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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