From time to time, I am asked about my vocation, to the effect of: “Why would you become a Lay Dominican? Isn’t that a compromise? Why don’t you become a nun/sister and give yourself completely to God? Either that or just concentrate on getting a husband?”
Although I am certain that I am on the right path, I actually sympathize with these kinds of questions. Honestly, I even ask them of myself from time to time! My vocation and my purpose in my life and in this world can be a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes, I start worrying and wondering whether I should be doing more, or whether I shouldn’t be somewhere much different in my life (geographically or spiritually). It’s one thing to practice discernment, but something else to let yourself get caught up in a whirlwind of doubt and anxiety that is going to sweep you off the path where God has placed you and plunk you down somewhere else… most likely somewhere you don’t want to be.
One thing I have learned about the spiritual life is that sometimes, you just have to stay your course and walk steadily, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you need to resist the urge to question it. And whatever you do, don’t try to snatch the steering wheel away from God–that’s a fiery disaster waiting to happen!
I can say in all honesty: so far, so good! I know from experience that God has a way of setting up roadblocks if you really are going the wrong way. Lately, things have been pretty smooth… or at least as smooth as the spiritual life ever can be when your goal is Heaven! I’m not going to lie and say it’s always easy. The terrain can be treacherous. But when you allow trust in God and His Providence be your compass, you’ll find yourself in some incredible places… places so beautiful and restful that you forget the ordeal it took to get you there, and your path through life generally does seem pretty smooth!
Anyway, I found this little thing I wrote last December, apparently at a time when I had been trying to hash out questions of my vocation, and I think it sums things up pretty well (emphases original):
My passion is for the secular world and for the state of life of a secular layperson. I feel such passion, because I feel that such passion is direly needed! I see this need more than anywhere else among my fellow Catholic laypeople! They feel that holiness is either impossible or irrelevant to them, either beyond their reach or else simply not applicable to them! They think holiness is just for clergy and consecrated religious. I am afraid it brings about a certain lukewarmness and a certain spiritual laziness–and these allow the devil to sink in his teeth! Regardless of particular vocations, we are all called to holiness and to Heaven! And we can make our world holier too–we may never defeat the devil completely, but we can beat him back, pin him down, and say “Non serviam!” to him (instead of to God, as he did)! Pursuing our own personal sanctity is the only way to do that! It may sound crazy, and it may sound futile, but I believe in this world, and I believe in us–I believe that we and this world can be better, always better!My passion for getting married and having a family one day has not waned either, but only grown more intense. Because marriage and motherhood represent what my soul desires more than anything–to give myself completely to others, and through them, to God. I know why my soul craves this–because it longs to be like Christ! For me, marriage and motherhood would be the means by which I could become truly Christ-like. Certainly, people can become Christ-like by means of the priesthood and consecrated religious life, but that is not how I am made. Sometimes I tell myself, “You have God–that is more than enough for you. How dare you complain?” But then my soul cries out in agony, “Adam had God too! Adam saw God face-to-face and conversed with Him as we converse with each other! And yet Adam suffered loneliness for one of his own kind, his own flesh, and his own nature! God had mercy upon him and created for him what his heart desired! Is it so strange, then, that I, blinded and deafened to God by my own finitude, should long for one of my own kind, flesh, and nature?”
I know God knows my innermost longings and workings… He knows them as I never can. Therefore, He can provide for them as I never can by myself. But it is up to me to work with Him! To surrender and entrust myself to Him. And to do my best to give of myself here where I am, to the people at hand… and not to always merely aspiring and longing and daydreaming. Christ could have swept into the world in a blaze of glory–He could have brought about man’s redemption and salvation in any manner He pleased–but He didn’t! He instead came into this world as a little baby… He grew and learned and stumbled His way through youth into adulthood… He worked, He sweated, He wept… He devoted Himself to the fallen, the poor, the unloved, and the seemingly unlovable… He bled, He suffered, He died. And only then was His destiny fulfilled… only then was His divinity and His kingship proven and His glory revealed. Christ’s greatest glories are His profound humility, His profound patience, His profound faithfulness to His Father. And so it must be with me. No leaps and bounds for me. I must work patiently and walk humbly with my God.
Not very much has changed since then. I am so happy and excited to be a Lay Dominican… people still tell me that on the day I was admitted to the Order, I didn’t stop smiling for a minute! It’s still true, even if it doesn’t always show on my face. I love having roots both in the Church and in the secular world.
Is it a compromise? Maybe, but not in the way some might insinuate; it’s not the kind of compromise that lets me have my cake and eat it too. It’s the kind of compromise that takes its concessions out of me. I have to give myself both to the Church and the world. I have to keep a pretty demanding balance in my life. And it’s wonderful! For me, nothing could be better! That is how I know that I really do have a vocation as a Lay Dominican–it gives me happiness, it gives me peace, it makes me feel like I am where I need to be.
As for getting married… I still have that desire too, and that is where I really have to work to entrust myself and my life to God! Being a Catholic in the world (but not of it) and looking for a suitable spouse is sort of bewildering and downright scary at times… and so is the idea of being single for the rest of my life. It can make me a bit angsty. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself “happily single.” I’ve been tempted more than once to just run off to a monastery and not deal with it.
And I think that’s probably the #1 reason I decided that consecrated religious life wasn’t for me. I saw it as a desperate escape route, rather than an actual vocation. It was a “running from” rather than a “calling to.” There were other reasons, as well. A more positive one being that I really think I would just make a terrific wife and mother! That thought excites and energizes and comforts and encourages me. Again, it creates the kind of happiness and peace in me that are the hallmarks of a true vocation.
In any case, I have a lot to learn and a lot to do and a long way yet before I reach my destination: Heaven. That is the most important aspect of any vocation: it calls you to Heaven. It calls you to sanctity, to Sainthood. That is the most important calling and the most important goal any of us can desire and work toward. None of us–clergy, religious, or laypeople–should content ourselves with anything less than that! Let us support each other and keep each other in our prayers!