Saturday, 10 September 2011

My religious vocation... (4)

This will be my final brief reflection on my short series on my vocation. I am still struggling in wording what I really want to say, and as such might become a bitt repetitive. I guess it is only a fool who tries to describe what love is...

So I will make a final analogy, that falling in love with God seems to me, in my experience, not that dissimilar with falling in love with any other person. But in particular it seems that it is an experience which is not that dissimilar from falling in love with somebody who answers this love. I just wanted to indicate the contrast between the experience of observing somebody, or meeting somebody, and experience a sudden fancy, sometimes maybe described as feeling 'butterflies', and a deep mutual love. The mutual love between two people is much deeper than this initial sensual experience, and so is the love with God. Actually, in the case of God it is unique, as God always loves us, and as such it is the love of God for us which we can answer to. Love for God is automatically mutual. God loved us first, and God always loves us.

Real love is sacrificial, it does not care about 'the self', but wants to fully give to 'the other'. Fr. Alan White OP, who gave our retreat, told us about the late Fr. Schillebeecks OP, who wrote a letter to his parents proudly explaining the austere life which the Dominicans lived at that time one of the sacrifices was to rise in the middle of the night to pray the office. His father wrote back, congratulating him on his achievements, but quietly reminded him that with the nine kids they raised, his mother and himself did already lived a similar life since the first child was born. This is the sacrificial aspect of real love, we are prepared to sacrifice for the loved ones. The ultimate source of real love is God, who sent His only Son to die for us, out of love. God completely sacrificed himself for us.

However, there is a practical difference between the mutual love between two people and the love between a person and God. Talking about my religious profession, the biggest difference between the marriage of two persons and the profession is that two human persons there can have a physical relationship, the physical contact becomes part of the relationship. And this is maybe one of the biggest sacrifices of giving ones life to God in a religious vocation, the life of chastity for the sake of God. There is not the physical aspect in the relationship. While it seems to me that the love of God for a lot of people is experienced, even if only seldom, in a similar way (or even stronger) as with the love for human persons, the desire for union will remain a desire with is not satisfied in a physical sense. God might give some people some experiences once and a while, and others he does not, but whenever he does or doesn't, most of the time this aspect of the union between people is absent and is without this experience.

However, on a much more fundamental deeper level, something develops which is deeper than any words can describe. Our faith grows silently, but even though it goes very slow, it still happens and becomes a bedrock on which we build our lives. The deep attachment to God does happen, even if it is not through physical contact and if it is not that sensual. No instead it is through perseverance in prayer. Prayer is fundamental in building our relationship with God, and not just a prayer once in a while, but a constant routine of prayer which over time becomes a habit firmly fixed in our soul. It is through the most of the time a senseless experience that slowly builds our faith, fuelling our love fir God. It builds to the point that the decision to make solemn profession is as sure as it is for most people when they ask somebody to marry them. However, there is one curious difference. When you ask somebody to marry you, never mind how sure you are about the love and willingness of the other, there is always a bit of a risk of the other saying no. With God this is not a risk, as God is always saying yes. The question is pure on my side if I will say yes to God.

Finally, many people will wonder why somebody chooses to join religious life or the priesthood, giving up everything which seems to make life worth living. I hope that my few reflections at least have shed some light on the way I look at it. But I do realise that words often fall short, and therefore I think the best way is by pointing to the people who went before us, the Saints, but also people we know. The only reason why somebody would do that is because there is something worth doing this for. Most people now joining religious life have had good careers, good relationships, but still give it all up for God. Like a married couple give up their live out of love, so gives the religious his life out of love, the love for God. The fact that people give up everything the world holds as praiseworthy is a clear pointer to the reality of this love. It is real!


Location:Dominick Pl,Dublin,Ireland

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The Irish Dominicans have a website called Dominicans Interactive with online resources. We also have an iPhone/iPad App, which can be found in the iTunes App Store.


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