I write rarely about Single women who long very much for the religious life. When it comes to discerners, I am more likely to dance a tarantella on the pretensions of male discerners, if they enjoy bouts of angst-filled dating between exciting visits to monastery and seminary.
However, today I am sparing a thought for women who desire, with real longing, religious life and for men who also seriously desire either religious life or the priesthood. I am thinking especially of men and women who have "tried their vocation" with an order or seminary, who are turned away from this order or seminary, and seek admittance at another order or seminary.
When it comes to men and women who so strongly desire religious life or the priesthood that they pick themselves up after a rejection by one order or seminary to risk rejection by another order or seminary, I shut up about pretensions. I feel nothing but respect, compassion and hope for these Catholics.
It can be a terrible shock to discover that a friend has disappeared into a contemplative order to "try her vocation". The last time that happened I felt a great sense of loss, and resentment at not being told, and finally a hope that she will find acceptance and happiness in this convent.
It's not like I will never see her again, as eventually I will be able to visit once a year. And anyway, look at me. I disappeared across the ocean as a foreign spouse and my old friends and family see me only once a year.
It would be nice if you said a quick prayer for my friend right now.
I am thinking also of a young man I know--rapidly not so young--who very much desires the priesthood, has a very good character, and has been turned down again and again from the seminary. I simply do not know why this would be, unless it is because some people mistake his cheerfulness as frivolity unless they bother to get to know him better. He is trying again, sponsored by yet another bishop, so it would be nice if you prayed for him, too.
In constrast, there is another young man, again not so young, who has left his seminary after a significant period and has, not to put too fine a point on it, apostasized from Christianity to chase after a more eastern enlightenment. Although in this case it is all too obvious he did not belong in the seminary, he too needs prayers.
I have never had a strong desire for religious life, so I do not know personally how awful it is to be bounced from convent, monastery or seminary. I do know a lot about rejections, however, about firings and about break-ups, and so my heart is as wrung by someone who is asked to leave a community as it is by someone who gets broken-up with.
Because I write so much for Singles searching husbands, I thought it would be nice to think, today, about Singles searching "something better."
I realized it is controversial nowadays to call religious life "something better", but as a matter of fact the Catholic and East Orthodox traditions have long held consecrated virginity to be ontologically superior to married life. Marriage is humanity-as-usual; consecrated virginity is a sign of the Kingdom. Not everyone is called to it, just as not everyone is gifted with breathtaking beauty, or impressive powers of reasoning, or the athletic skill of an Usain Bolt. But it is nevertheless "something better" and I am full of admiration for those who, despite hearing No and No again, struggle towards the "something better," hoping one day to hear a Yes.
Lord, accept your stubborn children to religious life, or if this is not Your will, please show them more clearly and less painfully the way.