Amateur holiness

It has now been seven years since I packed my worldly possessions and left the seminary, walking through the doors into a world that I was ill-prepared to live in. In some ways I am still leaving, still struggling through a painful and disorienting process that I keep thinking should be over by now, but which I often feel may never be finally complete.

But progress has certainly been made. The last three years have been especially growth-filled, and there is much more to come. I am more convinced than ever that I have found my true vocation every time I hold my son. But being a husband and father is not the whole story of my life; there are still other aspects of my vocation that I have yet to discern.

I am already certain of this much: God does not want me to live my life as a corporate cube-dweller, at least not in the long term. That has been the easiest piece of discernment I have ever done. I think the many lunch breaks spent huddled on the cold sidewalk outside my workplace sobbing have made the fate of my soul in such an environment very easy to divine.

So my negative discernment is going very well; I know what I don’t want to do with my life. But as helpful as that is, it still leaves unanswered the question of what I do want to do, and I want to know this answer very soon.

Of course, impatience is not a welcome trait when engaged in anything like a spiritual search, or so I keep reminding myself. But if I must possess myself in patience, I must by the same token push myself forward and not allow myself to simply wait for God to hand me a future all pre-packaged and ready-to-live. I need to prayerfully and actively make my life happen.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me is my relationship to the Church. After years of operating under the assumption that I would be living out my life as a professional holy man, the prospect of amateur holiness has proved impossibly difficult for me to engage. I seem to have been unable to translate my youthful piety and earnest sacramental devotion into a spiritual practice that fits my adult soul. And of course I struggle with this: am I wrong to expect my faith experience to ‘grow up’? Should I not rather be striving to become “as a little child” in my spiritual life? I don’t know, and so I have for all too long simply let the question lie. And life circumstances have made it very easy for me to avoid any involvement in our parish that might make me feel like I was actually a part of something.

This needs to change. I am increasingly certain that I want to lead a life that is deeply involved in and connected with the Catholic Church, and it is time I began to discover for myself what that means, rather than waiting idly to find out. This doesn’t have to mean any drastic steps, although by this point any step forward feels drastic. It could be as simple as taking on a liturgical rôle — I have long missed lectoring at Mass. Would there not be a lot of emotional baggage involved in setting foot in the sanctuary after seven years of exile? Without a doubt, but it is time for me to really start to move on in a tangible way, and the most important way for me to do so is to rediscover that I can be an active member of the Church without wearing a plastic collar around my neck. Once I do that, then maybe I can explore further what my Catholicity will mean for me in a larger way in the years ahead.

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