Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vowed Life

Before I begin, many of you figured out that yesterday's post occurred on April 1st. So, no, I have not left the Society nor do I plan on leaving anytime soon. My apologies if I worried you.

It was an interesting experience, however, writing that post since I necessarily asked the questions: Why am I a Jesuit? Why do I stay a Jesuit? How would I answer these questions if I were to leave?

The proclamation of my vows last August of poverty, chastity, and obedience were not done in a lukewarm fashion. I would not proclaim these vows if I did not believe what I was saying. I could not, in good conscience, take lightly the words: "I promise that I will enter this same Society to spend my life in it forever." I meant what I said, believing that God will bestow on me the grace to fulfill this. It also meant a lot to me to do this in front of my friends and family. I was publicly committing myself for the long term to the Society.

I think, however, it is a rather common experience to question one's vocation. While I was in the novitiate, I certainly had many days in which I wanted to leave. And, honestly, there are some days even after vowed life in which I have questioned why I am with the Jesuits. My struggles, however, are not unlike married couples. Is it not uncommon for those married to ask whether they made the right choice? Is it not a temptation for them to break their vowed promises?

Thankfully, I gave this question of whether the Jesuits were the right choice for me a lot of thought before I committed myself to them (that can happen to you when you have days of silence just to sit and reflect). One of the tools of discernment that we learn in the novitiate is to be mindful of our own consolations and desolations. A piece of advice that is one of the best I've ever been given for the spiritual life is: "Never make a decision in a state of desolation." Those moments that I have wanted to leave are moments when I have been in deep desolation. But, when I am in deep consolation, I feel incredibly blessed and thankful for this vowed life that I lead. Which movements should I trust? Trust the consolation, that sense of rightness in my life. Those moments when I say: "Yea, this feels right."

I decided, after consulting with my novice director, to buy a ring for vows. Some people ask me about it, since it can be a little misleading. I wanted something tangible, however, something to remind me of what I was committing myself to. When I look at the ring, when I fiddle with it, it gives me a physical reminder of this life that I lead. It helps to keep me honest.

For some, they realize that the Jesuit life does not feel right for them, and so they leave. Ideally, it is because they have found what really brings them life and joy. Hopefully, that happens more in the novitiate and not afterwards, but it is not uncommon for guys to leave after taking vows, as it is sadly not uncommon for people to divorce after marriage. We're not known, as human beings, to always choose based on the best reasons.

I feel, though, that I chose this life, flawed that I may be, with great joy and happiness. And, I have faith that God will grant me the strength and the grace to lead it as best as I can.

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