messy messy messy

[note-this is my week 4 reflection, posted early! leave it to the writer.]

I don’t know if I want to be a single woman in the Church because this is really the best way to be a writer, or if I just haven’t given the institutional Church the chance to love me into life.

The reason being a priest appeals to me is because practicing the sacraments is so beautiful. To be married to God in such a physical, tangible way seems like a real marriage to me. To participate in Jesus’s ministry of healing would be so incredible. I want to be his hands.

Another part if it is the way that priests seem empowered to me. You’re Henry Nouwen and you want to write. Great! You’re Father John Dunne and you want to be a mystical professor. Perfect! Your success is our success.

Or maybe I really am a liberal nun, and I’ve never given the feminist orders a chance to woo me and say, “We’re your sisters and we’ve got your back. We’re going to empower you, girl. You want to write? You go for it!”

I want to follow Jesus more closely and know Holy Spirit more intimately. I know that this is mystery. I know that it is loneliness and deep companionship. I know that being a baptised Catholic empowers me. I know that I have concrete invitations to ministry in my local parish. I know that Jesus offers me his love right now, even though I’m not in an order.

I know that I could be a mom, married with kids, and still write somehow (even though that seems scary). I do not know that I could be a sister and live MY relationship with God, because this relationship is spontaneous. Holy Spirit and I choose books together and get lost in them. We go places together. We have this whole brainspace thing. Seems like community life to this degree (monks, nuns, sisters) is not for me, unless the order allows you to enter your own brainspace through following what you need to do each day in Holy Spirit.

For a few years I thought I would need to give up my spontaneous and deep-brainspace life, and that was “being fully given.” It was good to try it out and it was good to lose it.

At the same time, I still feel uncomfortable with “just being a writer” and living in this space exclusively. I know that ministry is a part of my life. I want to be Jesus’s hands and I want to experience him in others.

Maybe being a part of the charismatic community will be my priesthood. In the charismatic community, healing and prophesy are ministries for the Church. It’s not the sacrament of reconciliation or anointing, and it’s not preaching, but it’s something I may feel even more called to than literal priesthood (which I am attracted to but wouldn’t say is a call, at least not now.)

There’s still the problem of who you love and who your life is given to. Is it possible to be happy outside of community? Will I be single, and community always be pieced together—what I can find this year?  Connecting with religious orders as a tertiary, or with married friends as an auntie to their kids, or with single friends as…friends? With my parish as a supportive network? All in the name of having enough time to write?

Loving and being loved. Ministry. Writing as vocation. My life holds this huge tension, and I boomerang back and forth between these three big commitments. I want all of them, but the fact that they are THREE seems too much! (And how am I going to earn money?)

The one I feel most ambitious about — and the one that I want to devote the most time to— is writing. But writing is nothing without loving and being loved (by God alone or in community or with a spouse) and by sharing fruitfulness through ministry.

6 thoughts on “messy messy messy

  1. Ah, dear Leah, thank you for all you have shared here. I am so grateful our paths crossed at St Isidore CW and are crossing again in this space.

    I delight in your intimacy with the Holy Spirit and the brainspace you share together. I delight in your knowing of your own belovedness just as you are, right now. I delight that you have been extended invitations to ministry, showing that others have seen and affirmed your gifts.

    What comes through clearly is your desire to write, combined with your awareness that the whole grand, glorious, beautiful life of yours in union with Jesus is about more that the “work” of writing. You desire relationships with others – in the intimacy of partnership or community (in traditional or non-traditional form), and in ministry. I think it is good and right and just that you want all three – writing, ministry, and meaningful, supportive relationship in some kind of “container.” (And, yes, that whole business of having enough money to support yourself, too!) Jesus desires abundant life for us (Jn 10:10) and meaningful work, creative expression, and loving relationships are some of the necessary ingredients for abundant life for you (and for me, and I would guess for many). These three desires have been the central engine of my life – certainly for the last six years, at least – and I have found God is faithful in fulfilling them, though never as I plan or expect or would have envisioned, and not in ways that are as tidy and neat as my Type-A self would prefer!

    My heart said “ouch” when I read the sentence: “there’s still the problem of who you love and who your life is given to.” I wonder how that can be held not as a problem but a question, a wondering, an offering?

    Perhaps one place to “play” in your prayer – you name both the possibility of vowed life as sister/nun or being a tertiary of some kind. Is there a particular charism that draws you? Is there a particular community that is alluring to you?

    And…I wonder if you might write your way (if not into an answer) into your next right step?

    PS – If you ever want to talk about the writing life, in and out of Religious community, I’m up for that. 🙂

  2. Dear Leah,

    I found myself smiling as I read your post and relating to all that your wrote. I see that you have big dreams and it feels like they have all been placed in your heart by the Spirit. I found myself wondering if instead of thinking about being a religious sister or married, is it possible you have the vocation to the single life? Where can you give of yourself as Jesus’ hands and heart just as you are right now?

    I know it’s probably easier for me to say because I’m not living the possible angst that might be in you, but is it possible for you to keep moving forward without having a “set” outcome? I know that is difficult at times to do.

    Besides, who says that “just a writer” is a bad thing? Do you possibly need to change the story you tell yourself that makes you say this is in such a way that seems self-defeating? Why not say it as a source of joy and empowerment for you? Maybe it would help if you saw yourself speaking the words that the Spirit would say to you. Would She say, you are just a writer? Maybe have a conversation with Her about how you are thinking about this?


  3. Leah, first, thank you for the extremely supportive comment you left on one of my earlier posts.  I’ve been praying for you and intending to return the favor…so here is my attempt.

    I’d like to invite you to reflect on a few phrases from a few of your posts.  

    In your bio you shared that you prayed with the “Ignatian Exercises” and that it led to a turning point in your life.

    In your opening post you shared these three quotes, “But through my time in a Catholic Worker community, years of conversations at the common table and our Laundromat-café, years of “doing hospitality” and welcoming new people into a place where I was comfortable, years of asking God how I could hold hundreds of people (guests, volunteers) in my heart, I moved from fear into the recognition of Christ in another person.” 

    “I hope to start to publicly express the core of my relationship with God, which is a recognition of my woman’s body as Christ’s body.”

    “I am asking Saint Hildegard to pray with me and with this workshop. Hildegard, you were a leader, preacher, visual artist, healer, composer, mystic, and writer.”

    In Priests’ Feet you share the beginnings of a dream to be a spiritual director.

    In this current post you share, “I want to follow Jesus more closely and know Holy Spirit more intimately”

    There’s a lot here and there’s a lot in each of your posts. To be clear, what I sense that there’s “a lot” of is: GRACE. I hope that you also sense God’s grace as you re-read your own words.

    Do you currently have a spiritual director? If not, as a start, I’d invite you to imagine having a conversation with St. Hildegard.

    As you mention your three commitments that may be in tension and say, “I want all of them, but the fact that they are THREE seems too much!” How does St. Hildegard respond?

    I trust St. Hildegard’s spiritual direction will be more than enough, so I just want you to know that I’m praying for even more GRACE as you continue your transformative and inspirational journey.

  4. Leah, the best way of life for you is the one that enlivens and supports you and helps you thrive.

    Do you have a spiritual director or companion who can help you sift through all of this? If you would like to talk about any of this sometime, I am available. (And FYI my community is making room for me to work on writing projects. I imagine other communities would be open to it as well.)

  5. “To participate in Jesus’s ministry of healing would be so incredible. I want to be his hands.”
    Beautifully said. It’s what Jesus did: heal. It fills the Gospels.
    I know you’re writing here of participating in this ministry of healing *as a priest.* Priests are designated anointers in the church, no doubt.

    I wonder how you’ve already participated in Jesus’ healing ministry. How have your hands been the hands of Christ? What experiences come to mind?
    I’m thinking especially of your experience as a Catholic Worker, offering hospitality, but many other memories may come to mind for you.

  6. There’s something about that number three. Surely there is space for all three–love, ministry and writing–a holy trinity of your desires for yourself. I can’t help but think they will all come together, Leah, for you.

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