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I'm joining up with the "Not Alone Series" a week late so I'll give you all a little intro! My name is Maggie, and I graduated from Franciscan University in Steubenville in May 2012. After that was a CRAZY time of discernment which is why I wanted to join in on this weeks topic!
A little more intro first though: I currently do development/fundraising work for Capuchin Franciscan Friars which is awesome. I love it. It keeps me busy (which is always helpful) and I'm "raking" in the dough so I can not be indebted to student loans for the rest of my life! Aaaaand I just moved back home with my family about a month ago. So clearly, I'm single. And this is my discernment story. [disclaimer: this might be a bit lengthy, so if you just want my advice without the back story, feel free to skip to the end, but that would be cheating ;) ]
For my whole life (all 23 years of it), I was absolutely, 100% convinced that I am supposed to be married one day. It wasn't even a question for me. Besides the fact that I love babies, nuns scared the crap out of me. They were really quite terrifying (in my defense, there are some really cranky nuns out there!)
Senior year of college was coming to a close, and I was beginning to get discouraged by the fact that I wasn't dating anyone, while almost all of my closest friends had their weddings planned for that coming summer! (It's hard to go to a school like Franciscan where people regularly get married right out of college). Nevertheless, I was trying to truck through it, but still thinking about how I hadn't dated anyone in four years. I was also starting to be very unchaste in my emotions, and was having a hard time learning to just be friends with the men in my life and not look at them as potential spouses. I decided to take that summer after graduation to really work on my relationship with the Lord and learn to be satisfied with Him alone.
I had moved into a house in Steubenville with some of my closest friends and had a summer job at the University, so I was in a very good environment and in a prime spot for the Lord to start revealing His heart to me. I didn't want to feel that emptiness of not having someone in my life, so I pretty much told the Lord that He was going to have to pursue me like none other. And of course, He jumped at the invitation! He waits patiently to romance us...
Slowly, I started falling in love with Him in ways I didn't know I could. One day, I even found myself thinking that in order for me to really show Jesus how much I love Him, that I should go on a vocations discernment retreat. [where the heck did that thought come from]. One of my friends happened to be going on one with the Franciscan TOR Sisters who are very involved at the University (and are a little less scary) so I decided, what the heck, I'll call the vocations director and see if there are any spots available. [At this point, still 100% sure I'm not supposed to be a nun, but thought I should just show the Lord that I was "willing" to do whatever He wanted!] So I make the phone call....Of course she asked where I was in my discernment, and I told her that I was just starting out. And then I asked her a question that changed my whole thought process: What are some usual signs or feelings that someone has who is called to religious life? And that's when I blanked out of the conversation.... Only because what she was saying spoke so perfectly to my heart. I can't even remember exactly what she said to me, but all I know is that I was left speechless.
Needless to say, I went on the discernment retreat.
After that was a series of ups and downs. It was a roller coaster to say the least. The TOR sisters shattered every scary notion of a nun that I had in my brain. They are probably the farthest thing from scary actually. They are the most fun, real, incredible, holy group of women that I have ever met, and their charisms fit me like a glove. It would make complete sense for me to join their order. I loved everything about it. But something was still off. I wasn't fully convinced.
I started going to spiritual direction around this time as well, and the priest I was going to told me that he wanted me to date... [Now I'm even more confused...and also, you can't just make guys date you! But that's another issue...] However, we both decided that I had no concept of what being in a holy, Catholic relationship was like, so in order to really discern religious life, I would need to fully know what I was giving up. [makes sense I suppose]. So this leaves me even more confused than before, wondering where I can possibly go from there. As the Lord would have it though, I end up going on a few 'dates' with some guy friends, and nothing really comes from any of those situations. So, thinking I gave it a fair try, I revisit the religious life issue. [If you're still reading, congrats on keeping up! We're almost done I promise!]
After a few months of confusion, talking to different sisters, spirals, 180's, and many other events that I will keep out for the sake of time, I decided to take the next step in the discernment process and go on a come-and-see week with the TOR sisters.
This week was such a blessing to me, and exactly what I needed to do. I fell even more in love with the sisters and the Lord, and had one of the best weeks of my life. For me, I needed conviction and for the Lord to show me clearly if He wanted me to be there. Basically, I wanted Him to propose to me, like any other gentlemen would, if He wanted me to do that for Him. But the thing is, He didn't ask it of me. I struggled with this for a bit, wondering why He wouldn't "want me" or how he could possibly be calling me to marriage when religious life seems like such a higher calling. But through prayer and learning more and more about marriage, I know that to be not the case. I have so much peace knowing that I gave Him my all and showed Him that I would be willing to give everything for Him. I still don't know exactly where He wants me to go, TOR sisters or marriage, but I do know this: That no matter what, I will be happy. Only He knows which of those will make me the most happy and holy and glorify Him the most. That's ultimately the purpose of our vocations.
So where does that leave me now? Single, loving the Lord, being satisfied with Him alone. Yes, there are good days and bad days where I just want to marry the first guy who is nice to me. But these are the times that shape us and make us better to be able to serve wherever He calls us.
My advice to anyone discerning:
1. Ask the Lord to purse you. It will amaze you how much He loves!
2. Have a relationship with Him. Tell Him what your struggles and confusions are
3. If you can get a spiritual director, GET ONE. They are amazing.
4. Don't be afraid to try new things! The Lord won't make you do anything you don't want to do!
and most of all:
5. Be open to whatever comes your way, and TRUST :)
Thanks to the ladies who are hosting this series! I look forward to reading all of your articles on this as well!