Not for Everyone
February 13th, 2012

This past weekend IEP was sick.  Triple-digit fever Friday night.  Phlegmy cough.  Runny nose.  A walking, talking (and yet still adorable) germ.  Lovely.  Needless to say, we operated on an abridged schedule.  To that end, we skipped church yesterday morning so that IEP wouldn’t infect the other kids at Sunday School and while the boys hung out at home I was able to squeeze in an extra trip to the gym.

As I pedaled away on the Helix machine I flipped the pages on a back issue of People and came across a story about a young girl, just a couple of years out of high school, who had entered a convent.  She spent one year at a large state university, trying it on for size, but ultimately decided that she was called to serve God in a more direct way.  It was a decision that she’d been weighing for some time.  According to the article she first felt called to become a nun at the age of five.  She spent most of her childhood and adolescent life enjoying life as a normal kid – playing sports, having sleepovers with friends, and attending her junior prom – while quietly keeping the convent at the back of her mind.

As I read the article I got to thinking about how I might react if one of my children made a similar choice.  Granted, we are not Catholic, so unless there were a conversion to Catholicism a life in the ministry would not mean the same sacrifices that it did for the girl I read about.  But let’s say for a moment that we were Catholic.  What then?  Life as a priest would entail some incredible sacrifices for my sons.  No wife.  No children.  No conventional career.  No means to travel the world.  Having attended Catholic school for many years as a teen I have some sense of what this life is like, but I still struggle to imagine it for one of my own children.

The girl in the article (I couldn’t find it online to provide a link – sorry!) talked about how she weighed the loss of a family into her decision, but still felt a stronger pull to the ministry than to anything else.  She felt that a family life wasn’t for her.  After all, it’s not for everyone.  She now sees her family eight times a year during four-hour Sunday afternoon visitation sessions on Sunday afternoons.  There is a quote on the number of letters she can write and phone calls she can make.  And she is okay with this.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t so okay with it.  Not as it related to this girl.  It’s fine for her, of course.  But I kept thinking about my own kids.  I see the joy that I find in my family and I want that for them.  I want for them the feeling of waking up next to your spouse in the morning.  I want them to see their babies smile for the first time.  I want them to know the feeling of fullness when a tiny child wants only you.  I want them to know the gut-busting laughter that is brought by living with a three-year-old.  But anyone who enters the Catholic ministry will never know these things.

The truth is, I should be okay with this.  All these things about family life that I just listed?  They bring me joy because they are what was right for me.  I would feel imprisoned in a convent.  But perhaps for someone who feels called to life in the ministry the daily life of a working mom would feel like torture.  I was given the freedom to make my own decisions and I’ve ended up in a life that makes me exceedingly happy.  And that is what I should want for my children – the ability to choose the path that will bring them joy – not that the same things that brought my joy will bring theirs.

IEP and SSP are their own people.  They will develop their own interests and passions.  Perhaps those interests will overlap with mine and perhaps they will not.  But so long as their life choices are safe, healthy, and bring them joy, it should be irrelevant to me exactly what those choices are.

As best I could tell, this young girl’s parents are supportive of the path she’s chosen.  I applaud them for that.  And I thank them for setting such a worthwhile example for the rest of us.  It can be a challenge to embrace someone’s choices when they would not personally suit us.  Nevertheless, that is just what we should do.

4 Responses to “Not for Everyone”

  1. Cathy Says:

    After reading this post, all I can keep thinking about is why devotion to God would require such seemingly arbitrary restrictions on life. I think I would be selfishly very sad if my son were to chose this life. It’s not because I wouldn’t want that life for them at the expense of all the other things they could do. If they loved it and that’s what they wanted to do – so be it. However, the thought of only being able to visit for 8 4-hour stints! That’s hard to imagine.

  2. Gale Says:

    Cathy – I had the same thought. I guess (though I’m not sure) that things like friends, family, marriage, and so on are seen as distractions from the singular devotion to God that priests and nuns are supposed to have. I struggle with that logic, though.

  3. BigLittleWolf Says:

    What an interesting post, for many reasons.

    What you may find – perhaps what most parents find – is that our children increasingly make choices that we may not like or wish for them, but they are their choices and feel right at a certain point.

    It can be difficult to process at times, but we raise our children to grow away from us and into themselves, following their own path. We hope they will include us in their lives, but, there are never any guarantees.

  4. anne Says:

    Definitely interesting. It’s not the same of course, but about a week ago we skipped Church due to a sleeping baby, and instead watched a documentary about Mother Theresa. After she left her home to pursue her calling, she never saw her mother again. This broke my heart, but at the same time I’ve rarely seen a biography of someone who seemed more infinitely and totally FUFILLED. I know she’s an extreme example, but I do think there are paths that are rewarding in ways I can’t imagine or even understand since I’m a happy married mother.

    Anyway, I know the point of your post is more letting our children make choices that we may or may not want to embrace. Like BLW said, you hope that you raise children that want to be contributors to this world, do good, and make choices that make them happy. but right now that’s easy to say since I have a 9-month old. She’s not making huge decisions these days:)