I'm afraid this will be one of those impossibly broad, practically unanswerable questions about finding a religious order. I know the best place to ask these questions is in spiritual direction, but my first session with my new director isn't for another two or three weeks, so in the meantime I thought I'd ask around....I have been feeling a little restless this afternoon!
I've been discerning a vocation for three or four years. At one point I made a hasty decision to apply to an apostolic religious order, which accepted me before I'd really thought hard about whether that particular charism would be a good fit for me. I left after a year in the novitiate; it was a beautiful year with great experiences, but it quickly became clear that that order's spirituality wasn't my own.
One of my problems is an Augustinian restless heart; I want everything! More specifically, I adore God as truth, love, and beauty, which sometimes makes me feel pulled in different directions:
I am an intellectual by nature, enamored of the pursuit of truth, and I think decently gifted as a teacher. I get kind of bored when not intellectually stimulated. So a part of me is attracted to teaching orders like the Dominicans and the Salesians, and to the diocesan Sulpicians.
But some of my best years have been spent in ministry with the very poor; one of my most powerful experiences of prayer was walking through the dirt streets of a border town and hearing the prayer "Lord, make me a friend of the poor" suddenly emerge from my soul. A part of me yearns to be a missionary, living his life in the streets with the neglected, rather than sequestered in an Ivory Tower.
And yet, while I don't see myself living in a monastery, in prayer I am a contemplative at heart; my most stirring experiences of God have been in Benedictine and Carmelite liturgies, and in the Taize community. If John hadn't said that God is love, I think he could have said that God is beauty. My prayer tends toward the apophatic.
I guess my question, then, for those who have experience in discernment, is: do you think there comes a time when a person simply has to die to certain parts of his self, and to accept that he has only one life and can't be everything at once? Or, is there actually an order somewhere that specializes in intellectual contemplative missionaries (!) that I should check out? Is the diocesan priesthood a dark horse that I haven't paid adequate attention to?
I am not getting younger, and after my first "mistake" choosing a religious community, I am a little afraid that I will make another, and wind up as some sort of perpetual novice, never able to settle and give his heart in a permanent commitment....
...Not to sound too dramatic. :)
Many thanks for reading such a rambling message.
May all of us be filled with His joy.