Friday, February 24, 2017

Discerning God's Call: Part 5

For a while I had a difficult time understanding exactly why I would not feel called to enter a teaching community. Finally I listened to Sr. Juana Teresa's vocation story about finding the Disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ and something she said resonated with me. Essentially, if I'm teaching a math class then I can try to work in references to God by, for example, promising to pray for the students and maybe taking five minutes at the beginning of class to read from Pascal's theological texts, pointing out that he was both a Catholic and a Physicist. But for the most part I need to be talking about math and helping the students to learn it. The school, the parents and the students are entitled to that. They have a right to expect me to spend most of the time discussing math. If I were to spend significant amounts of time talking about other things, even God, then I would not be fulfilling the duties of my state in life. In fact, it is extremely important to have math teachers who are able to integrate their spiritual lives with their work lives and fulfill the duties of this state, for example, through the spirituality of Opus Dei (the Work of God).

The same is true of my current job as a research scientist. I can share with my coworkers my latest spiritual endeavors and offer to pray for their intentions, but my employer has a right to expect me to spend most of my time and mental power on problems of atmospheric composition, satellites and instrumentation, solar flares, etc. To spend significant amounts of time either actively sharing my faith or directing my thoughts toward God is not within the scope of the duties of my state in life. My employer provided me with a job description which I accepted and I am getting paid to deliver on that. Realizing this, I have tried to incorporate the teachings of St Josemaria Escriva and St Therese (The Little Way) into my work in order to spiritualize the secular tasks that are required by my state. This is a beautiful spirituality for those in secular life and I fully believe in the universal call to holiness, realizing that my job is in no way incompatible with the spiritual life. However, I feel a persistent, strong desire to pray continually and preach the gospel at all times which, so far, has been a source of sorrow… as though the very walls around me are crying out.

That said, it is amazing how many opportunities the Lord has given me to share my faith, for example, explaining Papal Infallibility to senior scientists at lunch and debating religious liberty and conscience violation while riding with a coworker to a team meeting. It comes up quite often considering every conversation is brief and somewhat isolated. Sometimes I feel discouraged that most of our short conversations focus on trivialities, but I think this is a consequence of the environment. It is difficult to connect with people and be fully present to them amidst the frenetic activity. An emotional connection is so necessary in order to communicate at a deeper level. Of course I have tried, and I think this has born fruit in situations such as those mentioned above.

Recently I finished reading The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, about a Chinese Christian who has been imprisoned several times for the faith. I was struck by Yun's observation: "In a way, even though I was now free, I found it difficult to leave the prison. Inside, the spiritual fellowship with my fellow Christians had been very deep and sweet. The bonds we made were very strong. We served one another in love, and shared our whole lives with each other. In the outside world people are busy and have many things to do. Most of our relationships are little more than skin-deep." Often, the skin deep nature of my work relationships makes it difficult to share the faith.

But the difficulties of my present circumstances have little bearing on the course my life will take. As we know, we are all called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In terms of vocational discernment, the only important question is: what is God calling me to do? If God desires for me to stay in my current job then I need to be abandoned to Divine Providence and accept that as my calling. I will pray and trust that the Lord will open my spiritual eyes to see Him present in that place. However, I do believe that God enkindled in me a desire for Religious Life and spoke directly to my heart at Holy Cross Abbey. So for now, I'm continuing along this discernment path.

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