What follows is my first discussion to my girlfriend about my vocation. This argument, except for my first visit with a vocation director, is the first move forward I made in my vocational journey.
In recollection, the step forward feels like a step backwards. It is clear from the writings at the time, and through a lot of discernment, that part of me was looking for a way out of the relationship. It’s a hard fact to face when you realize you are as much of an ass as you were told you were.
Rather than create a theology of “God gave me a way out,” the greater question I ask, sitting in prayer or quietly in my room, is: “If this was my way out, does that mean I should still be here? Is this all a continuous lie?” My life as a Novice with the Capuchins does not feel like a lie, nor does my being here attempt to validate an excuse I gave 2.5 years ago. These past few years have been some of the greatest (yet confusing) years of my life. While I am willing to recognize my immaturities (both as a man and as a spiritual being), I can stand where I am now, turn around, and be thankful for how I’ve grown.
Thoughts of inadequacy to my vocation still crop up. Reading these lines still make me feel unworthy, crediting these past years of life not to myself, but to the guiding power of the Holy Spirit.
Sorry for the huge preface. Peace to you. -V
Currently I face two hard questions regarding my future with a religious vocation: my girlfriend and her daughter - both of whom currently live with me. For some pretty obvious reasons the Church takes issue with this kind of “living arrangement,” especially for those who are thinking about becoming a priest.
I first told Girlfriend about my “calling” almost 2 months after first having this feeling. I’d kept it under wraps for a while, protecting my “little secret” as if I were having an affair. One morning her daughter missed the bus and I drove her to school. She was headed out to the car when I remembered about the vocation pamphlets sitting on the passenger seat. She would be confused…then ask her mother about it! I ran outside to “warm up the car,” feeling guilty as I hid the papers under one of the seats.
I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be doing, and I was already hiding this fact about who I was. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a priest…maybe I’m just supposed do more with the church. Either way I knew I couldn’t continue to live by hiding this important event in my life. Don’t I have a right to figure out this vocation? Don’t I owe God some kind of response?
After dropping of her daughter at school, I came home and simply blurted out what was going on: “Honey, God’s called me to do something. I don’t know what it is, but I think he may be calling me to be a priest. And I don’t know what to do, because becoming a priest means I would have to give you and Stepdaughter up.”
My masculinity doesn’t usually admit to emotional release, however I cried – and honest cry from the heart. I’d put myself at her mercy, ready to accept whatever rage or distraught she displayed from this revelation of mine.
Oddly enough, she told me how wonderful it was to have something like this revealed to me. She told me it was great, and I should explore where God was calling me.
“It can’t be this easy!” I thought to myself as I drove to work. Where was all the ugliness, anger, and mistrust that was supposed to come from a conversation like this? The vocation director told me that this would be a painful experience for her and I, but it was a conversation that had to occur. Yet nothing like that even happened?
I had a great day at work, completely forgetting about the discussion that morning. Perhaps by Divine Providence, Stepdaughter was spending the night at a friend’s house and wouldn’t be home until tomorrow morning…making time and space for what was about to happen.
When I returned home, the situation had completely changed from when I left. The conversational feuding soon ensued…just as I had been foretold. I was called a liar, a user of women, a self-centered man, and few other choice words that would be improper to print here. All of my personal faults and flaws were pointed out, as if she had started making a list the second I left for work. My flaws as a man, my shortcomings as a boyfriend and lover, and a provider were brought up, and I was frequently reminded how I had promised to make a life with her and her daughter. (Note: While we were never engaged, certain expectations arise when you live with someone for over a year. This is not to make me look better; rather it is to give understanding to this particular moment in my life. -V)
Out of all the attacks and expletives I heard that night, the toughest words I had to digest were: “If the Catholic Church would take someone like YOU to be a priest, then they are really ****’ed!” I may be a great negotiator and a good arguer, but when people start shouting in anger, I really have to watch my words. I know when I get angry; I can say things I don’t mean. In spite of the venom of her words, I sat silent and accepted what I had started.
So in the heat of the tirade, I knew what I had to ask, and I knew that I had to be willing to follow up with whatever answer she gave. I told her that if she wanted me to leave, with only the clothes on my back and an empty wallet…then so be it.
And yes, she told me to leave.
Yet in doing so, it was a rhetorical statement. She said that it proved her point that I wanted a way out of the relationship…that this whole “priest thing” was a concoction to hide the fact that I was too scared to break it off. I stood up, not knowing whether I should stay or go…not knowing if she really wanted me to stay or go.
In the end, I told her that I wasn’t sure where God wanted me to go, or what he wanted me to do. Things would become complicated in a break-up, emotionally and logistically, so I told her that I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I’d like to know where it leads me, and I’d like her to be with me for as long as she wished.
This all happened the weekend of Christmas.
From that argument until now, we’ve only slept in the same bed once. There’s a distance between us that is clearly visible, but there’s nothing to say about it that hasn’t already been said. If she wants me to go, then that’s what I will do. If I have to leave behind all of the material things I’ve bought: TV, X-Box, PC, furniture – then that is what I will do to search this call. At this point, I’ve already grown indifferent to a lot of the things that used to bring me pleasure. If I can eat, clothe, and bathe myself, then all my concerns are met at this point.
During all of this, I have often wondered why God would give, only then to take away. For years, I was successful at my job, yet felt I was missing something. When I met Girlfriend and her daughter, I was convinced that they were the missing piece of my happiness. Yet even after six months into the relationship, I knew something was not there. But why would God take the blessings He’s bestowed on me, and then ask me to give them all up to serve?
I realize I’m the last person to question His plan at the moment, and I need to be more as Job was, not complaining about what God has given or taken from me. I only pray that though all of this, I can find some place or some reason for all of this to happen, and not destroy the lives of two good people in the process.