Sunday, September 28, 2014

interior castle mountain

"You must still be tried here on earth and tested in many ways. Take courage and be strong, whether in doing or in suffering things repugnant to nature. You must be changed into a new person, often doing what you would not do and leaving undone what you would like to do."
--Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Chapter 4

The work of now is the work of waiting.
I have grown fond of calling this year (the term of year, of course, being used very loosely and freely--like an Old Testament, Book-of-Genesis biblical year) my novitiate.
The image first presented itself to me because one of my friends is in a real-live novitiate.
In the spirit of raw honesty, I must admit that I am slightly jealous. Not for Holy Orders, which is a sort of dead-end red herring when it comes to discussing the vocation of women in the church. (But more on that later.)
No, I am not jealous of that.
I am jealous because sometimes I wish that I could slip away to the side of Pike's Peak, to a lonely spot on the mountain, just above the novice house, and let my one companion be the silence of the landscape and the darkness of the cloud.
Sporadically, I yearn for that.
And in those moments I turn to the words of the Doctor of the Church, who should be the patron of all twenty-somethings and experience junkies, Thérèse of Lisieux:
 I feel in me the vocation of the priest. With what love, O Jesus, would I carry You in my hands when, at my voice, You would come down from heaven. And with what love would I give You to souls ! But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humility of St Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation of imitating him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood. 
 O Jesus, my Love, my Life, how can I combine these contrasts ? How can I realize the desires of my poor little soul ? 
 Ah ! in spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostle. 
The sentence I think best captures Thérèse: I choose all.
When you want to choose all, it seems hard, at first, to settle down and choose just one thing.
I sometimes grow envious, because I wish I could join my friend in reading and studying the heady mysteries and the perplexing beauties of theology, and the rhythmic life of hectic and harried contemplation that defines the life of a student.
Sometimes, I wish that I could by a fly on the wall of my friend's adventures in Honduras, exploring new worlds and languages along with her.
And don't even get me started on my friend who is living on a farm. Where there is quiet, nature, and the Eucharist (oh, and if that wasn't enough: alpacas).

And to clarify: the sort of envy I'm talking about, (and I'm sure the sort of envy that Thérèse was talking about, although perhaps not. It is dangerous to speak for a saint) is not the sadness of the fortune of the other, and I wish to deprive them of that happiness, but simply a desire to also share in that happiness. It is an untamed and undisciplined desire for everything good all at once. The sort of desire that afflicts you when you fall in love--very earnest, sincere, all-encompassing desire to give. To give it all. To give it all in every way.
Basically, to:

And I turn, again, to Thérèse
Considering the mystical body of the Church, I had not recognized myself in any of the members described by St Paul, or rather I desired to see myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation.  I understood it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places. [...] 
My vocation is love.
Thus I shall be everything, and thus my dream will be realized.

And that is the task that is set out for me in this novitiate: to learn, along with Thérèse, how to live a vocation of love. Which, I think, means learning to live in one place at one time, loving each individual person one day at a time.
For love, as grand and all-encompassing that it is, for all it is the one great universal truth, love is revealed so tenderly in the particulars.

 We like to think we exercise freedom of choice, but what really sways us is the experience of being chosen. True, to be chosen by God cuts us to the quick, or pierces the heart. It sizes us up immediately; we know in its wake what we are made of and for. But if, in response, we choose to stay, then we become an imprint into which others can more readily step into sacred mystery. 
--Kevin J. Sandberg (from my MTS-earning friend again. She's a gem)

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