My personal happiness today:

Packing to visit my (probably, at least it very much feels this way) future community tomorrow, to finally be able to spend some days there again.

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And in many ways, it will be a special visit, which will end with the celebration of two perpetual vows.

That is also the day when my worlds will collide for the first time, since my priest is invited to the celebration as well. He recommended the community to me after all and seeing how unexpected well it worked, it feels right for him to be there, in my “other” world. And he’s only the first. Next year, a dear friend and I will have a pilgrimage to the community, so that she can maybe understand just what draws me to it.

And seeing how right my being there feels, I think the time might be right now to become more open about my feelings and desires. The little plant from last year, when I so unexpectedly fell in love with the spirituality (and pretty much everything else there), has become quite strong by now.

It is the kind of life I yearn to live, even if I still have to wait due my special circumstances.

Anyway:

  • Packaging – done
  • Train ticket – printed
  • getting happily excited – all the time
  • getting blessings for my journey (and feeling a bit emotional about it, since it came so unexpected this morning) – very much priceless
  • knowing that so many people around me continue to pray for my discernment – invaluable

Longing and waiting and walking…

Today is one of those days where the longing is especially strong. It never goes away completely, but some days it’s a tad less strong than during other days. Today is not one of those lesser-strong-days. It might have something to do with the beautiful, poignant Corpus Christi celebration which we had today, or maybe the fact that I will be off again to visit my favourite / chosen congregation in around a week, or…

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8 Steps to Discerning

  • Be Quiet: In order to hear the Lord’s voice calling, take time to pray and meditate in silence about your vocation, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Find a spiritual director – somebody you can be open with, who can help you to develop your relationship with God and to help you know yourself better.
  • Ask a priest, brother or sister in your parish to put you in touch with the vocation director.
  • Read up on religious and priestly life. Look at the good periodicals on vocations and check out the ads.
  • Write to the communities that interest you.
  • Visit the ones you feel called to you.
  • Build a relationship with the one with which you have a sense of coming home. Get involved in its summer and monthly programs. Don’t just talk the talk – walk the walk with them as well.
  • Wait for the Lord; discerning your vocation is a process. God’s timing is always perfect – but seldom seems soon enough.

The list is not from my chosen community, but it certainly resounds strongly with me!

I think, it’s safe to say that I’m at stage seven while impatiently waiting for my matrimonial nullity to move forward. However, I’m using the waiting time to visit my chosen community as often as possible and to get to know it very well.

Which, of course, would be much easier if it were closer, but hey, easy is not my way and, apparently, our God agrees. It’s probably the reason why I ended up with a community, I would a. never have considered visiting on my own, and b. the one furthest from me.

And then He made me fall irrevocably in love with its spirituality.

And there people claim that God doesn’t have a sense of humour…

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Counting the days…

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Less than week and I will finally be off again, visiting the sisters’ community that got to me so badly last year, the congregation that could very well be the answer to the call that I have been feeling for the past year.

After nearly four months of raw yearning to be there again, of experiencing the unbelievable strong desire to live and share this life and incredible difficulties to really
arrive again in my day-to-day life, I can finally be back and this time for nearly two weeks!

Next Thursday – God willing – I will finally be able to be back, praying and being in this beautiful chapel, growing closer to God, working and living in beautiful surroundings and finding out just what I experienced and felt there during my last stay.

I’m so excited and happy!

Vocational discernment – the next level! Or, how 2016 changed everything – again :-)

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Closing in to the end of the year rather rapidly (a bit like Christmas, suddenly it’s there, completely unexpected – every year anew 😀 ), so let’s do a run down, because this year was certainly intense, especially on the spiritual level, and my personal updates have been rather scarce during the last months:

* unexpectedly (finally!) found a new job after looking for one for a long time. Actually, it got surprisingly easy once I finally understood where to look/in which field.

* after that, once life became finally more peaceful again, I obviously reached the next level (yeah, I’m starting to compare my spiritual life to a computer game. Whenever I finally managed to master one level, the next one is already waiting) and started to feel the first pangs of a special kind of urging and prompting and just a feeling that there could, just maybe, be more.

Of course, being me, I tried to ignore it at first, but, like all the previous times, these feelings refused to vanished and became more pressing instead.

I finally talked to my spiritual director. More than once. Very intense talks followed by just as intense prayers (and talks and prayers, and… you get the drift), trying to understand and to see where these feelings could lead me, what God was trying to tell me.

As the feelings grew stronger and clearer, we went – just in time – on our pilgrimage, above question in my backpack. These three weeks on the road/by foot was another highly intense time, but once we reached Assisi, I knew that my feelings were right and that I should look deeper into them. I was also certain that my path would continue to be Franciscan (of course) and it definitely shouldn’t be a contemplative order, because, well, that wouldn’t be me.

Once back, more intense talks followed, and from August on, I visited the first three sisters’ communities, which were recommended to me, all within the Franciscan tradition, each with a different focus. With the first visit I just knew that I was finally on the right track. Not the right community, but it was definitely the right direction/way of life, the kind of life I was/am burning for. The last of the three communities was pretty much perfect for me.

2However, there was a fourth recommendation, which was a mostly contemplative community in tradition of St. Clare (not the poor Clares, but they developed from them). I was very reluctant to go there and kept asking why my spiritual director recommended them to me. We are talking about the person who has known me since my first contact with the Catholic church, who has accompanied me for the past years and knows me very well.

I had so many reasons not to waste my time visiting them, but he told me that they were “different” than the Poor Clares and that I should just take a look at them, if only to be certain that I am on the right track.

And he had very powerful help from above. Getting a date with them was easy (and for one whole week, which was a scary idea), I got vacation without trouble and just everything worked so smoothly, it became quite obvious that I was supposed to visit them.

Which I did.

One week later, I wanted to do anything but leave the place. I love how they are contemplative, yet also open, I love the hour of adoration each and every day, the closeness to God, the wonderful, rich spirituality, how really everything they do is focused on God, the liturgy of the hours with them, the silence, the work, the “desert-days”, their involvement with the parish, the… just everything.

The time there made me realize very powerfully (even clearer than before) just how much I want this life. I want to live for God alone. I don’t want anything else anymore.

I think, I could safely consider myself flashed after the week there and just waited for it to finally wear off again, so that I could return to my life, fully, in mind and heart and action. Three months later, I’m still waiting for that to happen. I’m here, yet not really. I am doing what is necessary (and doing it well), but my heart and my soul are not here anymore and just want to return to what they were allowed to discover. The longing has only grown stronger since then, to the point that I will be back with them in February and start my candidature.

It will be a bit different than usually, since I can’t take off months to live with them, but I will use my vacation days to be there and live with them for some days and weeks.

A part of me still worries that maybe I was mistaken and they will turn out to be bad (for me) and so break my heart, and another part worries that they could continue to be perfect, that the longing to be there, to live that kind of life, which I never considered for myself (and I always claimed that I would know myself – hah!), will only grow stronger.

It’s exhilarating and beautiful and scary and I can’t wait to be back there in 35 days!

And then… well, we have to see what 2017 brings. There are still things I need to take care of first before following up on the candidature, like my marriage (I started the unpleasant process of declaring matrimonial nullity – which is highly unpleasant. Nothing like every painful aspect of your life – childhood to marriage/now –  being dragged onto the light and being dissected. If my motivation would be anything less than God and my relationship with him, I wouldn’t even have made it to this point) and finally getting my finances in order.

I’m not worried about the second, it will only take time and willpower, but the first one is really hard on me. The thought that I’m going through this painful process and then getting told “no” is just not very nice. But God brought me here and if religious life in that way is what he wants me to do, it will work out somehow.

But yes, it was a highly intense year and I’m just very grateful for the people who accompanied me and helped me along.

And I’m infinitely grateful to God, for what he has shown me, for these feelings, this special longing for more, the burning desire within me. (though, when I talked with a friend of my inability to really live in the present, I jokingly said that this was not what I signed up for when I said “yes” during my conversion :D)

But God has patience and humour. And he loves irony. Otherwise, I would never have fallen so hard for this community and their spirituality.

So: Have a beautiful, blessed new year and let 2017 be filled with happiness, satisfaction, joy, health and joy!

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Alive and back from our pilgrimage!

VF1Actually, we have been back from our pilgrimage for two weeks already, but there’s work and life and, even more importantly, stuff to ponder and process and to take steps, which is why my online time is not all that communicative at the moment 🙂

But since I got a few PMs: I am indeed alive and safely back, so have a short update (Cut for those not interested in my journey (the physical one as well as the spiritual one)

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“Lord, what do you want me to do?”

One, if not even the question, which I will take with me when we will go on our pilgrimage in 11 days.

After months of realizing that my involvement with the OFS might not be enough to feed the ever-growing desire within me, the longing for more, I had a long pre-pilgrimage talk with my spiritual director yesterday where I could raise the question of said “more”.

Cut to protect those who are not interested.

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Easter, faith and life

Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

– First Letter to the Corinthians 15,11

After having had another one of those never-ending and very exhausting discussions with my family about my religion this Easter (apparently it’s okay to be a bit religious, to follow God for a tiny fraction of one’s time, but certainly not to overdo it – like I do, naturally. In their opinion anyway, because I went to Mass for Easter vigil and then again Easter morning! It’s just good that they don’t know what else I do…), the last part of the sentence really hit me when I did the reading during Mass today.

This is what I believe and the life I decided on. Following Christ is not a path I can go (nor would I do want to do that) part time, whenever it is convenient or whenever I can spare some time for God.

God is my life.

And my happiness.

Nothing less. (and even that and what I do never seems enough to ease the longing and the desire for even more).

So while such discussions really can get me down, they certainly won’t change anything.

I just wish my family would just accept what I do (and have been doing since I joined RCIA, so they should know that I’m not likely to change anything). It’s not as if I force them to join me for daily Mass, discuss my spiritual life with them, or… do whatever.

Also, since it is still Easter, please let me wish you a very happy, very blessed Easter:

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For me, it was my two year anniversary in the church – already! My conversion was still one of my best decisions and is still something that causes me daily happiness.

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Let’s see…

2013: regained my faith

2014: became Roman Catholic

2015: officially started on my way to become Franciscan

2016: questioning nearly everything and trying to find a way to start life anew, to avoid being torn apart.

Oh, I’m not questioning my faith. That is still quite firm and, in fact, strengthening. I also still love my chosen church, despite all its problems. So no regrets and doubts there.

As for the rest: if I look at my life now, the only thing I am actually still sure about is that the Franciscan way is my way, that my vocation lies there.

Which, as a very dear friend said, is quite something already, so that is something to be grateful for. Which I am. Deeply. Every day anew. It’s also (along with my faith, of course, and being part of my  church) that what brings me unimaginable joy, day after day, no matter how bad things can get.

But the way I am living my (Franciscan) vocation now, what I am doing, what I can do at the moment, it’s just not enough. It’s more like a single drop in a huge bucket and it only feeds the desperate desire of my soul for more. Of growing closer to God, of only living for him, of doing what brings me closer to him.

Most of time, nothing else really matters anymore. Of course, I am immensely grateful that my family is doing as good as it is, and I still enjoy a lovely glass of wine and a good conversation, and… But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Only becoming closer and closer to God does. It’s apparently all my soul longs for.

The really sad thing is, that I had it buried very well until the last talk with my spiritual director. Or so I thought, because it didn’t’ take more than one innocent statement from his side to let that specific desire bloom full force again.

Not that I mentioned it during the talk (there were plenty of other things that day, and since then I only talked to said dear friend about it, because it’s confusing me. Not in a bad way. A desire that feeds my longing for a life closer to God in such a way can’t be bad.). The time for that isn’t there yet. First I need to manage my work-life again, so that it will fit to my spiritual life again. Then the rest.

One step after the other. I will probably figure it out eventually. Hopefully. And in the meanwhile, I will just be here and try to live fully in the present. Live my life step after step, day after day, trying to follow the desire (via the Franciscan way, because it’s the only one really working for me).

But whoever told me that life would get calmer after  my conversion was very wrong. God doesn’t do quiet. He leads us further than we can imagine – if we let him. And it’s exciting and scary and wonderful and confusing. (and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything in the world).

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vocation, life, tension and crises

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“Most vocations started with a crisis” – it’s what my priest told me during a long overdue and much needed talk last week.

I’ve been on the edge for… months, really, but it got especially bad during the last few weeks and I’ve been on a steady downward journey since then.

I had trouble identifying with my work for years, since I can’t see any sense in the money+power mindset. For a long time I could distance myself from my work and just see it as something entirely different, something that couldn’t affect the rest of me. However, two years ago it started to change and became more and more difficult as the climate at work changed as well and my company added a hire+fire policy, getting rid of people in the worst possible ways.

Such treatment always went against everything that was important to me and became even worse once I actively started to try following the Franciscan way.

In some way, my spirituality was a huge help and hold, giving me strength (I’m rather afraid to ponder where I would be without that foundation), but it’s also the reason that I suddenly not anymore felt “just” the usual tension between my spirituality/vocation but started to be torn apart.

Fortunately, I have a marvelous friend who tried her best to keep me up and going, and just as fortunately, I have a kick-priest/spiritual director who asks just the right questions and gives the right suggestions, even if a talk might be difficult.

And this one was, since my work-life also makes me sick and invades my spiritual life.

However, after two hours of talk, I finally might have seen some light in the darkness and don’t really feel like drowning anymore.

But I need to change my life. I need to make it compatible to my spiritual life, so that my soul feels no longer tortured, but can start to soar again.

It also means taking the one step into the darkness and to jump into the water, to trust God that he not only pointed me into the right direction, but that he will carry me as well until I will get there, that I am (hopefully) able to turn my life around, to follow my vocation in all aspects, without fear of drowning.

That I will finally be able to really find inner peace.

And since there is no sense in postponing anything further, I sent off mails and asked questions.

Before I ended up in the office, I was working with children / kindergarten teacher. I don’t want to return to that, but I would like to work with adults, preferable assisting homeless people (kind of what I’ve been doing for the past two years, volunteering. One of the mails I wrote today was a request to meet up with the Franciscans next city who are responsible for the homeless pastoral) or with refugees.

It means probably going back to school for some time, then studying. I will also apply for jobs without that, but I think that will be the way. Not that I have any idea how to pay for any of that, but it might be worth a try.

And my priest had the lovely idea that, if I can enter the catholic school, I might connect with the Franciscans next city (the female convent), which live close to the school and live with them for the time of my studies. Seeing how lonely I occasionally feel as a secular Franciscan with nobody else around me (apart from my priest), that thought sounds wonderful, of course.

But that all is still a long way off. First I need to get in touch with people and institutes and see what is possible for me.

Not that I’m giving up my job (I’m pretty sure they are busy trying to come up with an idea how they can get rid of me, though, so my continuous  employment might only be a matter of time. Not that being fired sounds like the worst idea, seeing my current state), but I’m reaching out and see what I can do.

Two questions he asked during that talk, which were so poignant for me that they are still sticking with me was that, seeing how much my life is clashing at the moment, if I would return to my old life if I could.

The answer to that was an instant ‘no’, of course. I mean, pain and being torn apart and everything, but how could I ever reject the wonderful gift(s) of regaining my faith, spending life with God and finding my spirituality/vocation? I would never willingly return to the state of the life I had before.

The second question was what my soul truly wants and longs for. The answers might have taken a few seconds longer, but in the end, were quite obvious and easy as well: getting closer to God, to follow my spirituality further (and deeper) and just to be free and soar once more, to be at peace with God/within his love.

I hope, I will get there one day in the near future.

St. Francis’ vocation prayer in front of the cross (see picture above) is the prayer that has been accompanying me very closely lately, because the words are still perfectly chosen and perfectly put together to express ones most inner desire and need, to express my most inner desires, my longing, my desperation for guidance and understanding, to find a way to feel at peace again and to feel closer to God:

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

Amen.