Saturday, January 19, 2008

Back into discernment...?

Seems that now that my life is settling a bit I'm starting to get those little proddings again, the ones that say 'feed my sheep' and put down your nets'. And I find myself both more and less confident in that call. More in that I'm becoming more convinced that this is what God wants for me (or wants me for?). Less confident that I'll be able to do it in any meaningful way.

Been reading a lot of frustration from postulants -- Tandaina and Mrs. M and the Feminarian -- and wondering if I have the fortitude to survive it. Now, being Independant Catholic things are a little different but it's still a lot of work and a certain amount of hoop-jumping (though I trust, dear Bishop Laura, not without reason!).

I just don't know where to go next. Reading other folks' blogs -- those who are already ordained, those heading that way, and those who aren't and don't seek to be -- has taught me a lot, but I feel it's time to take the next step, and I don't know what that is. It's easier being in such a free-form discernment process but at the same time it's harder. At times I find myself wanting a checklist, but I know it's not going to be that easy.

So: what do I do now? Got a book I should read, a podcast to listen to? Exercises physical or spiritual? Buddy, can you spare a clue?


I woke up Thursday before last with the profound feeling that I should try fasting. Now, I'll admit that part of that was likely because my stomach had been urky for several days and the thought of not making it deal with yet more food had some appeal, but I also had the sudden feeling that taking a day every week and making it a 'day apart' -- spent in prayer and contemplation and not eating -- would be a very good thing for me. Ideally it'd be Sunday, that being traditional and all, but since I work every Sunday it's not particularly likely until I get a new job. So, well, Thursday.

It didn't go so well. Partly, I think, because I had a bunch of errands to run, one of which turned into two and a haf hours of frustration; partly because I simply don't know what I'm doing. How does one do a day's fast? Eat breakfast, than nothing else until next morning? Eat dinner the night before, then nothing else until dinner that night?

I also wound up cranky and low-blood-sugared (go figure), and barely managed to avoid inflicting too much of it on poor Tim and Ray. I was cranky near them instead of at them, which is a step but still something I'd prefer to avoid. I suspect in future I'll be better staying home and not making anyone else deal with it.

Ideas? Anyone actually tried this? Am I insane?


Gabriel said...

My two cents:

A book to consider:

"Called by God: A Theology of Vocation and Lifelong Commitment" a book which explores calling and lifelong commitment. Not just calling to the priesthood, but what God calls us each to be.

As for fasting:
Something which you may want to concentrate on instead, if you haven't already done so, is to begin developing a consistent spiritual discipline(s) that you can do on a regular basis. So nothing huge and heroic. Consistency and fidelity are more the key. I'd suggest the Daily Office/Liturgy of the Hours Morning and Evening Prayer just to start off. Get use to regular, daily prayer time with God. Keep this appointment each day whether or not you feel like it. Eucharist once a week with a local community also is important.

Also, find a good spiritual director. This should not be anyone who is or will be in authority over you if you decide to pursue priesthood. The boundaries here are very, very important so mind them.

Finally, be patient. Callings tend to be very persistent and last across decades. Take time with the discernment process. This is particularly important for an Independent Catholic priest because you will not get affirmation from most outside sources. So one has to be very sure about one's calling to priesthood. Think and pray during this time about what your ministry might be. Most Independent Catholic priests have to create their ministries whether they be solitary or involve community. There will be no congregation waiting for you after ordination. Your ministry will be build from the ground up and you will have to do it without any monetary compensation, and with minimal recognition and negligible affirmation. This is not an easy path so take time with the discernment and make sure that this is the path to which God calls you. It may or may not be how you are called to serve. Only your discernment will tell you that.

My prayers are with you.

RevDrKate said...

Gabriel's advice sounds very sensible. The idea of having spiritual discipline(s), which I define "as the things that sustain me if I sustain them" is one I would heartily endorse. I would echo the "start small and manageable...yes daily prayer, like the office is good. And I also agree that a Spiritual Director is invaluable. This may not appeal to you, but I have found that other kinds of "quieting" practices like meditation and centering prayer have been very useful. If you are in a metropolitan area you can usually find classes at colleges and monasteries/seminaries that are open to all. This is sometimes also a way to make connections with like-minded people who can become community on the journey. Blessings as you go, Kate!

HilbertAstronaut said...

It's tough to get the real face-to-face affirmation that everybody needs in the discernment process, but I think that's true even for those who go to seminary in traditional denominations, perhaps even more so! There, I think many people regard clergy as just part of the woodwork, and clergy on their part might be scared to relate with parishoners on a personal level, due to the fear of inadvertently causing scandals. My parents live in a small Midwestern town serviced by a mission parish; they have only been close to one of the many priests that have served there. It's much different if you have to create a parish on your own, I imagine. So take heart! :-)

Plain Foolish said...

I've tried a number of different fasting patterns. I've fasted for Lent, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, my wedding, and because I forgot to eat. (The last, by the way, is a really dumb way to go about things and leads to totally irrational thought processes.)

I would totally recommend going with the Lent approach, or at the outside, the Ramadan approach.

Lent: limit yourself to 1 or 2 simple, vegetarian, small meals. No snacking.

Ramadan: nothing between sunrise and sunset. Get up good and early and eat a relatively sustaining breakfast. Break the fast as soon as the sun is well and truly down.

Another practice that I've tried is carrying a prayer reminder around in my pocket - at one point, it was a rosary - as a reminder to look about me and to pray.

And well, I've found that my life is full of opportunities to express the calling that God has for me. (I sometimes wish I lived up to more of those opportunities, but there you go.) And it really does open up over time.


Mother Laura said...

Hello, dear one! I noticed that the vocational discernment became less of a focus between the trauma of being unjustly de-RevGal'ed and the chaos of changing jobs and apartments and all. Pretty cool it's coming up again, and liturgically appropriate around this time of year with the readings focusing on Jesus beginning his ministry and calling his disciples.

We can talk more by phone or off-blog email if you want, but there has already been some wonderful advice in the comments here that I enthusiastically second. The other thing I would suggest is seeing if there is a way to get back to church for communal prayer and worship as well as the individual daily prayer that has been recommended. Very hard given that you have to work on Sundays, but perhaps there would be an evening or midweek service you could find at either the IC parish or a TEC or other one?

The other dilemma with getting back to church could of course be the pain of the closet and the risk of discerning whether or not to come out, which sucks.

The one thing I do love about discernment is that it is a process as much as a product. If you enter into it with a willing heart you will grow in the knowledge of Godde's love for you and the ability to share that with others so much, whatever the end result in terms of the ministry. And that will be a fulfillment of your baptismal priesthood which underlies and makes possible and is really more important than the ministerial priesthood which is aimed at supporting and empowering it.

Love and prayers always, and admiration for your tremendous courage. And I'll try to call and see how you are before too long, or give me a jingle...

The other t

Mrs. M said...

Pray daily. That's all I've got. Oh-- and ditto about the good spiritual director.

The Lord be with you.

Jim Trigg said...

I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm being called, since if I am it's much more subtle than other folks' calls, but if not I can't figure out what it actually is...

(I *think* I'm being called to the vocational diaconate, but I'm not completely sure...)

Ann said...

I only fast a day at a time: Ash Wed., Good Fri., some years each Fri. in Lent. There are amazing and powerful experiences to be had. My fasts mean that coffee & milk in the a.m. are ok, and also water and lemon juice (hot or cool) during the day, to kill the hunger pangs. Religious experiences come for me, regardless. Then at dinnertime, I break my fast. I say try it. Don't overdo it. I don't know much of your story yet, but I'm intrigued. I'll keep reading.

Kate said...

Thanks for the advice-from-experience, Ann. Always helps.