"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Why did you doubt?"

Sorry for the hiatus: it's been quite a challenging and eventful two weeks on this end. Much interaction with family of origin (nuclear and extended) as well as family of choice; a new spiritual director with much to say; both accompanied by stirring in the subconscious, chiefly dreams. I rarely remember my dreams; the ones I do remember are the powerful and spiritually significant ones; and there have been two in the past two weeks I've remembered quite vividly. (I say 'subconscious' because I think that where these dreams have been coming from is not precisely coextensive with what Freud termed 'the unconscious', though the latter is clearly involved, as it always is.) I have come away from it all with a renewed sense of vocation. I know now what direction to walk in. I do not doubt any more.

I say so with painful but joyful awareness of the question Jesus asks Peter in today's Gospel as the latter succumbs to fear and sinks into the sea water, the primordial, double-sided symbol of ancient chaos and new life. The answer is so obvious that the question is almost rhetorical. It applies to each of us; for we are all, or almost all, people "of little faith." But it doesn't have to stay that way. Perhaps a little autobiography can explain why.

There are people who know from childhood what direction their walk toward the Lord is meant to take. I've known priests and nuns who knew from the age of reason that they were called thereto; I've known married people who knew when they were barely out of puberty whom they were meant to be with for the rest of their lives. People like that seem to me, spiritually, to walk on water as they walk toward the Lord. It's never been like that for me. From the time I was 15 I've wanted to be in consecrated life of some sort, but hardly anybody around me from that time onward took that aspiration at face value. They assumed it was a pathetic attempt to escape from something called "reality," which to them meant what it does for most men: getting married, begetting babies, and bringing home the bacon. I felt that God was calling me out and forth to something special, but the reaction I got was, in effect, "cut the narcissistic crap and be normal." So as I neared college graduation, I put aside my unconventional dream because nature as well as my milieu urged me to; I was after all dating a woman who truly loved me, and she became my first wife. But despite all that I've promised, done, and failed to do---and my sins have been many--the appeal of consecrated life has never left me. I have failed the test of marriage twice, and I am now morally certain it's because, lacking the faith, courage, and maturity to pursue my true vocation, I did what most around me expected as a matter of course. Having done what I let myself be convinced I ought to do, I blew it because, in spite of the pretense I took as reality, I was not wholehearted about it. And it is impossible to live out the baptismal vocation in the form of marriage if one isn't wholehearted about it, if it isn't what one wants to do without ifs, ands, and buts.

To be sure, there are people who can manage both marriage and consecrated life. For example, I have met Eastern-Catholic and other clergy who have made a good go of both. But as a cradle Latin-Rite Catholic, that option is not open to me; and my personal limitations preclude it in any case. For me it has to be one or the other. I know now which it is to be. My only regret, and it's a big one, is that along the way I failed and hurt the people closest to me. I have admitted that to them and apologized; I still retain obligations to them which I struggle to discharge; and that latter fact could well end up precluding the form of consecrated life I would prefer. That's OK. The way God brings good out of bad is not always the way we would prefer. I know only that I am to dedicate the rest of my life to the direct, explicit, and full-time service of the Lord. How that happens is up to him alone. I surrender accordingly, knowing that I will sink back into the water of chaos only if I foolishly believe that nature must remain stronger than supernature.
blog comments powered by Disqus