A New Order2
November 10, 2012 by lucieromarin
You may have had the experience of expressing your disappointment about life to a priest – or to some other legitimate authority – to be told that God loves you, or that you are His child, or a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that, therefore, you don’t need to feel bad. Then you’ve walked away wondering why this advice left you unmoved at best or oddly depressed at worst, and thinking this means you’re an inferior Catholic in terms of your spirituality as well as vocation.
I’ll tell you why it didn’t help. Ideas are like beads, which, linked to one another, form a necklace to which we grow so accustomed that we forget that the beads can be separated and restrung in other patterns. Now, the reason that being reminded of your dignity as God’s creature doesn’t help when you unburden yourself to your struggling priest is not because you’ve never heard that idea before – it’s just that it has always been linked to a different bead. “Human beings are God’s creatures…” is, in conservative preaching and teaching, always linked to “…so don’t kill them (by abortion or euthanasia.)” It’s never linked to the matter of vocation in general or marriage in particular, except as a last-ditch attempt to help someone whose vocation-beads have been worn down with continued, fruitless rubbing. This is why you will never hear from the pulpit, “Married couples can grow in holiness by not patronising single people,” and vocations retreats will certainly never begin with, “This may never happen to you, but that’s okay; your dignity doesn’t depend upon it.” We’re just not in the habit of connecting those two beads.
Well, it’s annoying to realise that one’s mind has been trained inadequately, but the good news is that by rearranging the beads on the intellectual necklace, we can change things for the better ourselves.
Some of these thoughts were prompted by a post on ‘Seraphic Singles’ today – this paragraph in particular:
The first thing I will say is that you don’t have to get married to be considered a success as a woman. So if you never meet a man you want to sleep with who wants to marry you, this is not a failure. It is a perhaps unfortunate circumstance, like war or a car accident. It is not your fault. There are social forces afoot that have made the ancient cycles of human life more difficult, and that’s not your fault. And there’s also God’s Plan, about which I am all for asking Him about. I think it perfectly acceptable to say “What are You up to? What’s my part of the Plan? Throw me a clue, here, Lord.”
This is a valuable bead on the new necklace of dignity! Just don’t expect it to feel natural right away; you’ve been wearing the other necklace for decades, so go easy on yourself.
(I had thoughts of creating a link to the whole post, but when the technology saw me, it ran away. Never mind – next time!)
**Update: Lucy wins! The link to Seraphic’s article is here.
Do you ever get told that this life is about suffering and that suffering is the main form of sanctification? This would be the traditional reply. I have been told in difficult circumstances that experiencing suffering (if you are not an impenitent sinner) is a sign that God has a love of predilection for you. It is not cheering to be told this but I believe it is correct. If you do not feel bad then the whole point is lost.
Hmmmm – it’s a good point. I think the problem is that during vocation discernment the possibility of meriting through apparent failure to end up somewhere is not usually mentioned as a legitimate result of the search. Therefore it comes as too much of a surprise.