What about the vocations of the little ones?


#1

Friends,

On vocational brochures and websites, we almost always see the words “must have good mental and physical health”.

I have searched vigorously for my vocation since my baptism in 2011. Many things draw me, but I am deeply afflicted with same-sex attractions, chronic fatigue, clinical depression, and crushing anxiety. In all these years, so far, no medication has yet helped me to live a happy life. I have a therapist, but see no progress. I ostensibly have a spiritual father, but he has become far too busy to advise me. Although I am a “young” Catholic, and chronologically young (26) as well, I feel that my life is without a purpose.

My dear friends in a local religious community have encouraged me, and we have tried to discern my place with them… but the superior makes it clear that, in his opinion, I am not called to be a Religious or a Priest. Everyone who learns of my isolated life and situation of pain finds me unacceptable for “official” life in the Church. I become very bitter when I see those naieve-but-healthy, “perfect” young men, fresh off football teams, entering seminary and becoming priests.

What happens to the little ones like us? I don’t understand why the religious Orders and the Priesthood must be so “respectable”. Did the Apostles refuse the blind, lame, sick, prostitutes, publicans, eunuchs, and other broken people from living together with them in community, after Baptism? Did “that sort” of people make the Church less respectable? More susceptible to abuse and wounds from within?

What do we spiritual lepers exist for, in the Church? Are we doomed to be celibate, lay, and shunned for all our lives? What do we live for? I almost wish there was an ecclesiastical Jean Vanier to found a religious version of l’Arche for those who desire a consecrated state of life but are terribly wounded and in pain.

Please forgive me for my ranting. I desire prayers, and ask for your thoughts about the vocation of the “little ones” in a world filled with sleek advertisements, pearl-white teeth, and sound minds.


#2

I have a friend who has an inoperable brain tumor (cancer) and he is a seminarian. Perhaps you have just been talking to the wrong people.

I am a Benedictine Oblate, which is a lay order. It’s not completely satisfying because we only meet once a month to talk. But I am also a theology student, so I am very busy.

I would talk with someone else. The life of a priest or a religious is VERY rigorous, and I should know, I spent thirteen years growing up in a Carmelite cloister. They get little sleep, the work is hard, and can be boring, and silence is the rule of the day. I did see a program about a monk with supposed healing powers, who was accepted into a monastery only reluctantly because he was not very intelligent. People are judged on a case-by-case basis. Don’t give up yet, or give in to depression. I, too, have not yet discerned God’s plan for my life and some of my own plans for myself were derailed last year when I was hit by a truck (still am recuperating).

Good luck and God bless.


#3

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’’ * Matthew 16:24* This is the purpose of you life, to love and praise God in all you do even while battling physical and mental infirmities.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Roman 8:26

These rules, which are part of canon law, reflect the facts that the hierarchy represents Jesus in this world. The duties of deacons, priests and bishops are demanding even or the healthy. I remember this one parochial vicar who had been ordained one year when he had a massive heart attack between funerals. He became inactive and died within a year. At his wake, the family told us about six day work weeks (sometimes funerals make it a seven day work week, no day off), days starting at 6, some with 3 masses and meetings going into 10:00 PM. The load would strain the most robust individual. How is someone dealing with physical ailments and brain chemistry disorders supposed to deal with this work load?

Also, as representatives of Christ on earth, priests must possess an uncommon judgment and understanding of the world in order to effectively preach, hear confession and speak authoritatively. The chemical imbalance in you brain will effectively preclude this.

But this does not mean your life has no purpose. You are not a spiritual leper. If you are being shunned, it is not coming from the Church. A lot of people still don’t understand mental illness and can be insensitive. St. Sr. Faustina said that some of the heavier crosses she has had to bear came from good and holy people.

No one is doomed to celibacy. Some people are fortunate enough that they can choose to give up family and progeny for the sake of the kingdom and their celibacy is a gift to God. Others, like people with same sex attraction, impediments to marriage or medical reasons, are celibate because this is the cross they bear, but they do it preserving the true image of God found in humanity, that image being one man, one woman, open to life. The preserve the image of God as it is found in man by refusing to adulterate it to fit their needs. The celibacy you may be called to is not your doom but your act of faith. It is just as valuable, important, life affirming as any other vocation.


#4

Thank you, Lily & Antegin, for the support and advice. I am moved to great emotion by the story of the parochial vicar and his death. My dearest friend is an overworked priest, and I see what strain is put even on his healthy mind and body.

I did not expect to become a seminarian or anything like that, in my current state. I am just interested in knowing how people like us can contribute to the Church, in the non-religious, non-consecrated lay state, above which we are incapable of rising in sometimes great humiliation.


#5

Perhaps God wants you to work with the homeless or with the elderly in hospice care or in assisted living facilities. Perhaps he is calling you to join a third order. Maybe he wants you to do something entirely new, as he called Bl. Mother Teresa to found a new order (doing something new doesn’t have to be that extreme to be very beneficial to your brothers and sisters in God). Maybe there is something in your parish he wants of you. If you are artistically inclined, he could want you to make use of that. If you can write, that is yet another avenue to explore.

If I were you, I would try to find another spiritual advisor, one who will make the time for you. You need help discerning your vocation with the Church, and you should receive it. Please seek out someone else if your current parish is not helping. Mine is not very helpful, either, and I am investigating a new parish. I wish my current one were different because it is only three doors down!

Good luck to you in all areas of your life, and God bless you and your loved ones.


#6

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