. It is very peculiar and has nothing to do with individualism of Protestants or “relaxed” attitude of hippies.

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Sister Leticia

Hello

I heard in passing about this community, based mainly in Austria and Germany. With the aid of Google translate I found their German website! (and luckily it offers an English translation, so I have been able to read some of its pages)

I don't know, of course, if you already know them, have visited, etc - but in case you haven't - https://frohbotinnen.at/de/

I think they're a secular institute, though they speak of taking vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, and seem to come together regularly for prayer and community time. Some of the photos on the website also look like they're in an "under one roof" community - maybe at their headquarters?  

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OneHeart

Anastasia, this speaks volumes to me. I've been wrestling with having to "chose" between types of lives, and see a progression, if you will.  I told my spiritual director that I thought God wanted me to "go through every level". Could we talk in IM? 

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Anastasia

OneHeart,

I do not use IM, however you are very welcome to send me an email, the address can be found on my website (see my profile).

Edited by Anastasia

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adoro.te.devote
On 11/9/2019 at 9:39 AM, Dymphna said:

There are lots of resources about how to find one's vocation, but I'm currently really missing advice on how to cope with not being able to live it. This must be a common situation - there are plenty of men and women with a vocation to married life, who never find the right partner. Myself, I'm sure I got a vocation as a religious sister (my spiritual guide and others agree with me, so it's not just just my own idea), but my life follows a bumpy road, so I am now over 50 and haven't found "my" community. For the apostolic communities I'm looking at, my age and life story are a major problem, often an outright obstacle.

So, I will possibly have to accept that I have a vocation, a place where God wants me to be - but I can't be there. Which is seriously painful. I don't believe that if I can't join a religious community then it's not my vocation, that God would not allow this. He allows lots of bad things to happen which are not his will. But how is it possible to make something good out of a life which is fundamentally "wrong", or at least feels like it?

I remember attending a vocation event at a time when I was a volunteer with people with serious mental lllness. I asked the priest giving the talk what he would say to these people, who often had their lives shattered, how should they go about vocation. His answer was, they should "make the best out of it". Is that all I can do now, make the best out of a bad situation? And if it is, how do I live this without becoming sad and bitter? How can one grow and be useful and fulfilled when they can't live their vocation?

Dymphna

Hi Dymphna, have you ever looked into other forms of consecrated life, such as Consecrated Virginity, eremitic life, secular institutes, or living with a private vow and perhaps belonging to a third order? It all depends on where you are called but being in a community is not the only way to live out this call! There are so many Saints who lived as religious and not in community, or sought consecrated life in the world, and it's helped me a lot reading about them. God bless you!

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Sponsa-Christi
1 hour ago, adoro.te.devote said:

Hi Dymphna, have you ever looked into other forms of consecrated life, such as Consecrated Virginity, eremitic life, secular institutes, or living with a private vow and perhaps belonging to a third order? It all depends on where you are called but being in a community is not the only way to live out this call! There are so many Saints who lived as religious and not in community, or sought consecrated life in the world, and it's helped me a lot reading about them. God bless you!

This is my obligatory disclaimer, but if a woman is going to discern consecrated virginity it absolutely has to be as her "first choice" vocation. Being a consecrated virgin is a beautiful life, but it's also extremely challenging, and a woman is not going to flourish as a CV if she sees this state in life as just sort of a consolation prize or back-up option. 

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adoro.te.devote
On 7/27/2020 at 7:08 PM, Sponsa-Christi said:

This is my obligatory disclaimer, but if a woman is going to discern consecrated virginity it absolutely has to be as her "first choice" vocation. Being a consecrated virgin is a beautiful life, but it's also extremely challenging, and a woman is not going to flourish as a CV if she sees this state in life as just sort of a consolation prize or back-up option. 

of course, that makes sense! :)

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tinytherese

Why would God call you to the religious life and then never let a religious community accept you? "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, RSV-CE).

That doesn't make any sense. Either you're not called, you are called and refuse to answer it, or you are called but now is just not the right time.

Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese had a lot of problems growing up. She had trouble in school, misbehaved, and was abused by a maid that worked in her home. Her mother worried about her. It's been theorized that she had autism. She was a Poor Clare for a short time and then left. She was a Visitation Sister, but left multiple times. Finally, she entered yet again and stayed a Visitation Sister the rest of her days.

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Dymphna

Thanks for your ideas and thoughts!

Yes, I am looking at alternatives. Since I'm not looking primarily for consecration, but a life in community trying to work for the kingdom of God, I am more interested in groups like Catholic Worker communities. I can relate stronghly to what Sponsa-Christi said, though: It would be a bad idea to join a community just because I can't live what I believe is my vocation. It wouldn't be fair to the members, for a start, and I also don't think that alone could be a lifelong motivation.

And I know about Leonie Martin, tinytherese. I read her story more as the consequences of the abuse she suffered in childhood (not by her parents), which relates to me. On one level I know that many things happen which are not God's will - God does not want children to be bullied, wifes to be beaten, or simply young people being unable to go to school and fulfill their potential, because they need to beg for food to survive. On another level you are of course right - God is at work even when things go wrong. So, I believe it was not God's will that I could not start exploring my vocation in earnest with one of the communities which said no to me. But I do believe that I may still find what God and I are looking for.

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